IN THIS ISSUE:
Linda Frey moves as easily through time as she does through space. The UM history professors scholarly interests range over centuries, from the beginnings of the Renaissance through the French Revolution, and her research often takes her far afield from Missoula to New York to Paris and back in search of original source material for her books.
Freys most recent work covers even more time and territory. The History of Diplomatic Immunity, published in February by Ohio State University Press, traces the origins and evolution of the idea of messengers with special status from ancient Greece to today. It is Freys 10th book co-authored with her twin sister, Marsha, a history professor at Kansas State University.
A necessary evil
Immunity was not accorded to give people impunity, Frey says, but thats what it has done.
The Freys exhaustive research into the practice of diplomatic immunity shows that abuse of diplomatic privilege always has been a source of tension among countries.
According to Linda Frey, it especially is a problem for developing countries and those struggling to form stable governments following recent decolonization. One of the most common abuses is failure to pay for basic services in the host country, such as housing and health care. Frey says the debt owed by United Nations officials in 1994, for example, was $7 million in New York alone.
Traffic violations, automobile accidents and the smuggling of prohibited goods from alcohol to antiques to weapons are some of the most common crimes involving diplomats. But excluding motor vehicle accidents, diplomats were involved in 147 crimes in the nations capital and 44 in New York between 1982 and 1988, including shoplifting, assault, rape, manslaughter, homicide and espionage. In many cases, the charges were dropped or reduced because of diplomatic status.
To avoid having restrictions placed on their representatives, many governments have taken such proactive measures as more narrowly defining who is protected by diplomatic status, refusing entry to envoys previously expelled from other countries for espionage and quickly quelling public outrage over highly publicized cases.
Eduard Shevardnadze, president of the Republic of Georgia, did just that in 1997. He waived the immunity of his second-ranking diplomat, Gueorgui Makharadze in Washington, D.C., so Makharadze could be prosecuted here for his role in a multivehicle accident that killed a teen-ager rather than merely be expelled from the country. In a New York Times article, Shevardnadze was quoted as saying that he acted because he could not imagine diplomacy and policy devoid of moral principle.
Such episodes illustrate that nations need to be very careful who they pick to represent them, Frey says. And the need for better monitoring of the diplomatic corps.
Im using the French Revolution as a case study to understand how revolutions attempt to change the international order as well as the internal order of a nation, she says.
Frey says that in their desire to overturn the existing power structure, revolutions demand the old ways of diplomacy be done away with as well. The French revolutionaries envisioned a state that would not have spies or secret orders and, therefore, would not need diplomats. They asserted that France would not wage wars to acquire territory or against republics that shared their democratic ideals.
The creators of the new United States had a similar vision and refused to send ambassadors to other countries until 1865, Frey says, because they didnt want to associate themselves with old regimes.
Neither France nor America was successful.
Revolutions immediately betray their ideals because its very difficult to extract yourself from the established world order, Frey says. Even by 1789 countries could not be isolationist or only have relations with people of the same ideological persuasion.
Instead, Frey says, revolutions launch the dream of what could be, which is important.
More recent revolutions in China, Russia, Cuba and Iran all had effects on the international system, she says, but not to the extent envisioned. Likewise, the French Revolutions dream of liberty, equality and fraternity within and among nations was not fulfilled but lingers on.
Frey has a little more research to do in the Archives des Afaires Etrangeres in Paris before she finishes her treatise on revolutions and diplomacy. She recently found time in a busy teaching schedule to travel to Washington, D.C., to chair a panel discussion on dispute resolution at an International Studies Association conference, then to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where she taught last year to lecture on the Napoleonic Wars.
Her research is what has brought her courses on the history of diplomatic relations alive for students at UM since 1971.
All the great theorists we quote today came from the early modern period in history, Frey says. Finding the embryo of international law in this period and tracing its developments is what makes research fun.
And as she does, she finds proof of the adage: The more things change, the more they remain the same.