Topic 5: Diplomacy


See Moodle


Diplomacy is the art of managing international relations, usually through the official representatives of states – diplomats.  Ambrose Bierce (1911), in his Devil’s Dictionary wrote that a diplomat is a man sent abroad to lie for his country. Diplomacy requires pieces in the game far beyond the figurehead ambassador: embassy staffs, consular offices, representatives in international organizations, conferences and summit meetings, development aid, scientific policy, and often military advisors, educators, and training support. Military forces can be deployed to signal or posture, but diplomacy is needed to make the package and message work as intended.

A popular complaint at the end of the First World War had been that “secret diplomacy” had pushed the great powers unwittingly towards war as their promised support for allies locked them into conflict. An official British historical survey published in 1919 found some support for that accusation, but also pointed to widespread reporting and public knowledge of the major treaty provisions that constrained Britain (Oman, 1919).   Diplomacy has grown enormously since the First World War: the League of Nations (1920-1939) never surpassed 63 members, while the United Nations General Assembly has 194. The number of UN organs and agencies alone far surpasses the number of International organizations extant before 1945. In addition there are regional organizations, specialized economic and trade bodies that claim either global or regional jurisdiction, and a growing number of international non-governmental organizations, which claim legitimacy in special areas.

When we looked at economic events, many of them involve negotiation and diplomacy (think about G20, OBOR, and NAFTA, for example), or its failure (think of the failure to manage global financial activities that led to the 2008 crash).  Security and potential violence also involves diplomacy: avoiding wars, arms control agreements, territorial status, and war termination are major diplomatic efforts. The establishment of rules and procedures for the management of relations between states is also a major effort in diplomacy. In the list of cases, we have examples of each.

Learning objectives

  • Describe actors and events in international relations
  • Demonstrate discrimination in the use and interpretation of sources
  • Understand political economy and world systems analysis as approaches to linking international politics, economics, and social change
  • Interpret the events, sequences, causes and effects related to alternative theories
  • Identify terms and concepts related to the study of international relations


Shiraev Chapter 6


Student coordinators will select from the following cases to explore this week:

Activities before class

  • Review current events
  • Read the case summary or links
  • Check Moodle for case notes from the presenters
  • Apply your own aide memoire on theory: which ones seem most useful? What do they omit? What can be gained from other perspectives?
  • Are there alternative narratives for the cases under consideration?
  • What terminology or concepts are relevant in the discussion of this case?

Activities during class

  • Discuss current events
  • Relate current events to the events up for discussion
  • Present the cases
  • Discuss the cases from empirical and normative perspectives
  • Call-in speaker (if any) Q&A managed by coordinators
  • International perspectives from allied military academies (if available)
  • Frame an essay question addressing the issues raised in discussion
  • Offer suggestions for completion of the analytical papers following the presentation
  • List relevant terminology and concepts

Activities after class

  • Post comments on Moodle
  • Confirm understanding of terminology and concepts
  • Review notes and readings for essay question

Additional resources

Ambrosio, T. (2008). Catching the ‘Shanghai spirit’: how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization promotes authoritarian norms in Central Asia. Europe-Asia Studies, 60(8), 1321-1344.

Bailes, A. J., Dunay, P., Guang, P., & Troitskiy, M. (2007). The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (p. 3). Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Beesley, A. (1983). The Negotiating Strategy of UNCLOS III: Developing and Developed Countries as Partners-A Pattern for Future Multilateral International Conferences. Law & Contemp. Probs., 46, 183.

Bobbitt, P. (2002). The shield of Achilles: War, peace, and the course of history. Anchor. Chandler, D. (2004). The responsibility to protect? Imposing the ‘liberal peace’. International peacekeeping, 11(1), 59-81.

Combs, N. A. (2003). Establishing the International Criminal Court. Int’l LFD Int’l, 5, 77.

Glendon, M. A. (1999). Foundations of human rights: The unfinished business. Am. J. Juris., 44,

  1. Oman, C.  (1919) the Outbreak of the War of 1914-1918: A narrative based mainly on British official documents. London. His Majesty’s Stationary Office. Satariano, A. (2019) “The world’s First Tech Ambassador,”  New York Times, 3 Sep 2019 Wallerstein, I. (1976)

Detante and diplomacy

Post Cold-War Detante?étente—despite-trump-22064

Lawfare: the man who stood up against nuclear weapons

Kupchan, C. A. (2010). How enemies become friends: The sources of stable peace. Princeton University Press.

Lodgaard, S. (2011). Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation: towards a nuclear-weapon-free world? (p. 288). Taylor & Francis.

Brewer, J. D. (2010). Peace processes: A sociological approach. Polity.

International law diplomacy

Hong, N. (2012). UNCLOS and ocean dispute settlement: Law and politics in the South China Sea. Routledge.

Bodansky, D. (1991). Protecting the marine environment from vessel-source pollution: UNCLOS III and beyondEcology LQ18, 719.

Guruswamy, L. (1998). The Promise of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS): Justice in Trade and Environment Disputes. Ecology Law Quarterly25(2), 189-227.

Murphy, M. (2007). Piracy and UNCLOS: does international law help regional states combat piracy?.

Violence at sea: Piracy in the age of global terrorism, 155-82.
Malone, J. L. (1983). The United States and the Law of the Sea after UNCLOS IIILaw and Contemporary Problems46(2), 29-36.

Defence Diplomacy

Barkawi, T. (2011). “Defence diplomacy” in north-south relations. International Journal, 66(3), 597-612.

Dewitt, D. B., & Plante, J. P. (2004). National defence vs. foreign affairs: Culture clash in Canada’s international security policy?. International Journal, 59(3), 579-595.

Floyd, N. (2010). Dropping the Autopilot: Improving Australia’s Defence Diplomacy. Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Ford, M. (2014). Building stability overseas: three case studies in British defence diplomacy–Uganda, Rhodesia–Zimbabwe, and Sierra LeoneSmall Wars & Insurgencies25(3), 584-606.

Hills, A. (2000). Defence diplomacy and security sector reform. Contemporary Security Policy, 21(1), 46-67.

Taylor, B., Blaxland, J., White, H., Bisley, N., Leahy, P., & Tan, S. S. (2014). Defence Diplomacy Is the game worth the candle?Centre for Gravity Series Paper, (17).

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