Post No.: 0740
Diplomacy can be regarded as any kind of interaction between people with the aim of building or maintaining friendly and mediated or negotiated relations between them, whereby those people are representatives of their own polities or communities. It therefore involves communication, representation and negotiation.
International diplomacy is about learning how to co-exist harmoniously in a global community despite being in competition with other nations. You could be as blunt as explicitly putting your own country first, but everyone else will remember that and put your country last. Serving your own people first is tacit, but it’s not diplomatically clever to fail to show you’re also a team player.
Concerning aggressive national security practices, what’s considered as ‘for the greater good’ can depend on our framing e.g. what’s good for one’s own country may be bad for the world, yet we all live in and are citizens of this increasingly perceptually small world too. Diplomats understand that this world is highly interconnected, and things happening in another country will likely at least indirectly affect one’s home country sooner or later. ‘What goes around comes around’, as the saying goes. What’s seemingly immediately gainful for us may have long-term dire consequences for us down the line. Enemies of enemies may seem like our friends today, but arm them up and they could become our enemies in the future. We could push our own national economic interests unabated, but if by doing so we push global warming even further into the danger zone then we’ll pay the heavy price later.
If/when ever our nation is victorious in war, we must show humility and not claim the spoils of war. We must not oppress the defeated. We cannot be short-sighted. We must learn from history.
If the war is over and lasting peace is the goal (as it should be) then do peaceful things. Include, don’t exclude. Unite, don’t divide. Handling defeated nations must be done sensitively – demanding some reparations is sometimes fair but applying a ‘to the victor the spoils’ attitude and burdening a defeated population with oppressive terms and conditions may encourage a fascist movement within that population to ascend one day to reassert that nation’s pride on the world stage. A classic way to stimulate rightwing nationalism is by stoking up the ambition to reassert perceived former national glories, as if being on top is the rightful position for one’s country (as Furrywisepuppy said in Post No.: 0737). Far-rightwing parties tend to rise amongst polities that lack self-assuredness and pride in their identity. Insecure people can be extremely hostile.
The Treaty of Versailles was quite harsh on defeated Germany, with burdensome terms and reparations imposed on German folk and industry after WWI. This treaty undermined many Germans and made them feel like a humiliated nation. This arguably fuelled a political movement that sought to seize back prestige and honour for the nation i.e. the rise of the Nazi Party and the eventual invasions that led to WWII.
In more recent times, Daesh/ISIL attempted to assert its flavour of Islam in the Middle East partly in response to feeling undermined after experiencing past Western interventions (militarily and capitalistically) in the region. Many founding members of this group were people who were detained without charge by Western forces in Iraq.
Near-defeated megalomaniacs will similarly need to find a way to save face and, if it reaches serious diplomatic talks, others will have to let them save face (without condoning their behaviours) rather than rub it in if they’re eventually defeated. Otherwise it might prompt a rash act from the desperate despot who’s trying to salvage some personal pride. If resources allow, there can be a destructive ‘double or nothing’ attitude to reasserting military pride after being defeated. Chastened narcissistic individuals might think ‘if I’m going down, I’m taking everyone down with me too’. So a defeated nation must have its dignity and pride restored as soon as possible. Understand that there were some situational rather than only dispositional attributions to their leader’s behaviour, and the majority of the civilians of a defeated nation probably didn’t want to go to war anyway.
Also, once a war is over, key personnel may be put on trial for war crimes – but revenge isn’t going to bring any lives back. Sometimes it’s the public baying for blood e.g. ‘they killed some of us so let’s kill the lot of them’. But, as someone who may have lost so much, it’s counterproductive to personally administer your own retribution and torture on soldiers or civilians from the defeated side. Any action that doesn’t serve the best interests for the present and future is impetuous. The past cannot be undone. Time usually heals so don’t act in haste and sustain (further) regret.
Revenge has a purpose of teaching a wrongdoer a lesson so that they’ll not wish to repeat what they did. Will retaliation however necessarily achieve this goal? It might instead escalate matters and start to involve others – perhaps from yet-born generations. It’s crazy how some religious and/or geopolitical conflicts or tensions span multiple generations i.e. sour relations from something that one wasn’t even alive for when it started! People inherit a sour relationship and those who initially bore the grievance might even be mostly dead, yet somehow the grievance remains fully alive; like regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Korean conflict. Is this a naïve sentiment from someone on the outside? Well at least I’m not someone who lives in a place where there’s constant proximate fear.
Reputations matter to people, and people might take vengeance on those who dishonour them. It can be tricky to trust those who desire to seek revenge on you too e.g. they might spite themselves by sabotaging an opportunity that would’ve brought you both mutual gains because ‘getting back at you’ remains on their minds. In an ideal world we would have no fights in the first place. But in the real world we can do everything we can to minimise feelings of revenge by embracing the defeated.
Vengeance can be incredibly motivating though. Getting revenge is pleasurable. But like many instantly gratifying things, there are delayed costs. So if you can’t help but want a sense of revenge, it’s better to use that incredible motivation to get the better of your opponents in more productive rather than destructive ways i.e. to raise one’s own life to beat theirs rather than try to drag them down to one’s level.
As a military general of a campaign, a victory can inspire even greater ambitions in a ‘ratchet effect’ – sometimes shrewdly, but more typically not because the success breeds ever more ambitious goals, which dilutes limited resources, until failure ultimately happens e.g. for successfully annexing a peninsula, one might believe that one has the competence to capture the entire country.
It can lead to ‘mission creep’ or ‘scope creep’, and thus distractions, a diluted or lost overall objective, spreading oneself too thinly, and a lack of an exit strategy. It’s analogously like a gambler who keeps pumping back their winnings into making ever larger bets in the casino, which means that only losing it all will make them stop.
‘Victory disease’ relatedly describes how, after a few easy victories, hubris and a feeling of invincibility can lead the next battle to cataclysmic failure. We fail to account for how the enemy has learnt and adapted. We indeed learn more from our failures than our victories.
Another problem if we behave like smug victors who look down upon others is that we might hang onto our past glories even as the formerly defeated nations have humbly moved onto greater things. They may even eventually overtake us e.g. Germany has a greater economy, has won more football tournaments, and is even more liberally progressive, than the United Kingdom or England nowadays! Japan hasn’t done badly economically either. The British motor industry got complacent and ignored the European market in favour of the Commonwealth. Humility has meant that Germans are more community-oriented. We may need to remind ourselves that it wasn’t individualism but various peoples coming together working as a team, looking out for each other, that enabled victory in the World Wars. The UK, meanwhile, has presently become more nationalistic, protectionist, with a desire to tighten migration between its neighbours, as if we don’t want to mix with ‘inferior stock’ but wish to ‘purify’ our own; which has ironically been historically a losing strategy(!) Victors and former allies of WWII conceitedly desired to exert their status as superpowers, which led to the Cold War.
We may win the battle but lose the war (or win a war but lose in life) if cordial peace isn’t the eventual outcome. Eliminating the physical opponent won’t necessarily eliminate their ideologies or sympathies – well the more we kill (especially if these include any number of innocent civilians), the more an opposing ideology may spread as it gains sympathetic supporters and radicalise individuals across the globe (including within one’s own country); akin to chopping one head but spawning multiple heads in its place. Pre-emptive attacks may be strategic but they’re self-fulfilling because we’ll have now definitely made a belligerent opponent. In not all but plenty of cases, we have at least some input in creating our own enemies whenever we lack the diplomatic nous to prevent violence.
So never lose sight of the bigger picture – even though anger causes us to naturally become blinkered. Without mending fluffy diplomatic relations, tensions underneath the surface will still be present, waiting for a flashpoint. Peace will only be temporary. The best route in this modern world to self-sustaining peace is a diplomatic and collaborative solution. Wars nowadays cannot realistically be won by the complete genocide or subjugation of the population of an adversary state. So state-versus-state fighting, in particular, only persists until the relevant politicians strike a peace agreement, truce, armistice or formal end to a conflict, and of course honour it.
At an individual relations level – no one feels the need to aggressively assert themselves unless they feel small, undermined or under threat. So don’t belittle others. Call someone idiotic and they’ll naturally get defensive and resistant against any attempt by you to change their minds about something too. So show social intelligence, and give respect to their intelligence, in order to open their mind to what you want to say. This includes by not lecturing them in a patronising tone, even if the words you say don’t explicitly aver that they’re ****ing dullards! Let them be able to save face if they change their minds and they’ll more likely be open to changing their minds.
Likewise, calling someone a pathological liar never works because they’ll always disagree with this statement and become automatically defensive; just like you probably would if someone called you a liar. A better approach is to bring up specific examples of deceit or wrongdoing so that they’ll have a chance to explain or correct them.
Even if you detest someone, bite your tongue, otherwise they’ll estrange from you; when you might need their help one day in the future. There’s simply no sensible point in speaking ill of anyone because there’s nothing to gain for doing so except for an ephemeral dose of ego-stroking pleasure. Yet we like dissing other individuals or groups to massage our own sense of superiority!
Or if you do direct an attack on another person instead of their arguments – don’t bring their family, country, religion or whatever into it. But yet again, we often manage to drag other people’s mothers and family into a row somehow!
Meow. In diplomacy – although it’s important to be considered just – the insistence upon the letter of the law may not be the most morally or politically astute thing to do for the wider or longer-term consequences. The choice isn’t always between legality and illegality but between political acuity and political asininity.