Allan Gotlieb and 10 Rules for Canada-U.S. Relations

Former Canadian Ambassador Allan Gotlieb died last month but his approach to Canada-U.S. relations has revolutionized Canadian diplomacy with our closest cultural and largest trading partner. Gotlieb insights into America and the value of a pro-active diplomatic relations continue to have great relevance today.

Gotlieb’s methodical approach is best described in I’ll Be With You In A Minute, Mr. Ambassador: The Education of a Canadian Diplomat in Washington. It contains the Gotlieb “decalogue” for the conduct of the “new diplomacy” in Washington.

  1. The particular process by which a decision is reached in Washington is often so complex and mysterious that it defies comprehension.
  2. The most important requirement for effective diplomacy in Washington is the ability to gain access to the participants in the decision-making process.
  3. Given the vast numbers of players in the field of decision-making, and the great difficulty of predicting their likely behavior, the highest possible premium must be placed on political intelligence.
  4. Since there are so many participants in decision-making, so many special-interest and pressure groups and so many shifting alliances, a diplomat cannot design any grand or overarching strategy to further his nation’s interests. Every issue involves its own micro-strategy and every micro-strategy is unique.
  5. In Washington, a foreign power is itself just another special interest and not a very special one at that.
  6. A foreign power, as a general rule, has no permanent friends or adversaries on Capitol Hill.
  7. A foreign power, as a general rule, has no permanent friends or adversaries within the Administration.
  8. No permanent solutions are within reach of the ambassador or his government, only temporary ones. Instability is the norm, alliances and coalitions are always being forged, forces and counter forces are always mounting.
  9. Effective diplomacy means public diplomacy. The line between public diplomacy and interference in local affairs is a thin one and thus it must be practiced with considerable fi nesse.
  10. The best and often the only way to gain access to all the key players is through the social route. In Washington, parties are a continuation of work by other means.

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