Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Todd H. Hall's "Emotional Diplomacy"

Todd H. Hall is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations and Tutorial Fellow in Politics, Saint Anne's College, at the University of Oxford.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Emotional Diplomacy: Official Emotion on the International Stage, and reported the following:
Page 99 lands the reader right in the middle of Chapter 3, titled “The Diplomacy of Sympathy,” where I am discussing the Russian response to 9/11. I write:
It is quite possible that Russian policymakers felt the emotions that they professed. An aide to Putin, Sergey Yastrzhembsky, when asked about the response of the Russian leadership, replied that, “the first reaction was, quite naturally, that of deep condolences…. This is because a normal person can feel no other emotion that this after what happened in the US cities.” What is significant for this account, however, is the extent to which RF [Russian Federation] officials collectively and publicly sought to project this image, even organize the domestic citizenry behind it.
I must admit, the more that I researched the Russian response to 9/11, the more it struck me as incongruent with how we had been conventionally taught to understand international relations. Traditional approaches to international relations tell us that states seek their interests by—to cite one of the classic figures in the field, Hans Morgenthau—“persuasion, compromise, and threat of force.” What was remarkable about the Russian response was that it did not fit into any of these categories, but rather it was a massive, organized show of sympathy and condolences. Putin immediately called the White House to express sympathy and then went on national television to declare to the United States that “we fully share and experience your pain.” Two days later, Russia declared a minute of silence and flags were lowered to half mast across the country by official decree. What is more, the Russian government put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, and offered a whole range of cooperative actions to assist the U.S. attack on and subsequent presence in Afghanistan. Extraordinarily, from all the evidence I could uncover, these actions were not made contingent on any substantial reciprocal favors from the United States.

Was Russia trying to gain something with this behavior? Certainly. The attacks offered a chance to reboot relations with the United States and reframe the conflict in Chechnya as part of the global war on terror. However, how it went about this—not the quid-pro-quo horse-trading of traditional accounts but rather a veritable “sympathy assault”—was not the style of statecraft that existing theories of international relations would lead us to expect. And Russia was not alone in this; not only U.S. allies, but also states like the People’s Republic of China engaged in similar behavior. There was a remarkable outpouring of officially professed sympathy post-9/11. Even Cuba, North Korea, and Iran felt compelled to proffer condolences. The only state that did not was Iraq, and this was Saddam’s choice against the advice of his cabinet. My book is about how states officially deploy emotional behavior and Russian conduct after 9/11 described on page 99 is quite a striking example of that in action.
Learn more about Emotional Diplomacy at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue