The Psychology of Diplomacy

In message 720 on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 8:27pm, Shelton Williams writes:
Rhetoric, not policy and it is an incomplete guide to what a Government is “thinking.” Sometimes you have to deduce what a state was really up to after the fact. Sometimes leaders miscalculate how their actions or rhetoric will affect others’ behavior. That does not mean that rational calculation is absent their actions. Apply Realism’s clever aphorism to Iran’s behavior: “The Strong do what they can; the weak do what they must.” Deter the US; balance Israel; stir up nationalism in a society that suffers economically, or gains the most out of tense negotiations before essentially giving in. Are any of these possible? Or like this week’s question suggests, are other social and psychological factors at play? Well, Alexander George’s piece covers a lot of the psychology.

For example, Iran (and for that matter the other two members of the ‘Axis of Evil’), put a lot of value on “Calculated Procrastination. As George puts it: “leaders go so far as to conclude that the best strategy of leadership is to do as little as possible” (Kaufman, 684). Playing the UN, Russia, and France off of the US in Iraq and Iran or playing the UN and China off of the US in Korea is textbook ‘calculate procrastination.’ George also covers bolstering which might be exemplified by NK’s launching of missiles over Japan and the near-simultaneous attempt to negotiate for peaceful nuclear technology. In bolstering, the North Koreans “increase the attractiveness of a preferred option and do… the opposite for options which one is inclined to reject. Thus, the expected costs/risks are minimized. Similarly, the expected gains from rejected alternatives are downgraded; their expected costs/risks are magnified” (Kaufman, 685). If NK just asked for non-military technology, no one would give it to them; however, if they shoot a missile over Japan and then ask for non-military technology, then SK, Japan, and the US scramble to negotiate. Thus, the spoiled child is taught to scream.

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