Modern Diplomacy
Clash of Diplomacies in the Transforming Global Order: Messianic Ideology Versus Pragmatic Realism

The global geopolitical configuration continues its transformation away from the embattled hegemony of the Western-centric US unipolar order towards a non-Western centric multipolar order. As such, the level of competition and conflict is likely to increase as the US is a declining hegemon seeks to arrest the rise of competing are perceived to grow at their expense.

With its hard power resources in disarray and decline, new means are sought (in terms of mitigating various risks and costs) to manage and regulate the international order. Hence there is a repositioning of operational focus activity from the physical realm to the information realm to engineer global perception and expectations in the cognitive realm to preserve the Western-centric “rules-based” order. The (mis)representation and communication of modern diplomacy is absolutely standing in contrast to each other. Diplomacy is being used as a mechanism to try to shape and determine the outcome of this geopolitical contest for the future of how the world shall function. 

It is possible to see the emergence of the fifth dimension of strategy (forms of information and knowledge) in both orders as the different camps compete in the physical and information realms to position themselves in this newly emerging global order or to try and hold back this path. Information is being used to assist or to obstruct a target’s foreign policy  aims and goals, but also acts as a potential force multiplier for the user, which is assisted through the use of coercive diplomacy as a powerful broker of the international order.
Information and knowledge are used to shape the geopolitical information space to create strengths and opportunities for the communicator and weaknesses and threats against the target.

It is misleading and problematic to assume that the US-led Western centric world are communicating interpretations of the international relations environment in the diplomatic communications, binary constructed worlds of good versus evil, and us versus them. Rather, the strategic messages emanating from Western political, mass media and diplomatic circles are representations and projections  of the physical realm realities that is intended to benefit the US and obstruct its targets. 

Going into the second decade of the 21st century, the US-led Western-centric order quietly changed their global geopolitical brand slogan  from an international law-based order to a rules-based order. It is a rather subtle, but significant and meaningful change, where legally agreed upon frameworks are discarded in favour of different forms of coercion (economic, political, military and diplomatic) presented as being “rules” of the ‘international order’ and without a legal basis. It is a geopolitically expedient tactic born from the growing discrepancy between the rhetorical slogans and the foreign policy operational practice of foreign policy in international relations, especially in light of the abuses of force in Iraq, Libya, Syria and other “humanitarian wars” of the late 20th and 21st century. The defending hegemony has been shaped by centuries of European global dominance, the messianic influence of “liberal democracy”and the military power of US unipolarity.
Ironically, the more the Western-centric order has expanded the less pragmatic more messianic it has become and its ideological worldview has become less diverse and more intolerant of other alternative visions and values.

It has taken an aggressive defensive stance to obstruct the rise of the multipolar order and to retain its dominance. Fear and coercion are the key features of its offer to the global community. The changes towards instability and unsustainability have been incremental and at times subtle. For example, the silent rebranding of the Western order based on “international law” to an order that is “rules based”. Economic sanctions and threat of political or information warfare have become more common place to those that refuse to bow. A rather zealous and messianic approach is taken to their ideological vision of how the world community should be ordered and functioning. 

As noted by the CATO Institute in 2018,  “‘ordering’ the world and erases the memory of violence, coercion, and compromise that also marked post-war diplomatic history. […] While liberalism and liberal projects existed, such ‘order’ as existed rested on the imperial prerogatives of a superpower that attempted to impose order by stepping outside rules and accommodating illiberal forces.” The US dominated Western centric order differed significantly in terms of its stated objectives and the actual outcomes, which was done in an unsustainable manner, where Western hard and soft power resources were used to shape the “utopian” promise contained within the ideological vision of the End of History and the ‘inevitable’ global advance of liberalism and US power. Liberal democracy has become a messianic, zealous and intolerant ideology, whose power and control  is centred on the United States. Hence the increasing level of competition and conflict and lack of compromise from the US that seeks to use information, rhetoric and representation to obstruct the transforming global order . In terms of the US-led “diplomacy” strategy and stance, the JCPOA, Ukraine and the NATO question and the current China and the Taiwan issue, indicates that there is no real or honest attempt to engage in meaningful discussion that results in a mutually beneficial outcome.
Rather these are facades of diplomacy that are intended to increase tensions between powers, a show for global public audiences to demonstrate a form of pretence or “Potemkin diplomacy” that is used later to “legitimise” the call for the need for hard and coercive policy with the counterpart to uphold the foundations of the ”rules-based” order.

On the other hand, the rising non-Western centric order takes a pragmatic approach which is rooted in realism. Furthermore, the asymmetry in power and wealth promoted by the Western order has been a source of historical lesson for the Non-Western centric order, which is increasingly seen as a self-weakened and self-destructive Western order that is in obvious decline and crisis and less capable of enforcing coercively its will. The Western-centric order’s approach to diplomacy in international relations is of a transactional in nature and results in asymmetric outcomes where the counterpart is expected to assimilate and integrate ideologically within the global liberal template of the US unipolar order. Non-Western-centric powers of the rising multipolar global order tend to utilise different approaches that are based upon relational and dialogic exchanges in non-kinetic warfare environments. Concrete institutional and structural challenges to Western-centric hegemony is picking up pace through what some refer to as “cooperative multipolarity”,  such as BRICS, One Belt One Road. There are also changes to the way international relations is being conceived and interpreted academically, previously this was a knowledge monopoly of the US-led West. Now it is evident that non-Western international relations theories   are gaining greater currency. Western-centric assumptions are ideologically and pragmatically flawed in their assumptions that has prompted a rethink in how international relations should be analysed and interpreted in an age of Western-centric decline.

The U.S. Grand Strategy: Policy and Planning
Alan W. Cafruny
In recent weeks four influential reports on U.S. foreign policy have been published: the Trump Administration’s National Security Strategy of the USA (NSS, December 18); the Department of Defense’s (unclassified) quadrennial  National Defense Strategy: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge (NDS, January 17); Containing Russia: How to Respond to Moscow’s Intervention in U.S. Democracy and Growing Geopolitical Challenge, a report by the Council on Foreign Relations (January 19); and Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review NPR, February 2).

The US-unipolar hegemony’s “diplomatic” defence is making simultaneous use of attempting to create wedges among neutral or countries that are sympathetic to the multipolar order and exercising greater control of their own system of vassal and client states. Its intention is to enforce the strategic imperatives identified in the Grand Chessboard  by Zbigniew Brzezinski for geopolitical gaining and maintaining hegemony. In its diplomatic strategy, the US attempts to position itself as a powerful broker in its attempt to preserve its global hegemony. However, the cooperative diplomatic approach of non-Western-centric powers of the multipolar order, there are signs of a strategy more aligned towards an honest broker in regional conflicts that have been initiated and perpetuated by the US and its allies. This is seen in the diplomatic successes that saw a US-controlled system of international “mediation” in Geneva of the Syrian conflict (purposed for regime change) that has been replaced by the Astana Process format or the Afghanistan talks held in Tehran in the wake of the chaotic US retreat. This contrasts significantly when compared with attempts to create a “NATO” in the Middle East or to expand NATO’s mission to include operations against China to preserve the “rules-based” order. However, the diplomatic stance by countries considered to be ‘allies’ of the US and its global order such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, indicate they are taking a much more balanced and self-preserving stance in the wake of political, geopolitical, economic and social instability in core countries of the Western-centric order. Furthermore, the pragmatism and common sense of the non-Western-centric countries such as India in maintaining an independent position on hot foreign policy topics as Ukraine in spite of US coercion and not being drawn into US-controlled geopolitical structures as QUAD intended to contain China. 

As such the power of knowledge and information in the contemporary global knowledge society has the potential to accelerate and slow down the global transformation. In the run up to the US presidential election that saw Joe Biden come to power, a major foreign policy platform was for the United States to “take back” the global leadership role. Western politics, mass media and diplomacy are used as instruments of war, which operate in the information realm, but are aimed at the cognitive realm of global audiences to shape the physical realm that is currently in a state of unstable geopolitical flux. At this stage, the efforts to preserve the unipolar order seems to accelerate the decline of the Western order and the rise of the Non-Western order. The value and role of national sovereignty and foreign policy decision making autonomy is especially paramount during periods of geopolitical instability for lesser powers to be a subject of international relations and not an object of geopolitical games by an empire in decline.

The End of Western Hegemony Is Cause for Concern for the Rest Of The World
Timofei Bordachev
Weakened by its numerous mistakes and stupidities of the 1990s-2000s, the West has already made attempts to launch a counterattack. But they were sporadic and associated with the attempts to use old and spent tools. Most importantly, they were based on the psychological state of being in denial about the problems that the leading countries faced domestically and internationally.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.