Knowing that Laumer spent a portion of his life as a diplomat, I’d have to say that his view of diplomacy is quite depressing. In his series of short Retief stories, the CDT (Corp Diplomatic Terrestrial) consists of a bunch of wienies who want to attend parties, sign meaningless papers, and show displeasure via “strongly worded letters.” In other words, the CDT is comprised of a bunch of Caspar Milquetoasts….
If this is what a former diplomat actually thinks of the process, is there any hope for diplomacy?
Then of course, we have Retief who is a diplomat in the manner that you and I want to see a diplomat. He refuses to compromise right and wrong, refuses to cover his eyes to the truth in front of him, and Retief has saved the CDT’s bacon more times than anyone can count. Retief isn’t interested in making a name for himself, though. He good honest “horse sense” solutions for the people he’s serving. And when I say serving, it’s usually not his own “people,” but those who are going to be exploited by the CDT’s inability to act and respond.
Retief is always the humble character. He never takes credit for his work, but allows his moronic bosses to take credit. The downside to Retief’s humility is that the morons always get promoted over him. Still, this allows Retief to fly beneath the radar and get more accomplished as boots on the ground. If he were moved up the diplomatic chain, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish as much as he does.
This set of short stories are worth reading. Retief rescues the various peoples in creative ways and architecting creative solutions that allow everyone to save some face. Do what I did, pick up the book and read one or two every once and again. They make for fun reading especially when you read the newspaper and we find various western governments writing issuing “strongly worded statements” against crazy dictators.
There is very minor profanity in the book. You can grab a free electronic copy here. I stuck a copy on my PDA and read it whenever I had a few moments.
So, am I crazy or are these diplomatic techniques a waste of time?