Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Diplomatic Body Language

The highly volatile situation in Ukraine once again highlight the intricate diplomatic musical chairs that is played out in a crisis situation. Delegates come and go, alliances are probed, muscles flexed - and in the end only the very few are left in the game. It is a highly rhetorical situation, with multiple audiences and a swarm of actors. The scene, however, is shared.

I found some really amusing thoughts in an article by Christer Jönsson and Martin Hall with (the initially dumb) name "Communication: An Essential Aspect of Diplomacy" (In International Studies Perspectives, 2003, 4 pp. 195-210).

They stress that the needs for clarity and ambiguity are two counter reacting forces in diplomacy. On one hand you want your opponent/partner to understand exactly what your intention is, despite all differences in ideology and culture, but on the other hand you want to remain diplomatically ambiguous. This is because you might have some secrets you can't let anyone else in on, because you would like to be able to deny it later or because there are several audiences of you message.

This "constructive ambiguity", in effect, means that all diplomats are "intuitive semioticians", interpreters of sign. Diplomats interprets ALL signs, as they may be an intentional signal from the counterpart. And this broadens the scope for the diplomat's "body language". Or as they write:

"Diplomatic "body language" encompasses everything from personal gestures to the manipulation of military forces."

This is actually one of the concepts that I have been looking for, that enables me to look at International Relations and war in a rhetorical view.

And it puts the rumors about Russian special forces in Kiev into another perspective - it might not be a ultimate statement, but rather a signal that Russia REALLY mean this, but that they are still not willing to make the deployment official and back the government all the way. But it might also just be rumors, for all science care.

The eastern, government supportive, parts of Ukraine threatens to vote for independence. New York Times writes the following on the Diplomatic interpretations:

"The significance of the threat is open to question. A senior Western diplomat in Kiev on Saturday described talk of separatism or autonomy as a bluff, perhaps organized by Russia, which backs Mr. Yanukovich. But Poland's president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, who has been involved in mediating the political impasse here, said a break-up was a real threat, Reuters reported."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hej Nis,

Hvad er dit tlf?


30/11/04 19:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Og har du en Skype account?

30/11/04 19:14


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