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The Whirlwind of Foreign Affairs
Written by Aexnidaral
(October 7 2019, Europeia) Foreign affairs has evolved a lot over the course of my time in NationStates (NS). I first started playing NS when I was 14, around 2008ish. It was easier to keep up with what was happening in a region by just going to their forums and clicking around a few times. While that is still somewhat doable in today's culture, it's much harder to get an understanding for a regional culture and the personalities of people by just visiting forums as most of the interpersonal action has moved off to discord servers, channels, or direct messages. Diplomats were, for the most part, the same in their usage as they are currently but given that things progressed more slowly without the instantaneous nature of discord it was easier for people to keep up with and get a feel for where events could go. The modern leadership of our foreign affairs apparatus has to keep up with the NS forums, our own forums, the forums of relevant interests, and their discords. It's a herculean task to do even with a good staff, and impossible to do alone. This evolution has shaped a foreign affairs policy across NS that is reactionary in nature, rather than preventative. Even with your own friends and allies it can be hard to keep up with them, unless they're talking to you themselves.
Now when people ask me what I look for in someone who could be a leader in our foreign affairs, or what I think is most important for someone who wants to be a leader I tell them three things: 1) temperament, 2) knowledge of our foreign policy and history, and 3) the ability to have time to waste.
While all three are important, one and two are particularly the most important qualities for someone who wants to be at the helm of our foreign policy agenda.
When you're chief of state or on the Council of State you're, in many ways, the faces and voices of the region. You represent us to the outside world. When people interact with you they see you as the direct representation of our region. Honestly there are plenty of people from other regions I loathe interacting with on the foreign affairs stage because their temperament tends to run from 2% friendly to 2000% heat miser. While you don't want to be a pushover with everyone thinking they can walk over you, you don't want to be so hostile to people that they don't want to interact with you at all. As a diplomat it's important to be friendly and personable. Some of the most important aspects of the job are the ability to get people to trust you and open up to you so they can feel comfortable talking to you openly and honestly. Even when you're angry or frustrated you've got to be able to take a few seconds to think and breathe before you hit the enter button and send your message.
Having the knowledge and understanding of our foreign affairs history and our foreign policy agenda is important. It allows you to understand the context of why we are where we currently are and why certain relations have been iced, or why others have formed a lasting bond of friendship. At the same time, you can't know everything. It's important to be able to talk to people who have been around for awhile to gain a better understanding of the proverbial geopolitical landscape. And that's where the External Affairs Advisory Committee comes in so handy. You've got people from all walks of Europeia and all different time periods who you can approach to ask them about the history of our relationship with X, or why Y happened when they were chief of state.
While #3 is kind of a joke -- it's not. Anyone who has been a leader in our foreign affairs apparatus can attest to the kind of crazy matters you have to deal with that amount to mostly just nothingness. Sometimes you have to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to diffuse a situation, and other times it's trying to figure out how to navigate the strange message you got sent by someone who is either pranking you or has no idea how NS works. And yet still sometimes you get to spend a couple of hours dithering on the NS forums or gameplay discord wondering why any of us have rights because, well, we're all kind of morons. If I could get all of the time back I've ever had to waste reading people on the NS forums or discord complain about Onder I could finish all of the shows I currently have on my Netflix backlog.
That being said the most important thing to understand about foreign affairs is that nothing will go the way you want it to. Take your foreign policy agenda and throw it out the window on day one because it's inevitably going to take a back seat to whatever explosive issue happens behind the scenes and publicly. Half of your job is going to feel like you're not able to do the other half of your job. You've got to find the ability to balance implementing our goals of what we aim to accomplish with fighting all of the fires that wind up raging, or stamping out the sparks before they become forum fires.
Every person who has been in a leadership position in Europeia has had a very different style, and that's important, because not everyone's approach to situations will work all the time. There are times where my more laid back advisory style won't work when situations demand a more hands on buffer between the chief of state and other diplomats or heads of state. There are times where the style of being a councilor of foreign affairs who takes on every and all things him/herself solely won't work. Different times and different administrations need different leaders. So if you want to be a chief of state or member of the Council of State don't look to be a carbon copy of someone who was successful during their tenure. Understand the context of why their style of leadership worked for their time and learn from that to be able to address shortcomings that may leave you ill prepared.