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


Second track diplomacy and cultural differences

With fog billowing over the barges on the Thames, there is not really much else to do for a young man than to read Robert Jervis's book Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton University Press, 1976) and drink instant coffee.

Because all that sunday-laid-back-ness should remind diplomats that power politics is not enough to solve the differences between states, cultural issues must also be taken into account - of course. 2nd track diplomacy takes account of this, by taking small steps - such as just letting antagonists meet each other in informal settings. This underscores the importance of not only getting to know "intentions", "capabilities" and position in "balance" of power when negotiating, but also understanding the general perception of an opponent.

And Jervis's book underscored what I have been wondering about aloud earlier here, that conflict resolution could gain a lot from knowing the topical-rhetorical phases of argumentation:

'The roots of many important disputes about policies lie in differing perceptions. And in the frequent cases when the actors do not realize this, they will misunderstand their disagreement and engage in a debate that is unenlightening.'

Right on, Jervis.


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