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Courtesy Counts

Courtesy CountsOn the stage of international politics, says The Fletcher School's Daniel Drezner, manners matter—and more than you might think.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.12.07] The art of global diplomacy is not an easy one to master, but a lot hinges on its smooth practice. Recent exchanges at the highest levels of geopolitical dialogue may indicate a need for some key players to take a course in Diplomacy 101, according to The Fletcher School's Daniel Drezner.

"Power and interest drive most of what happens in world politics. Diplomatic style does matter on the margins, however," Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at The Fletcher School, wrote in an online op-ed for Newsweek. "Miss Manners might need to write an advice book for diplomats, because there's been a lot of rude behavior in world politics as of late."

Drezner cites a series of recent diplomatic foibles, including: Russia's endorsement last month of former Czech premier Josef Tosovsky as the next head of the International Monetary Fund without consultation of the Czechs or other key developing nations;Columbia University president Lee Bollinger's scolding of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as well as Ahmadinejad's lack of engagement with the U.N. Security Council on unresolved issues relating to Iran's nuclear program;and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez calling President Bush "the devil" in an address before the U.N. General Assembly last year.

He notes, however, that despite the lack of diplomacy in these high-level actions, there is some constructive purpose behind them.

"For decades, the United States and European Union countries have exercised a duopoly of control over key international organizations," Drezner wrote. "That might have been appropriate in an earlier era, but the emergence of resource and industrial powers from what used to be called the Third World makes these arrangements look increasingly anachronistic."

Drezner says that these nations must learn to practice what he calls "statecraft."

"The word does not mean that a government shrinks from advancing its interests but that it does so in a way that is designed not to anger or provoke," he explained in the op-ed.

The United States, Drezner acknowledges, has not set a good example in recent years. He notes complaints from allies around the globe about unilateral American decision-making and a lack of face-to-face engagement.

"It would be a cruel irony indeed if rising powers learned the wrong lessons from Bush's mistakes," wrote The Fletcher School's expert. "As these countries acquire more power, however, they will also garner more attention. So far, their behavior is worrisome."

If not Miss Manners, perhaps a Dr. Diplomacy could help these countries develop a more diplomatic tack. Whatever the method, Drezner says that an attitude adjustment is necessary.

"If these recent events are what passes as diplomacy from rising powers," wrote Drezner, "then world politics is going to start looking like a bad episode of reality television."

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