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Diplomacy — The Art of the Impossible?

How important is diplomacy for coherent global politics?

December 31, 2002

How important is diplomacy for coherent global politics?

Diplomats act as representatives of their country. But oftentimes, their politeness is a façade behind which serious political bargaining is taking place. Such negotiations are deemed successful, if all the parties involved walk out satisfied. Yet, lots can go wrong — and it is then that the façade crumbles. Our Read My Lips examines this dichotomy.

What is the art of diplomacy?

“Diplomacy is about the illusion that I am equal to you.”

(Gelson Fonseca, former Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations, November 2002)

How should one do it?

“In diplomacy, style counts — and it counts very heavily.”

(Lee Hamilton, former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, October 2002)

Yet, how far should patience go?

“As far as I’m concerned, there really is something to be said for occasionally putting diplomacy aside — and laying one’s cards on the table.”

(Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President, February 2002)

How are power and diplomacy related?

“Successful diplomacy is wedded to power — and our global power depends on our successful diplomacy.”

(Anthony Lake, former Clinton National Security advisor & Robert Gallucci, former U.S. ambassador at large, November 2002)

How should one enter a negotiating room?

“Kissinger had a famous aphorism, which was: ‘You don’t go into diplomatic negotiations unless your chances of success are 85%.’ ”

(Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, January 2001)

What needs to be done to create good PR?

“Public diplomacy must be an integral part of foreign policy, not something that comes afterward to sell the foreign policy.”

(Council on Foreign Relations report, July 2002)

What is public diplomacy?

“Public diplomacy is the gentler term for international propaganda.”

(Kim Andrew Elliott, analyst for the Office of Research of the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, November 2002)

What does Russia’s President Vladimir Putin see as a problem for his country’s diplomacy?

“The absence of the so-called ‘weaker sex’ in Russian diplomacy might become a weak point of our foreign service.”

(Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 2002)

Whatever happened to the post-September 11 solidarity with the United States?

“History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.”

(Robin Cook, former British Foreign Secretary, March 2003)

Is the United States partially responsible for that?

“Not since the run-up to World War I had diplomacy been so inelegantly practiced.”

(Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist, March 2003)

What is the difference between British and European diplomacy?

"Britain wants Europe to punch its weight in global diplomacy. But that means abandoning the habit of diplomacy by resolution."

(Peter Hain, Leader of the British House of Commons, April 2003)

On what principle do French diplomats act?

“The French diplomatic motto could be described in Cartesian terms — ‘I intervene, therefore I am.”

(Dominique Moisi, Conseiller Spécial of the Institut Français des Relations Internationales, September 1998)

What are the views of French President Jacques Chirac?

"International life is made up of differences that are accepted and mastered."

(French President Jacques Chirac, June 2003)

How does poetry fit into all this?

“Poetry and diplomacy both rely on the alchemy of paradox. We mix fear and hope, power and weakness, love and hate to find a way out of the impossible.”

(Dominique de Villepin, French Foreign Minister and published poet, July 2002)

Does that frustrate their counterparts?

“The trouble with the French is that they need to be kissed at least twice a day — otherwise they feel unloved.”

(German diplomat, March 2001)

Why can the United States never afford to go it alone?

“Empires survive when they understand that diplomacy, backed by force, is always to be preferred to force alone.”

(Michael Ignatieff, professor at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, January 2001)

What could tempt it to try?

"You don't need diplomacy if you're so powerful."

(Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, June 1995)

Yet, can one exclusively rely on diplomacy?

“We know from our own history that diplomacy not backed by the threat of force has never worked with dictators — and never will work.”

(British Prime Minister Tony Blair, September 2002)

What is the main weakness in U.S. foreign policy?

"The United States is so sophisticated on all aspects of marketing — except for when it comes to marketing U.S. diplomacy around the world."

(Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Cooperation, May 2003)

And finally, what to do if the other party refuses to negotiate?

“When did we begin to take no for an answer in diplomacy?”

(Hans Blix, head of the UN weapons inspectors, October 2002)