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Peaceful and Intelligent Diplomacy: Dissecting Hans J.

Morgenthau‟s
perspective in his book Politics Among Nations (1948).

Kennedy Mwangi1

What is Diplomacy?

Diplomacy is the formulation and execution of foreign policy (Morgenthau 1948).

Jacques Chazelle (1962) notes that "The term diplomacy means the set of means and specific

activities used by a State to serve its foreign policy."

Ernest Satow states that "Diplomacy is the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of

official relations between the governments of independent states, extending sometimes also to

their relations with vassal states; or more briefly still, the conduct of business between states by

peaceful means...skill or address in the conduct of international intercourse and negotiations."

A nation that seeks to pursue its interest must do so bearing in mind that its one among many in

the international system and most probably there are other states that harbor similar if not the

same interests.

The international system has different players and a state need to take into consideration the

position that it occupies in this system. Although the state according to realists, both classical

and neo-classical is the primary players in the world system, that they have rational interests and

that security is at the centre of their concern, they must take serious note of other state and non-

1
Master of Arts in International Relations, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of
Nairobi, Co-Author of ‘Revitalization of Health infrastructure flagship project: The case of Mbagathi Hospital’ a
book Chapter in ‘Women’s Experiences with Selected Flagship Projects in Vision 2030’ and ‘Best Practice in
Implementation of Article 43 (1) (f), a book chapter in ‘Socio-economic Rights-Article 43 (1) of the Constitution of
Kenya: Best practices

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


state actors‟ interest to make choices that will avoid any occurrence of war. That is they must

apply peaceful diplomacy. This must not be taken to mean that they have to shelve their interests

in an event that there is a chance that war might occur but must also apply intelligent diplomacy

by way of compromise, persuasion or the threat of force. All this must be intelligent such that the

state‟s interest will be achieved by peaceful means.

National Power

Thomas Hobbes personifies the realist approach to international relations in a world of anarchy

and self-help, in which individual man and men aggregated into states seek to maintain or to

increase power. In the modern era, this approach is reflected quintessentially by Hans

Morgenthau, who presents national power not only as an end in the Hobbesian sense that “power

is always the immediate aim,” but as a means to that end Jablonsky (1997).

In his book, Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes states that „I put for a general inclination of all mankind,

a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceaseth only in death.‟. He further

implores this notion by describing man as selfish, brutal and naturally evil in his „Hobessian

State of nature‟. It is this lust and self-centredness that Hans Morgenthau labels „animus

dominandi‟.

David Jablonsky (1997) notes that most scholars focus on power as a means, the strength or

capacity that provides the “ability to influence the behavior of other actors in accordance with

one‟s own objectives.” He further adds that at the national level, this influence is based on

relations between nation-state A and another actor (B) with A seeking to influence B to act in

A‟s interest by doing x, by continuing to do x, or by not doing x. Some governments or

statesmen may seek influence for its own sake. But for most, influence, like money, is

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


instrumental, to be used primarily for achieving or defending other goals, which could include

prestige, territory, raw material, or alliances. To achieve these ends, state A can use various

techniques of influencing, ranging from persuasion or the offering of rewards to threats or the

actual use of force.

In this essay, I will expound the four points that Hans Morgenthau gives as the task of

diplomacy, whose execution must be both intelligent and peaceful to achive a states national

interests. Morgenthau notes that „a diplomacy that ends in war has failed in its primary objective:

the promotion of the national interest by peaceful means‟.

He notes that of all the factors that make for the power of a nation, the most important, is the

quality of diplomacy. The conduct of a nation‟s foreign affairs by its diplomats is for national

power in peace what military strategy and tactics by its military leaders are for national power in

war. He defines the elements of national power as the geographic position of a state, natural

resources, industrial capacity, military might/preparedness and population. It is important to

note that the possession of information by a state can be a source of national power. This

information must be strategic not only to its possessor but also to other states.

Diplomacy as brains of national power

Morgenthau further notes that diplomacy is the brains of national power, as national moral is its

soul. If its vision is blurred, its judgment defective, and its determination feeble, all the

advantages of geographical location, of self-sufficiency in food, raw materials, and industrial

production, of military preparedness, of size and quality of population will in the long run avail a

nation little. A nation that can boast of all these advantages, but not of diplomacy commensurate

with them, may achieve temporary successes through the sheer weight of its natural assets. In the

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


long run, it is likely to squander the natural assets by activating them incompletely, haltingly and

wastefully for the nation‟s international objectives.

In the long run, such a nation must yield to one whose diplomacy is prepared to make most of

whatever other elements of power are its disposal, thus making up through its own excellence for

deficiencies in other fields.

Diplomacy of high quality will ring the ends and means of foreign policy into harmony with the

available resources of national power. It will tap the hidden sources of national strength and

transform them fully and securely into political realities.

Tasks of peaceful and intelligent diplomacy

He further notes that in the whole range of foreign policy, the task of diplomacy is fourfold:

1. Diplomacy must determine its objectives in the light of the power actually and potentially

available for the pursuit of these objectives.

States have different positions in the international system by virtue of the power it wields.

According to realists, this power is derived primarily from its military might. The state must

therefore asses its own objectives and what it aims to achieve in the implementation the same are

the gains immediate or they will be enjoyed later? Will the achievement of the objectives lead to

a multiplier effect?

In relation to its position in the international system, the objectives of a state may be achievable

or not in the case that the achievement of the said objectives is in conflict with those of a more

powerful state.

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


Morgenthau notes that a nation that sets itself goals which it has no power to attain may have to

face the risk of war on two accounts. Such a nation is likely to dissipate its strength and not be

strong enough at all points of friction to deter a hostile nation from challenging it beyond

endurance. He adds that the failure of a nation‟s foreign policy may force the nation to retrace its

steps and to redefine its objectives in view of its actual strength or the strength of its rival.

The problem with that a nation will face if it had not assessed the strength of its rival relative to

its own power is that under the pressure of an inflamed public opinion, such a nation will go

forward on the road toward an unattainable goal, strain all its resources to achieve it, and finally,

confounding the national interest with that goal, seek in war the solution to a problem that cannot

be solved through peaceful means.

Take for example a Nation A whose objectives is to make strategic economic ties with country2

B which is a dispute over territory with nation C. If nation C is weaker than Nation A but

stronger than nation B, and then it seeks war over the territory with nation B, it will be risking a

lot if it does not assess the objectives of nation A, determining to what extent it can go to protect

nation B. SM Makinda (yr?) notes that there is no nation that acts on another nation for purely

altruistic reasons. So by attacking nation B nation C will be indirectly aggressing nation A.

2. Diplomacy must assess the objectives of other nations and the power actually and

potentially available for the pursuit of these objectives

Morgenthau further notes that a will invite war if its diplomacy wrongly assesses the objectives

of other nations and the power at their disposal. Country A that mistakes the foreign policy of

nation B forigh policy of status quo may actually as that of imperialism will evoke through its

2
Note that the terms country, nation and state are used interchangeably in this essay

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


disproportionate reaction the very danger of war which it is trying to avoid. In the same breath

Country B which mistakes country A‟s foreign policy of imperialism that of status quo may not

be ready to meet the treat to its own existence which country A policy entails.

Morgenthau adds that again, there is the danger of war as the reverse could happen and in order

to meet the imaginary aggression of the rival nation, the states may rush to arms.

Underrating or overrating the power of a state may be fatal. The role of early diplomats were

shrouded in secrecy and this was, and still is, meant to access and evaluate a state‟s plan of

action against or for another state and use this information to inform foreign policy at the home

of the diplomat. Thus the diplomat must be intelligent in gathering information which may be

secret and advice his home country accordingly. This will ensure that a state does not overate or

underrate a nation‟s power on its execution of foreign policy.

Take for example Japan‟s attack on USA‟s Pearl harbor. The Japanese underrated the extent to

which the power of the US extended. It is can thus be deemed as tenable as a fact that Japan‟s

diplomacy was not intelligent. This is evidenced by the catastrophic defeat that Japan faced in

the Second World War.

3. Diplomacy must determine to what an extent these objectives are compatible with each

other

Morgenthau notes that a nation that seeks to pursue an intelligent and peaceful foreign policy

cannot cease comparing its own objectives and the objectives of other nations in the light of their

compatibility. If they are compatible, no problem will arise. If they are not compatible, nation A

must determine whether its objectives are so vital that they must be pursued despite that

incompatibility with the objectives of B. If it is found that A‟s vital interest can be safeguarded

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


without the attainment of these objectives, they ought to be abandoned. On the other hand, if A

finds these objectives are essential for its vital interests, A must then ask itself whether B‟s

objectives, incompatible with its own, are essential for B‟s vital interests. If the answer seems to

be in the negative, A must try to induce B to abandon its objectives, offering B equivalents not

vital to A. in other words, through diplomatic bargaining, the give and take of compromise, a

way must be sought by which the interests of A and B can be reconciled.

If the incompatible objectives of A and B should prove to be vital to either side, a way might still

be sought in which the vital interests of A and B might be redefined, reconciled, and their

objectives thus made compatible with each other. Here, however, even provided that both sides

pursue intelligent and peaceful countries A and B are moving dangerously close to the brink of

war.

4. Diplomacy must employ the means suited to the pursuit of these objectives

It is the final task of an intelligent diplomacy, intent upon preserving peace, to choose the

appropriate means of pursuing its objectives. This means at the disposal of diplomacy are three:

Persuasion, compromise and the threat of force. No diplomacy relying only upon the threat of

force can claim to be both intelligent and peaceful. No diplomacy that would stake everything on

persuasion and compromise deserves to be called intelligent. Rarely, if ever, in the conduct of the

foreign policy of a great power is there justification for using only one method to the exclusion

of others. generally, the diplomatic representatives of a great power, in order to be able to serve

both the interests of his country and the interests of peace, must at the same time use persuasion,

hold out the advantages of a compromise, and impress the other side with the military strength of

his country.

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


Diplomacy and timeliness

The art of diplomacy consists in putting the right emphasis at any particular moment on each of

these three means at its disposal. A diplomacy that as successfully discharged its other functions

may as well fail in advancing the national interest and preserving peace if it stresses persuasion

when the give and take compromise is primarily required by the circumstances of the case. A

diplomacy that puts most of its egg in the basket of compromise when the military might of the

nation should be predominantly displayed, or stresses military might when the political situation

call for persuasion and compromise, will likewise fail.

United Sates and the Cold War

Peaceful and intelligent diplomacy was mainly used by the Unites States of America during the

Cold War era. Everything was so much clearer during the Cold War. The United States used its

diplomatic, economic, and military might to contain and outmaneuver the Soviet Union. Then, as

the Cold War was winding down, the United States engaged Mikhail Gorbachev's rapidly

declining regime as a source of leverage to manage and resolve conflicts across the globe.

Through sustained diplomatic negotiations, the USA took advantage of the shifting geopolitical

landscape to negotiate settlements and aid transitions in Afghanistan, Central America, Southeast

Asia, and southern Africa while laying the foundations for Europe's post-Cold War security

architecture. This approach helped the United States defeat Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf

War, launch the Madrid phase of the Middle East peace process, and facilitate the unification of

Germany. Thanks in large part to the United States' vision and diplomatic skill, the breakup of

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


the Soviet Union and the emergence of over a dozen states in its wake was a remarkably peaceful

affair.

Kenya: Peaceful and intelligent diplomacy

The international Criminal Court (ICC) instated investigations into Kenya‟s post election

violence of 2008/9. The ICC indicted top politicians in the country including Uhuru Kenyatta

and William Ruto who later on went and became the president and deputy president of Kenya

respectively. In the stage while they served as ministers in 2013, Kenya applied shuttle

diplomacy to try and convince the African states to rally behind Kenya‟s quest of referring the

cases back to their home courts. Later after the 2013 elections, Uhuru Kenya as the president of

Kenya managed to convince African states through the African Union to protect any sitting

African head of state, from being subjected to the ICC. Although the full effect of the resolution

by the head of states is yet to be effectively demonstrated, peaceful and intelligent diplomacy is

quiet evident.

Coercive diplomacy as peaceful and Intelligent

Coercive diplomacy in contemporary times must also be peaceful and intelligent. Coercive

diplomacy is use of threat of force in aid of persuasion, as its ablest exponent, Prof. Alexander I.

George, emphasizes in his book Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to

War. Two rules govern the game - the opponent must be allowed to save face by offering him a

line of retreat; the practitioner must have a fall-back position for himself or an exit strategy

before rushing into a confrontation. It follows that the lines of communication must be kept in

good repair.

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


"Coercive diplomacy does indeed offer an alternative to reliance on military action. It seeks to

persuade an opponent to cease his aggression rather than bludgeon him into stopping". Joblonsky

(1997) notes that the risks of miscalculation and bluff are high and deterrence can collapse. He

gives an example that, forty years ago, Henry Kissinger warned: "Deterrence is above all a

psychological problem. The assessment of risks on which it depends becomes less and less

precise in the face of weapons of unprecedented novelty and destructiveness. A bluff taken

seriously is more useful than a serious threat interpreted as a bluff."

What else was India's "forward policy" towards China but an exercise in "coercive diplomacy"?

It was based on miscalculation and bluff. A directive to the Army was issued after a meeting in

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's office on November 2, 1961. Defence Minister V.K. Krishna

Menon, the Chief of the Army Staff General P.N. Thapar, Chief of General Staff B.M. Kaul,

Intelligence Bureau chief B.N. Mullick, and Foreign Secretary M.J. Desai concurred: "So far as

Ladakh is concerned, we are to patrol as far forward as possible." Aimed at pleasing public

opinion, it rested on the assumption that China would not react militarily. It did, a year later.

In contrast, Indira Gandhi followed sound military advice before marching into East Pakistan in

November 1971. India and Pakistan have freely resorted to the use of force since their birth.

Nehru reacted to Junagadh's accession to Pakistan by planning a military solution in September

1947. The following month, Pakistan sent the raiders into Kashmir. In 1965, it launched a war.

India's military aid to Tamil outfits was designed to make the Sri Lanka government offer

acceptable terms to the Tamils. The record of coercive diplomacy in South Asia is anything but

creditable.

Conclusion

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


The diplomacy of any state should be both peaceful and intelligent. It should be able to establish

and clearly so its own objectives as well as the objectives of the other states. In so doing the

diplomat knows which objectives are similar and which are different, the ones which are

strategic and the ones which are not. Diplomacy should also be in a position to determine the

compatibility of the objectives of the states and determine which ones that can be pursued

through negotiation, compromise or threat of war. Diplomacy must also be timely since a tactic

can be very intelligent but the time makes war eminent. Diplomacy should therefore be both

intelligent and peaceful.

5. References

Morgentahu, J. Hans (2001), Thompson, Kenneth. W (ed, six edition): Politics among Nations:

New Delhi: kalyani Publishers

Jose Calvet De Magalhaes (1988):The pure concept of diplomacy: Green Wood Press, Inc,

Connecticut

Ernest Satow (1957): A Guide to Diplomatic Practice, London: Longmans, Green,

Jacques Chazelle (1962), La Diplomatie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France,

Kenneth A. Schultz Democracy and Coercive Diplomacy(2001): Cambridge University Press;

London

Karen E. Smith and Murgot Light (Eds.)(2001) Ethics and Foreign Policy; Cambridge University

Press; London

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi


http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl1914/19140860.htm accessed 2nd November, 2014

David Jablonsky et al (1997): US National Security: Beyond the Cold War: New York

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958, p. 86.

Kennedy Mwangi, M.A, International Relations, University of Nairobi