On Diplomacy, Part Two

If global order and global peace are a diplomatic and social construct more than anything else, then a word or two on the nature of diplomacy and ‘constructivism’ in international relations would not be out of place. And as mentioned before, diplomacy tends to assume two different levels or tracks. For one, there is “Track-I Diplomacy” which occurs between de jure states and their representatives. And then, there is “Track-II Diplomacy” which occurs between private individuals as well as civil society actors who are not part of a de jure state. And in some cases, the activities and interactions which occur at the “Track-II” level of diplomacy can make a significant impact on what goes on at the “Track-I” level of diplomacy. 

Alexander Wendt is considered by many intellectuals and scholars to be the father or pioneer of “constructivism” or the “constructivist theory” of international relations. In turn, the major difference between “realists” and “constructivists” in terms of their view of what exactly it is that influences state action the most is the difference between “structure” on one hand and “process” on the other hand, according to Wendt. “Realists” would contend that the ‘anarchic’ nature of the international system and thus “structure” affects state action more than anything else. On the other hand, the “constructivists” contend that “process” and thus the learning and interaction that occurs between individuals and institutions is the major factor behind state action. Hence, a “realist” and those with whom they band together should be told that the underlying paradox of their course of action and mentality is that “…with fraternity on your lips, you declare war against mankind.” 

Also, as Brian Barder wrote, diplomats are different and unique compared to many other government officials and civil society actors in the sense that diplomats have direct access to some of the world’s most powerful people, and this means that diplomats end up accompanying these powerful people and end up travelling with them for extensive periods of time. Accompanying the most powerful people and travelling with them is a major part of being a diplomat, whereas many other government officials spend most of their time carrying out administrative or bureaucratic or managerial work. The reason as to why certain diplomats have access to the most powerful people, accompany them, and travel with them while many others are not able to have such privileges essentially comes down to one very basic factor, namely, the ability to communicate effectively and to persuade people. Communication and persuasion are essentially the keys which unlock one’s rise through the ranks in the realm of international affairs. 

James Dobbins, who served as a high-ranking American diplomat for about five decades, summed up the work of a diplomat into three basic dimensions or elements: conflict management, conflict resolution, and post-conflict diplomacy. As a result, diplomacy is more of an art rather than an exact science, given the level of uncertainty and unpredictability that is associated with both a conflict situation and a process which aims at resolving conflict through dialogue and negotiation. Arguably, at its very core, diplomacy amounts to the alignment of interests, and the alignment of interests equates to the absence of war. On the flipside, the absence of an alignment of interests most likely amounts to war. With these points in mind, the weight and the importance of certain personality traits such as clear and effective communication, flexibility, looseness, humor, open-mindedness, the ability to persuade people, and the ability to act and to think and to get things done in an impromptu manner become all the more evident in relation to the art and practice of diplomacy.

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