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This month in diplomacy | November/December 2020

News from The Diplomatic Pouch | Focus on the presidential transition

Dear readers,

As the dust settles on the U.S. presidential election, we have entered the holiday season and a belated transition to the Biden-Harris administration.

This means big changes ahead for U.S. diplomatic strategy, including the exciting news last week that the president-elect nominated ISD non-resident fellow and former career Foreign Service officer Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Transition notes

Kelly McFarland, our director of programs and research, began a series of “transition notes” to highlight key foreign policy issues for the new administration to address. Alliances — and multilateralism more generally — must be top of the list, he argues.

We will publish more transition notes from Kelly and others in the coming weeks.

Then Secretary of State John Kerry Shares a Laugh with U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Before Delivering Speech at U.N. Herzog Commemoration in New York, November 2015. Kelly McFarland argues for a return to multilateralism in his latest transition note. (Image: State Department/Flickr)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a quieter bureaucratic transition has been taking place. I wrote for the SAIS Review of International Affairs about the recent merger of the UK’s diplomatic and development ministries and the potential impact on British foreign policy.

Disinformation flows

ISD’s work on information operations has continued since the election. Our graduate fellow Jonas Heering and I wrote in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs about the shift in the spread of disinformation from a foreign influence problem to a more domestic one. Many of the false narratives we see gaining traction emanate from the outgoing U.S. administration and the Trump campaign itself.

On December 1, we hosted a joint event on disinformation with the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — Disinformation in the Digital Age: Are Citizens Prepared? The event is now available to view online, featuring a panel of experts based in the United States, Finland, and the Philippines.

On December 1, we hosted a joint event on tackling disinformation in the digital age, in partnership with the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

On the lighter side, we have continued our series of profiles of ISD diplomatic and military fellows, including of our own F-16 pilot, U.S. Air Force Foreign Policy Fellow, Lt. Col. Katie Gaetke:

Profile | Lieutenant Colonel Katie Gaetke, Air Force Foreign Policy Fellow

ISD’s resident F-16 pilot

Katie, her husband, and their first two children with an F-16 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona in 2017. (Image: Katie Gaetke)

Read more

For those of you interested in diplomatic history, check out our recent interview with Catherine Katz for ISD’s podcast, Diplomatic Immunity. Catherine is the author of an enlightening new history of the Yalta Conference, The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans — A Story of Love and War.

Listen to Diplomatic Immunity wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for reading. Please take a moment to explore some of these articles in more detail, as well as our Case Studies and Teaching page.

We welcome any feedback you may have — send us an email to Continue the conversation with us on Twitter by following us @GUDiplomacy or visit our website,

Have a happy, safe, and — above all — restful, holiday season!

Alistair Somerville and the team at ISD




The Diplomatic Pouch features insights and commentary on global challenges and the evolving demands of diplomatic statecraft. Views are those of the authors and not necessarily the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy or Georgetown University. Visit for more.

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