Mark Lamster | Essays

Rubens & Obama: Birds of a Feather


What can our current Nobel-winning diplomat-president learn from the career of Peter Paul Rubens? More than you might think, actually. Over the last four centuries, the precepts of good diplomacy haven't changed all that much. I have a new piece up on the Huffington Post, "Lessons for the President on the Art of Diplomacy." A sample:
The frequency and suddenness with which political fortune could reverse itself, he thought, demanded constant vigilance and engagement. Certainly, the idea that one should not negotiate with one's enemies would have been anathema to Rubens; the maintenance of such contacts was one of the essential principles of diplomatic practice at the time. Cardinal Richelieu, the French statesman who was one of Rubens's most persistent adversaries, devoted an entire chapter of his influential Testament Politique to the utility of continuous negotiations. "I may venture to say boldly," he wrote, "that to negotiate without ceasing, openly or secretly, in all places...is what is absolutely necessary for the good and welfare of States.
I should note that I also have a piece up now on yet another of Rubens's other careers (he had so many it's hard to keep track). You will find "Peter Paul Rubens: Book Designer" over on Design Observer, which has been one of my absolute favorite spots on the Web since it's inception. So I'm very proud to see my writing there in the main column, and should add that I will be contributing more to the Places department in the future.

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