Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A thought on diplomacy

Source: The Polity IV Project
One of the important global trends has been towards democracy and away from autocracy. It occurs to me that that trend should require a change in diplomatic practice. In dealing with an autocratic government, "realist" approaches might work well -- bargaining to advance important interests. In dealing with democracies, the feelings of the people count more. Public diplomacy that advances mutual understanding between peoples should play a larger role. Indeed, the people in a democracy tend to dislike it when their government bargains with foreign dictators, making deals that strengthen their dictatorial powers.

In dealing with anocracies -- weak states with competing (often armed) internal forces -- public diplomacy might also be important.

While the world is probably a safer place, given that it seems that democratic nations seldom if ever go to war against each other, it should not be assumed that democratic peoples will always have good feelings for each other. There remain cultural and religious differences among peoples that create barriers to understanding, and conflicting economic interests among nations.  While public diplomacy by a national government can achieve much, there will be increasing need for diplomacy in multilateral agencies; the United Nations, the IMF, the World Trade Organization and other intergovernmental organizations can serve as neutral brokers and as safe forums for international discussion. 

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