Superior diplomatic power does not necessarily translate into greater diplomatic success. Although diplomatic assets help to frame the range of potential diplomatic activities, it is ultimately whether and how those assets are deployed that determines the range of potential diplomatic outcomes. The Trump administration’s ideological opposition to multilateral diplomacy has provided a unique case study in self-inflicted diplomatic decline. The administration has left a number of senior diplomatic posts unfilled and has withdrawn the United States from certain multilateral institutions altogether, like the UN Human Rights Council. America’s retreat from multilateral diplomacy has limited the potential for US diplomacy to deliver desired policy outcomes. In addition, that abdication of leadership has allowed other actors to fill the void, leading to negative policy outcomes. This article will examine the Trump administration’s experiment in empty seat diplomacy, focusing in particular on the effects it has had on policy outcomes at the UN Human Rights Council and with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Although this diplomatic decline has been significantly costly, the damage need not be permanent. This article discusses various investments in active US diplomatic leadership that can restore the potential for successful diplomatic outcomes through multilateral organizations.


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pp. 31-44
Launched on MUSE
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