International Order & Conflict

Declaratory Diplomacy: Rhetorical Initiative and Confidence Building

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The idea of doing a comparative assessment of the use and misuse of “declaratory diplomacy” was born out of frustration. In South Asia, where the Henry L. Stimson Center has been working to promote confidence-building measures since 1991, positive­ sounding public declarations by Indian and Pakistani political leaders are commonplace, but usually devoid of constructive intent. After such a dismal track record, how would anational leader in the subcontinent  go about convincing skeptical audiences that a positive, new initiative was being sincerely undertaken?

To answer this question, we decided to analyze leadership declarations elsewhere that succeeded in alleviating tensions in troubled bilateral relationships. The Brazil-Argentina case provided many examples of successful declaratory diplomacy; the Israel-Egypt and United States-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics cases presented mixed results, but offered useful clues to success.

Like so many others before us, we then burdened Professor Alexander George for help in structuring our case studies. Ideally, our cases would have been jointly authored by experts in each of the pairings of interest. We were unable to do so, but perhaps others who pursue this rich subject matter will succeed in these match-ups. We are grateful to our case study authors, Deborah Welch Larson, Emily Landau, P.R. Chari and Paulo S. Wrobel, for taking on the assignment of analyzing the intent and impact of public declarations. Their patience with the lengthy germination of this project is much appreciated. They are the first to plough this difficult terrain; others who follow will benefit from their labors-as well as from first person accounts of diplomatic initiatives that are not now in the public domain. Special thanks go to Paulo Wrobel for stepping in at the eleventh hour to help with the Argentina-Brazil case, and to Luis Bitencourt for his insights into this case.

Editorial and production assistance was provided by Kathleen McDonald, Caroline Earle, Jolie Wood, Suzanne Katzenstein, Elizabeth Crothers, Elizabeth Wallish, L.A. Levy, and  Ranjeet Singh.


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