On Diplomacy

Diplomacy begins when analysis ends. In other words, once we have reached a conclusion in our analysis of intersubjective affairs, diplomacy commences. Additionally, diplomacy brings all the different dimensions of global order (industrialization, law, militarization, politics, and militarization) together for the preservation of the two basic elements of global order, namely, the global economy and global security. As Henry Kissinger wrote in a book titled “Diplomacy”, there is a fundamental difference between analysis and statecraft, which is essentially the management of world affairs:

“Intellectuals analyze the operations of international systems; statesmen build them. And there is a vast difference between the perspective of an analyst and that of a statesman. The analyst can choose which problem he wishes to study, whereas the statesman’s problems are imposed on him.”

Kissinger is indirectly suggesting that history, which is the course of events that takes place through time, is an active player in the life of statesmen. Some theorists call this “path dependency”, where the past is relevant in the decisions that statesmen make even if the past is not entirely relevant. What path dependency implies is that there is a natural course that history is taking, and we are mere observers of the unfolding of history who are also brought in by a Deus ex Machina to participate in the unfolding of global events.

There is always a particular context in the life of a statesman that determines all his decisions, which can equate to a particular juncture in history that pervades the whole situation. America in particular is shaped by the ideology of Adam Smith, whose core argument and belief was that the eventual increase in the sharing of knowledge and information plus the increase of global commerce would eventually lead to the decrease in war and poverty on a global level. America has largely abandoned this ideology and has become rather non-ideological in recent times due to the corruption stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court Decision of Citizens United (2012) that allows foreigners to funnel in money to politicians and thus dictate U.S. foreign policy. The solution to this problem would ultimately be campaign finance reforms and term limits on Congress. Nevertheless, we are currently living in Adam Smith’s world due to the advances in technology and interdependence among peoples and nations across the globe.

Much of diplomacy in its classical form as well as in our current day and age is what David Bohm called the search for a “shared meaning of existence.” Dialogue comes to an end once a group of individuals arrive at a shared meaning pertaining to the question of why human beings exist. Rarely does dialogue between individuals and nations reach this particular apex, but it is necessary to reach this particular conclusion if there is to be any progress in world affairs and international relations in particular. Much of the discord between individuals and nations is due to the absence of a “shared meaning of existence.” According to Bohm:

“If people are to cooperate (i.e., literally to “work together”) they have to be able to create something in common, something that takes shape in their mutual discussions and actions, rather than something that is conveyed from one person who acts as an authority to the others, who act as passive instruments of this authority.”

According to the Islamic tradition, God has given Man an elevated position in the hierarchy of beings by being designated as “God’s vicegerent on Planet Earth.” The definition of statecraft as designed by today’s theorists very much corresponds to the meaning behind the life of man as purported by the Islamic tradition. Perhaps the meaning of life developed by Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” that is constituted by the triad of courage, duty, and love also corresponds to the intelligent design behind man that is constituted by his responsibility of managing world affairs on behalf of God. If there was a will to rally around the meaning of Man as “God’s vicegerent on Earth” who is tasked with the management of world affairs on the part of individuals and nations, order and stability around the globe would ensue.

There are instruments available for major powers to advance this shared meaning of existence and to gather support for such a purpose from different nations. The late Hans Morgenthau called diplomacy the promotion of interests through peaceful means. Because international politics is the pursuit of interests in a realist sense, pursuing what is thought of as the “absolute good” as propagated by a number of idealists in America’s foreign policy apparatus is unnecessary and often times counterproductive. Rather than imposing one’s liberal culture and ideas on other nations, diplomacy is actually comprised of four basic tasks, according to Morgenthau.

For one, a nation must determine their objectives or interests within the limits of their power and capabilities. The second task is to determine the objectives and capabilities of other nations. The third task is to determine whether the various objectives of individuals and nations are compatible with one another. Finally, the fourth task is to employ the means designed for diplomacy. There are three diplomatic mechanisms at a statesman’s disposal: persuasion, compromise, and force. Peace is basically the reconciliation of the interests of two or more different entities through dialogue and diplomacy, which is vital. As Kissinger once said: “If you assert only your interests, without linking them to the interests of others, you will not be able to sustain your efforts.”

Beneath the contours of international law and treaties is practical organization and deal-making in the way of peace. Aristide Briand, one of France’s former foreign ministers and one of the major authors of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact proclaimed shortly after the signing of the deal: “Peace is proclaimed: that is well, that is much. But it still remains necessary to organize it…That is to be the work of tomorrow.”

What was once considered a mandatory objective for the United States during the Cold War can only be accomplished by diplomatic means; namely, the weakening of the Sino-Russian alliance that has only strengthened since 2014 when Russia came under stringent Western sanctions for their annexation of Crimea and China began facing what was a growingly military pivot towards Asia on the part of the United States.

Options in dealing with the quagmire that is Afghanistan are also limited. There are four options to choose from; for one, there is a full U.S. withdrawal, the strengthening of Afghan forces, a peace proposal to the Taliban, or full-blown war against the Taliban and their Pakistani sponsors. It appears that the United States has opted for peace with the Taliban, but the work of bringing Afghan factions and the Taliban together within the framework of an inter-Afghan peace deal through diplomatic means still remains unaccomplished. Americans from all walks of life can agree that an American withdrawal from Afghanistan is long overdue, as well as a withdrawal from humanitarian disasters like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen that endanger the well-being of American personnel and troops.

There are limits to what one can accomplish militarily, especially in a volatile region of the world such as Asia, and the diplomatic route is by default the only viable option when dealing with humanitarian challenges emanating for the most part from the Asian continent. For there to be peace in Asia, the United States will have to double down on a “Whole of Asia” diplomatic approach towards Asian parties aimed at mitigating Israeli-Iranian tensions, Pakistani-Indian tensions, as well as East Asian tensions that are silently brewing underneath the surface as long-standing grievances stemming from the early 20th century remain unresolved between Japan and its East Asian neighbors who were victims of Japanese aggression.

China, as well as the two Koreas, have long deserved an apology from the Japanese, which in turn would make a huge difference in resolving silent grievances that often manifest in aggressive war games and missile tests. One can argue that stability in a region positively correlates with the presence of regional cooperation organizations similar to the European Union in a particular region. Unfortunately, there are no noteworthy regional cooperation organizations in unstable regions like the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. If the United States were to author regional cooperation organizations in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia, there is a higher likelihood that stability would materialize in those particular regions of the world.

The wielding of military tools and the maintenance of a military presence in East Asia and the Persian Gulf as a peacekeeping mechanism on the part of the United States in the interim while making China a key contributor to Asian peacemaking efforts will be the basic formula for success in stabilizing the Asian continent. Peacekeeping would also require the United States to be neutral and impartial in inter-Asian conflicts, which is something that the United States has failed to do for quite some time. Many Asian countries see the U.S. military presence in East Asia and the Persian Gulf region as a threat, when in reality the military presence is designed to prevent the outbreak of war and chaos and to facilitate commerce in the most volatile continent in the world. Candid diplomatic engagements with Asian parties would clarify the benign rationale of the American military presence in East Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Ultimately, the efficacy of a country’s diplomatic efforts rests upon the “grand strategy” of a country’s leaders, which equates to the vision that the leaders hold for their country on the international stage. For the United States, it was once the vision of Adam Smith, which in turn calls for the spread of information and knowledge in addition to the increase in global commerce that would prompt a decrease in war and poverty. That is why America’s “Model Treaty of 1776” forged during the American Revolution is based on commerce and it serves as the most basic template for future American treaties.

To fulfill the vision of Adam Smith, negotiations with foreign parties require a “zooming in, zooming out” approach where American negotiators must zoom out into the broader vision of interconnection, information-sharing, and increased commerce in a highly globalized world for the sake of reducing war and poverty all while zooming into interpersonal discussions and negotiations with foreign parties. The creation of a “shared meaning of existence” with other countries which perhaps would equate to the establishment of global order, plus the employment of sound negotiating tactics in the way of advancing a vision based on Smithian globalization will undoubtedly be the two keys to success for American diplomats and statesmen in the coming days and years.

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