Four Dynamics of Foreign Policy

The dynamics of foreign policy is not as hard to imagine. They are quite simple really. I have personally discovered there are four dynamics (they could be easily refer to domestic policy making as well)

First one must understand that foreign policy is about behaviour. It gets regulated into strategic decisions about a certain way of being, doing and wanting. The last one, wanting seems to always rear its head when it’s not appropriate. That is to say, when a nation asks for something there are always strings attached to what they ‘want’. There are two common behaviour patterns in foreign policy speak, Hubris and Greed. I can name a number of histories where these two have ruled the roost. On the positive side is modesty and compassion. These two positives are often related to Human Security.

The second dynamic in foreign policy is history. As I mentioned above, history is always on our case when negotiating something –or wanting something. The two world wars of the twentieth century can best be described as wanting too much and history repeating itself. Hitler saw that German history was not what it should have been and tried to rewrite the book. History is always in the background especially if there are past political events that have not been resolved. The Middle East is case study extraordinaire. As is Eastern Europe.

The third dynamic is rhetoric, the spoken word as well as the written ones. What you say is what you are and what you mean is not what you are saying. The double meaning here, refers to anyone who has an ability to always read between the lines, as you may end up getting not what you desire or even want. Most spoken words and written ones have a nasty habit of being plain deceptive or even worse – full of lies, damn lies and blatant lies.

Now let’s look at the fourth dynamic.

A Chess game is where both players can see the board, pieces and each move, but cannot fathom what option a player might take to engage their next move. If foreign policy is like a Chess game, then some hiddenness must be apparent by whatever a statement infers. This might mean that if a statement says one thing, what else is not being told? What are we not seeing? What is being played out here?

It’s this ‘hiddenness’ that is the fourth dynamic of foreign policy. There has always been a hiddenness that screams loudly when a statement, a coded message is announced. Hiddenness is the ability to disguise a truth before its right time to appear. This hiddenness is ‘truth-best-left-alone-for-now’. It is a weapon that will be used eventually. Therefore, staying ahead in the game that nations play is an piercing task, because they must think outside the square often. There are no rules, as rules in the game that nations play are just deception pieces. Cordiality disguising meanness. Hidden agendas inside hidden agendas. It is why foreign policy authorities are heavily linked to the Intelligence Community.

A foreign policy statement has half-truths, lies, deception and hiddenness inside it. But it may also have sincere truths. However, does this mean the truth is genuine, or is it a stratagem using truth?

One can now begin to see past the fog of war. This phrase means ‘the confusions and miscalculations that can occur during an actual combat situation’. The political version of the phrase means ‘public opinion that can be swayed by misinformation or ambiguous reporting of the facts’. Foreign policy decision-making is about that fog of war. No one party wants to be pure and clean, making statements of absolute truth, because it gives away too much information. Speaking fogs of war moves in cycles and it is up to the listener to have the right ability to read-between-the-lines – and often is a hard task than one might think. Unraveling the lines is something of a skill, because statements are coded messages, and coded messages are stratagems.

The other complimentary ability to support the ability to read between the lines is the understanding how propaganda moves (as opposed to ‘works’). It moves in circles, back to where it started, so that the objective can then be moved to another phase. Like moving towards pageantry, the celebrating of whatever the propaganda is portraying. This is a public ceremony for implanted paranoia that propaganda painstakingly spoke to its audience. The ‘blame everyone else’ model has always worked with ‘we are the victims’. Nazism is famous for such deception – inciting paranoia (“there is an enemy at our door”), playing the propaganda (“we need to rise up out of the ashes to greatness again”), creating a pageantry, (“our evident destiny is to be great again, forever”).

Extremely powerful images that were done using words, sounds and visual expressions. Speeches, anthems, banners and posters. Architecture also played a central role in establishing the deception of empire. I have used Nazism a couple of times before, and am surprised at just how many histories have the same strategy. Most of European history is about building something great.

Behaviour, history, rhetoric and hiddenness played out by a master strategist using a three spoke mechanism; paranoia, propaganda and pageantry – these are decisional necessities of elites and their cohorts. It is viridity (always appearing to be ‘green’, ‘fresh and vital’). It is History in case studies between two covers, a front and a back cover. Dynamics and mechanisms of foreign policy are simple, yet complex in that you have to stay ahead of what is being played out and I often have a box of Panadol handy. Headaches are common in political circles’.

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