The Diplomacy of Violence

Credibility and legitimacy are thus essential when it comes to properly balancing and managing a dual track as it pertains to conflict and war, and it is something I learned from my experience assisting the Afghan ambassador who soon became his country’s national security adviser. Without credibility and legitimacy on the part of those at the top, the military track and the diplomatic track cannot be balanced and managed properly, and as a result, one ends up losing the war and total victory is then garnered by the other side down the road at some decisive moment in time and decisive point in the theatre of war. The lack of credibility and legitimacy on the part of those at the top of the Afghan government, for instance, meant that the government eventually lost the support of its main backer, the United States, and in turn, the Taliban ended up taking over the country. 

Hence, the same advice which I gave five years ago to an Afghan ambassador who became his country’s national security adviser applies even today for Washington. Nothing has really changed. The only thing that has changed for me, at least, is that I was dealing on a cultural and local level at that time, whereas now, I am dealing with a global and international level. Nevertheless, and as Thomas Schelling wrote in terms of the diplomatic track towards conflict and war:

“Diplomacy is bargaining; it seeks outcomes that, though not ideal for either party, are better for both than some of the alternatives. In diplomacy each party somewhat controls what the other wants, and can get more by compromise, exchange, or collaboration than by taking things in his own hands and ignoring the other’s wishes. The bargaining can be polite or rude, entail threats as well as offers, assume a status quo or ignore all rights and privileges, and assume mistrust rather than trust.” 

Schelling added:

“But whether polite or impolite, constructive or aggressive, respectful or vicious, whether it occurs among friends or antagonists and whether or not there is a basis for trust and goodwill, there must be some common interest, if only in the avoidance of mutual damage, and an awareness of the need to make the other party prefer an outcome acceptable to oneself.” 

The common interest at this point in time, arguably, between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow is to bring the war in Ukraine to an end. And if it means making some changes to the status quo and making some concessions on the part of Washington in order to achieve that goal of ending the war, then be it. Peace requires respect not only for one’s own interests, but for the interests of other countries as well. Plus, and as mentioned before, the systemic or structural forces which are governing the situation – namely, the balance of power and globalization – means that Washington is not in control of international affairs. 

In a sense, we are all being carried and moved by circumstances, events, and forces which are outside of our control. In turn, these circumstances, events, and forces require adjustments and changes to our own behavior and nature in order to end global war once and for all, even though it remains in the interest of certain individuals and groups to perpetuate war until the end of time. Moreover, Washington is finally meeting a force that is virtually equal to itself in power, namely, the Russian-Chinese alliance and bloc. And when one meets a force that is equal to one’s own power in a balance of power dynamic, wars must eventually come to an end in order to prevent mutual annihilation and mutual destruction.

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