The Foreign Service Journal, November 2022

60 NOVEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Machiavelli on How to Be a Good Diplomat David B. Shear spent 32 years in the Foreign Service. He served in Sapporo, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Beijing, and Kuala Lumpur, and finished his State Department career as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam (2011-2014). Ambassador (ret.) Shear also served as assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs from 2014 to 2016. FEATURE Machiavelli’s advice to a new ambassador five centuries ago reminds us that the experience and wisdom of the diplomatic practitioner are unique and timeless. BY DAV I D B . SHEAR I n 1522 Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469- 1527) dispatched a letter on how to be a good diplo- mat to Raffaello Girolami as the young man prepared to serve as the Florentine ambassador to Emperor of Spain Charles V. “Having had some experience in [diplomatic] affairs,” Machiavelli wrote to this son of a close friend, “I shall tell you, not in presumption but in affection, what I have learned about them.” Machiavelli was, indeed, an experienced diplo- mat. He had joined the Florentine Signoria, responsible for the city-state’s foreign affairs, in 1498, and during a 14-year career there he had been sent on multiple diplomatic missions within Italy, as well as to France and Germany. The Signoria’s records are replete with Machiavelli’s diplomatic correspondence. By the time he wrote to Raffaello, however, the “Florentine Secretary,” as Machiavelli liked to be known, had been in exile for a decade. His Medici enemies had returned to Florence on the apron strings of a Spanish invasion in 1512, abolished the Florentine Republic, and reinstituted family rule. The Medici