American Covert Action and Diplomacy after 9/11

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The relationship between American diplomats and intelligence officers has always been complex. The focus of American foreign policy and national security on counterterrorism efforts in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks further shaped the dynamic between diplomats and intelligence officers in the field as well as their respective roles. The tension between diplomacy and covert action as policy-implementing tools was largely resolved to the benefit of the latter. Consequently, a new status quo emerged. Intelligence officers took a leading role in policy-implementation efforts through covert action, whilst the role of diplomats in the field evolved in line with counterterrorism-driven foreign policy and national security needs. This analysis introduces a new typology of diplomats in the twenty-first century, contrasting the multifaceted diplomatic activists, who advanced counterterrorism-driven diplomacy, against the traditionalists seeing this new diplomacy as bellicose and against American national interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-402
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Early online date9 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Covert Action
  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Diplomacy


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