Theorising can help in the analysis and understanding of what diplomacy is all about and what diplomats do. It is supported by scholars that a gap exists between theory and practice of diplomacy in the academic world that has emerged prominently in the recent years. Academics are intellectuals by design. They strive to correct the myopia of the practitioner harnessed to the rock face of a particular reality by the limits of his experience. On the other hand practitioners differ in that they believe that how diplomacy actually works as the goals of the foreign policy are more important instead of theorizing about them and being abstract and not useful for the concept of diplomacy (Oglesby 2014).
Diplomacy from a realistic point of view is an instrument of policy; it is conducted under a game of interests’ perspective in the anarchic world. On the other hand from a liberal point of view diplomatic matters, focus more in the legal aspect of international behavior and how diplomacy is conducted under these circumstances.
Legal documents, such as the United Nations ‘Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations ‘exist and propose the norm on how diplomacy works and what rules should be followed. The gap between theory and reality (in terms of practice) can be examined in this context and that of power as well. Bigger and more powerful countries can and have at times completely omitted the international law and rules. In the current international scene both power politics and collective reliance to the international law with ultimate aim that of peace and cooperation are prevailing. Power distribution plays an important role in the diplomatic interaction with other countries. The legal definition can be considered stronger for the weak while powerful states are less restricted by the rules. Power distribution influences the relationship between the theoretical and the practical part since powerful states do not always follow the rules. The legal definition is affected by power and this influence changes the perception of diplomacy.
Commitment to international legality along with power politics has become a balance game that has been affecting diplomacy and foreign policy issues. The focus returns on the concept of realpolitik. Realpolitik in the context of diplomacy concerns the ‘real’ diplomacy and foreign policy based on power. A connection arises here specifically with the realistic theory in terms of diplomacy. A clear example of realpolitik can be found in the principles on equal sovereignty of states in The United Nations Charter. This is most prominent in “the unequal allocation of power within the Security Council. There is furthermore the lop-sided allocation of authority between the Security Council, with its enforcement powers, and the other major organs, the General Assembly, ECOSOC where authority is of the softer, normative kind” (Camilleri).
The gap between diplomatic theory and reality doesn’t look like it will clear anytime soon. Even more now, with the new diplomacy concept, it has been intensified. Realpolitik and different diplomacy cultures in terms of country goals are already and will continue as well to affect the ‘diplomatic dispute’.
- A Fine Kettle of Fish: Comparing How Diplomats and Academics Teach Diplomacy Within The United States of America by Donna Marie Oglesby, British International Studies Association Conference, Dublin June 18-20, 2014
- How Small States Influence Diplomatic Practice: A Look at the Fourth Round of Accession Negotiations to the European Union by Ambassador Victor Camilleri