In This Review

Diplomacy: A Singapore Experience
Diplomacy: A Singapore Experience
By S Jayakumar
Straits Times Press, 2011, 316 pp

Jayakumar, a former UN ambassador and former foreign minister for Singapore, originally prepared this series of case studies to help train his country’s young foreign service officers. The language is prim by American standards, and the explicit lessons are fairly obvious: know your brief; be prepared. But the honest, meaty narratives offer insights into the strategic goals and diplomatic means of one of the world’s most skillful foreign ministries. Singaporean diplomats use energy, charm, and expertise to magnify their influence in the UN and steer regional organizations in preferred directions. Singapore often stands up to bigger powers -- China, the United Kingdom, the United States -- to make sure no one takes it for granted. But Singapore takes care to manage its relations and avoid permanent damage. In dealing with prickly neighbors, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, the latter of which controls much of Singapore’s water supply, Singapore relies on both international law and personal relationships. Jayakumar argues that other countries’ nationalist media often pose obstacles to the rational settlement of issues. Nevertheless, Singapore’s diplomats seem able to defend their country’s interests all over the world without further inflaming opposition at home or abroad.