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8 Books for Students Obtaining a Master of Arts in Diplomacy


The conditions of our current world have brought much attention to the political arena and have highlighted the importance of improving diplomatic relations on both a domestic and global level. Scholarship and practice in diplomacy and politics have also taken on a greater level of relevance and complexity in recent years due to rapid cultural and technological change. For current and future diplomats, traditional strategies and historic examples can assist with developing ideas on how to effectively leverage the changing environment. The following books by prominent scholars and strategists reveal many of today’s challenges and provide helpful guidance for approaching the task of diplomacy.

Nations and Nationalism by Ernst Gellner

In Nations and Nationalism, Ernst Gellner explores the origins of nationalism and the development of nations around the world. He connects this ideological concept to the progression of society alongside the advancement of the industry. Through this, Gellner highlights the way industrial factors influence the critical relationship between the culture of the society and the powers that govern it. Gellner’s views connect the development of nations to the progression of key facets of modern civilization, highlighting education, shared culture, and a common language as the most instrumental of these facets. Students and professionals interested in these subjects may also wish to explore Gellner’s previous and subsequent publications, including Thought and Change and Words and Things.

Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger

Written by former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy is an excellent look at the profession of the American diplomat. The text provides insight on first-hand experiences of U.S. diplomacy and covers much of Kissinger’s famous work of rebuilding U.S. and China relations through the 1970s. Speaking from his years of diplomatic experience, Kissinger shares these real-life accounts and offers a historical perspective on diplomacy, covering events of the western world up through the details of his own involvement in the Cold War. Kissinger also shares his well-informed thoughts and opinions on international diplomatic relations. Outside of serving as U.S. Secretary of State, Kissinger worked as the U.S. National Security Advisor and served as an officer in the U.S. Army. He is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and his book is widely considered an essential read for professionals in the field of U.S. diplomacy.

The Causes of War by Geoffrey Blainey

With The Causes of War, Geoffrey Blainey aims to develop a deeper understanding of the conditions of war and peace among nations, as well as the key factors that influence both. The book’s chapters explore wars of varying scale throughout recent history and cover some of the major politics and conditions that came into play, with the latest editions covering World War II and the nuclear era. Blainey asserts that the causes for war and peace are closely connected, making the argument that a clear, deliberate choice is made between the pursuit of war and peace. Blainey has published several books on topics of history and social relations, and his ideas provide valuable points of consideration for anyone interested in theory and practice in international relations.

Peace Is Possible: Conversations with Arab and Israeli Leaders from 1988 to the Present by S. Daniel Abraham

As a child of Jewish parents and a philanthropist, entrepreneur S. Daniel Abraham is passionate about the state of affairs in the Middle East. Abraham used his business experience in an unorthodox way to personally influence changes toward peaceful relations among leaders in the region. Peace is Possible covers some of these very experiences in detail, and notes how Abraham, alongside Wayne Owens, former U.S. Senator, worked to facilitate meetings between Israeli officials and leaders of various Arab groups in the region. The text includes transcripts of these meetings and traces the progression of the movement toward peace between Israeli/Arab relations. Published in 2006, Peace is Possible covers several years of Abraham’s visits to these nations from 1988 to 2002. The book also contains a foreword by former President Bill Clinton that details some of the successful approaches toward improving diplomatic relations.

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James Scott

Seeing Like a State is an intriguing exploration of the shortcomings of elaborate designs and strategies by governing entities to improve human life. As James Scott examines the irony of this reality, he aims to reveal why such lofty ideas to make society better often end with the opposite result. One of the key lessons that can be learned from this book is the importance for government officials and policymakers to consider local insights on the same level as more formal knowledge. The balance between the two is particularly important for diplomats in order to be effective as they may often need to alter their strategies depending on their location. With a number of other helpful considerations, Scott’s text provides some key thoughts for those working in the areas of government and politics to consider.

The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam

David Halberstam was an American journalist who received a Pulitzer Prize for his work in the profession. His famous 1972 book reveals the conditions and parameters leading up to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and what he sees as the flaws in U.S. politics that set that process in motion. Within The Best and the Brightest, Halberstam delves into what for many is a confusing piece of U.S. history. Specifically, this publication refers to the group of advisors in the Kennedy administration who were proponents of the war and devised the policies the U.S. government would enact in dealing with Vietnam. Halberstam gives an extensive account of all the factors that played an integral part in why the war in Vietnam became a reality. The latest edition of the book also features an insightful foreword by Senator John McCain that praises how informative this publication is on American foreign policy and how educational it can be for those interested in the field. Overall, Halberstam’s book provides a strong starting point for students that are studying diplomacy and looking for direct insights on the impact that American foreign policy can have on domestic and international politics.

Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics by Robert Jervis

Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics takes a unique approach to explore the policies and decisions of international leaders from a psychological perspective. The topic of “perceptions and misperceptions,” in this context, refers to the mentality of leaders in terms of preconceived notions and misinformation alongside the pressure that comes with the role of leading a nation. Robert Jervis reveals how decisions can be made based on inaccurate perceptions of others, as well as a flawed perception of oneself. The author hinges on these concepts to explain the actions of various leaders at different points through much of the western world’s recent history. Considering that diplomats are often required to interact with a dynamic range of global leaders, Jervis’s publication can help them to better understand and identify when leaders may be operating from the wrong perspective, which can also help with preventing potential negative issues, such as diplomatic miscommunications.

Why America is Such a Hard Sell by Juliana Geran Pilon

In the context of U.S. relations with the rest of the world, the topic of diplomacy and politics has the potential to ignite many opposing, or even controversial views. In Why America is Such a Hard Sell, Juliana Geran Pilon provides a refreshing and intelligent view on the topic of U.S. international relations and foreign policy. She points to the fact that while America typically promotes a positive and proud self-perception of itself, much of the rest of the world feels quite differently. Through her examination of the true face of U.S. international politics, she argues for moving past the “pride and prejudice” that is tied to this misguided image as a way to work towards improving the way America relates to and is ultimately perceived by the world. Empathizing the opposing party’s perception, which is a key element of successful diplomacy, Why America is Such a Hard Sell is a great selection for current and future diplomats looking to gain an objective outlook on the United States.

Given the current state of global affairs, diplomacy in our contemporary world requires well-informed and responsible decisions. As current and future diplomats seek to enhance their careers in the industry, they can utilize the concepts introduced in these books to help advance their knowledge and skills. Analyzing and studying these experiences can further assist professionals with better understanding effective and ineffective approaches to current and future political actions.

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As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program provides working professionals with a broad understanding of global communications protocol and a deep knowledge of the world issues that affect international relations. The program allows you to build on your political, governmental, or business expertise with a solid foundation in the theories and practices that direct international relations and political science within the international system.

Recommended Readings
6 Tips for Cross-Cultural Management
An Introduction to America’s Foreign Policy
The Increasing Need for Cyber Diplomacy


Nations and Nationalism, Cornell University Press

Diplomacy, Publishers Weekly

Peace is Possible, Google Books

The Causes of War: Conversations with Arab and Israeli Leaders from 2988 to the Present, Google Books

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Foreign Affairs

The Best and the Brightest, Goodreads

Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics, Google Books

Why America is such a hard sell: beyond pride and prejudice, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

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