McGraw-Hill OnlineMcGraw-Hill Higher EducationLearning Center
Student Center | Home
Current News
Weekly Update
Chapter Introduction
Interactive Exercise 1
Interactive Exercise 2
Web Map 1
Web Map 2
Web Map 3
Web Map 4
Web Map 5
A Further Note 1
A Further Note 2
A Further Note 3
A Further Note 4
A Further Note 5
Interactive Exercise 3
Interactive Exercise 4
Chapter 8 Quiz
Web Links
Chapter Specific Headlines
PowerWeb Articles
Help Center

International Politics on the World Stage, Brief 4/e
World Politics: International Politics on the World Stage, Brief, 4/e
John T. Rourke, University of Connecticut - Storrs
Mark A. Boyer, University of Connecticut - Storrs

National Power and Diplomacy: The Traditional Approach

Chapter Introduction

"Once upon a time," began a fable told by the great British diplomat and prime minister Winston Churchill, "all the animals in the zoo decided that they would disarm." To accomplish that laudable goal, the animals convened a diplomatic conference, where, Churchill's tale went:

"The Rhinoceros said when he opened the proceeding that the use of teeth was barbarous and horrible and ought to be strictly prohibited by general consent. Horns, which were mainly defensive weapons, would, of course, have to be allowed. The Buffalo, the Stag, the Porcupine, and even the little Hedgehog all said they would vote with the Rhino, but the Lion and the Tiger took a different view. They defended teeth and even claws, which they described as honourable weapons of immemorial antiquity. The Panther, the Leopard, the Puma, and the whole tribe of small cats all supported the Lion and the Tiger. Then the Bear spoke. He proposed that both teeth and horns should be banned and never used again for fighting by animals. It would be quite enough if animals were allowed to give each other a good hug when they quarreled. No one could object to that. It was so fraternal, and that would be a great step toward peace. However, all the other animals were very offended by the Bear, and the Turkey fell into a perfect panic. The discussion got so hot and angry, and all those animals began thinking so much about horns and teeth and hugging when they argued about the peaceful intentions that had brought them together, that they began to look at one another in a very nasty way. Luckily the keepers were able to calm them down and persuade them to go back quietly to their cages, and they began to feel quite friendly with one another again."

Sir Winston's allegory is instructive, as well as colorfully entertaining. It touches on many aspects of diplomacy discussed in this chapter. We will begin by looking at power, which remains an essential element of diplomacy in a system based on self-interested sovereignty. In our world, like the zoo, the actors that possess the power to give rewards or inflict punishment are able to influence other actors. Power has many forms. Physical strength is one, and the rhino and the lion were both powerful in this way. Skill is another aspect of power. The turkey had little tangible strength, but perhaps it possessed guile and other intangible diplomatic skills to persuade the other animals to adopt its views. Economic power is also important in diplomacy. The zookeepers controlled the food supply, and may have used food as a positive incentive (more food) or negative sanction (less or no food) to persuade the animals to return to their cages.

Having established the power foundations of diplomacy, we will turn to the general nature of diplomacy. This involves the overall system, the setting in which modern diplomacy occurs. The zoo was the system in which the animals negotiated. Like the current international system, the zoo system was based on self-interest, with each group of animals selecting goals that were advantageous to itself with little thought about how they affected others. The zoo system also apparently allowed some potential for fighting and thus based success in part on the Darwinian law of the jungle. Yet it is the case that the animals were also partly constrained by the zookeepers with, perhaps, some protection afforded by cages.

The third part of this chapter will examine modern diplomacy by looking at how it has evolved and at some of its characteristics. Multilateral diplomacy, for example, has become a much more prominent part of diplomacy than it once was. In Churchill's story, the animals conducted multisided negotiations instead of bilateral diplomacy between, say, just the rhino and the tiger. Those two animals might have made a bilateral agreement that both horns and fangs were acceptable; once hedgehogs, turkeys, and others became involved, the diplomatic dynamic changed greatly. In such a circumstance, diplomatic coalition building is one aspect of support gathering. It may well have been that, before the conference, the rhino had met with the buffalo, stag, porcupine, and hedgehog to convince them that they should support the rhino's position that horns were defensive weapons, while teeth and claws were offensive weapons.

Finally, the fourth part of the chapter will turn to options in the conduct of diplomacy. Direct negotiation is one method, and the animals were engaged in that. Signaling is another method. This occurred when the animals "began to look at each other in a very nasty way." Public diplomacy to win the support of public opinion is another diplomatic method, and it is possible to see in Churchill's story how a clever diplomatic proposal can create an advantage. One can imagine the bear's proposal emblazoned in the Zoo News headline the next day: "Bear Proposes Eliminating All Weapons. Suggests Hugging as Alternative to Fighting." World opinion might have rallied to the bear; this would have put pressure on the other negotiators to accede to a seemingly benign proposal to usher in a new world order based on peace, love, and hugging.

Before proceeding, we should take a moment to put this chapter in context. It is the first of two chapters that look at the traditional and the alternative bases for establishing what policies will prevail in the world. The traditional approach involves countries' practicing national diplomacy by applying power in the pursuit of their self-interest. This approach does not mean that might makes right, but it surely means that might usually makes success. The alternative approach, discussed in Chapter 9, is to apply the standards of international law and justice to the conduct of international relations so that right, rather than who is mightiest, will more often determine who prevails.