When I was a precocious 8 year old, there was a board game we played at boarding school in front of a roaring log fire in a room surrounded by ancient armour, swords, shields, and with the mounted heads of long gone deer with antlers on the walls, on cold winter evenings called – ‘Diplomacy’. I recommend it to all young megalomaniacs who want to take over the world.
The room in which we played was the room in which one of the Knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett in 1170 had stood before riding out to Canterbury. The floor was made up of grey and heavily worn down paving stones covered by a Persian rug on which me and my friends sat to play board games whilst being schooled in the art of ‘strategic Ambiguity’! with history and dark Jacobean furniture all around us. In a corner near the ceiling was the orginal Minstrel’s or Fool’s Gallery – looking down on us. We felt its presence!
The ‘deal making’ skills players develop in this game is also excellent training for budding Mediation Advocates in Contentious Probate Disputes (think of your ‘Empire’ as being an ‘Estate’!).
Of course I usually won, and naturally became the only Mediation Advocate in my year. Sadly I do not rule the world!
As a young ‘strategist’, the game taught me that the international order is ‘anarchic’ because there is no ‘higher authority’ i.e. ‘parent’ who can step in to save the players from themselves.
Human nature dictated that each player in pursuit of their own selfish i.e. ‘national’ interest, competed for power. This was measured by territory, which depended upon access to the sea (as the game was set in pre-World War 1 Imperial Europe).
‘Survival’ depended upon being bigger, more cunning, and more ruthless than your opponents – which is the psychology of ‘hegemons’ in a ‘realist’ paradigm of international relations.
One of the strategic principles which guided my tactics was ‘divide and rule’. I trusted no one and sought the trust of strategic allies who would both weaken my opponents and themselves in the process. The weaker my allies were, the more they needed me. I therefore disguised competition as co-operation.
Today, I am still a ‘Realist’ but as a ‘Mediator’, I recognise that while there is no ‘parent’ in the international order, there are higher ‘fiduciary’ principles of international relations which are existential. Therefore, ‘existential fiduciary principles of international relations’ are part of an antithesis to ‘realism’, because participants in dispute can avoid/settle their disputes by finding ‘common ground’ instead of going to war on the ‘battleground’.
As a writer I am formulating, ‘Principles of Geopolitical Mediation’, see the ‘Geopolitical Mediation’ page at www.diplomaticlawguide.com and my essay a ‘Fiduciary Theory of Art’ on the ‘Mediation of Art & Cultural Heritage Disputes’ page at www.carlislam.co.uk (based upon the idea of ‘Cultural Heritage Diplomacy’). The underlying premise is that peaceful and prosperous co-existence depends upon working together to solve existential threats, e.g. climate change, famine, drought and disease. The rationality of this thesis runs counter to human nature, so as a ‘realist’ I believe that the insecurity of nation states and their political elites will continue to drive armed conflict, just as in the game ‘Diplomacy’. However, the difference between the game and the world today, is that we live in a ‘missile’ age. Therefore, the risk of sleep-walking into war by accident is existential – as indeed WW1 proved to be to most of the Crown Heads of Europe. My recommended Christmas reading is ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’ by John Mearsheimer, and ‘The World: A Family History’ by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year to all readers of my blog wherever you may be.