The Dishonest Diplomat: How A Critical Profession Got a Bad Rap

TIME

“An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”

—Sir Henry Wotton, 1604

“Diplomacy, n. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.”

—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1906

There are few more odious figures in popular culture than the diplomat. Ben Kingsley’s ambassador to Yemen in the movie Rules of Engagement is first a coward, hiding from an angry mob under his desk, waiting to be rescued by U.S. Marines, and then later a snake, lying smoothly under oath to help convict the very Marine officer who saved him from the mob. In Costa-Gavras’s classic Missing, the American diplomats are alternately dissembling and disinterested. And it would be hard to top The Omen, in which an American diplomat, played by Gregory Peck, lies to his wife, played by Lee Remick, and tricks her into raising the Antichrist. That, needless…

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