Diplomacy: War of Words


Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock. – Will Rogers

Diplomacy in EVE Online always begins in blood; someone’s spilled it or someone wants to. It’s arguably true of the real world, as well. In a virtual world where nearly every mechanic and system is designed to support and further the destruction of spaceships, though, the point is nigh unavoidable. Without the threat of violence, diplomacy is just friendship.

This article marks the beginning of a five-part series of investigation and high-level review of diplomacy in EVE Online. Each entry will examine a different aspect of the world of the diplomat in New Eden, and address it through a particular lens and focus.

Part one looks at diplomacy in EVE Online, and from a higher perspective, diplomacy’s function; why it is an effective pursuit, when it is inappropriate, and what the benefits and constraints are of its use as a political tool.

Part two will examine diplomacy in New Eden, specifically. The roles that diplomats fill, daily duties, who the big players are, and the broad strokes of block-level politics. How things shape out in the pass of significant events will also be addressed.

Part three will investigate how diplomacy happens behind the scenes. The tools available to diplomats in New Eden, and the shape of the use of those tools. As well, a look at the real-life relationships – and what the constraints are – of diplomats as people devoting so much time to EVE. The types of lives that diplomats live, in-game and out.

Part four addresses the diplomacy that happens as an economic effort. This is the diplomacy of power, from rental agreements and non-invasion pacts, to the greater strategy of out-maneuvering and out-spending your enemies… and your allies.

Part five will examine how diplomacy develops in a vacuum, and what occurs when one party moves out and makes room for independent states to fill the seats of a larger entity who has lost interest or viable traction in a region.

The Velvet Glove in Diplomacy

Tact is the ability to step on a man’s toes without messing up the shine on his shoes. – Harry Truman

Diplomats do most of their work behind the scenes. They are rarely the face for Alliances and corporations, unless the corporation is fledgling or relatively unknown and therefore limited in numbers.

Those diplomats who have become well-known are possessed of such spectacular charisma or personality (or bravado) as to become minor celebrities, whether for their accomplishments or sheer charm. Frequently enough, these well-known diplomats reveal that they are successful in some part due to a particular idiot-savant paradigm that comes in pairing with, or as the result of, some personality trait. Not everyone has the making of a good diplomat. The character of Francis Underwood in Netflix’s House of Cards comes to mind.

Celebrity comes with its own hindrances, though; a reputation which precedes an individual can flavour – or even sour – potential discussions or debates before they begin in earnest. Worse yet, other politicians and stakeholders in negotiations may find themselves attempting to turn a diplomat’s notoriety to their advantage as they press concessions incentives which they believe will elicit a favourable response (based on what they think they know of the diplomat) – whether or not those aims align with the diplomat’s objectives.

As such, by nature, most diplomats prefer to be passively familiar but not remarkable.

However well-known a diplomat may be, all diplomats share the following four traits:

  • Possesses limited authority to act on behalf of their interests
  • Acts as counsel to their leadership, not as a messenger
  • Has reach in the community
  • Is adept at exercising restraint

If you find yourself talking with someone who purports to represent their corporation or alliance or coalition and they do not live the above four traits, you are not talking to a diplomat. You may be talking to a FC, or a Director, or a logistics person, but you are not talking to a diplomat.

The diplomat must be someone who can say “Yes”, or must be within arm’s reach of the person who can. They are by nature decision makers and negotiators whose primary objective is – contrary to popular opinion – not to avoid conflict or sue for peace. Conflict can be great for diplomacy. The core role of the diplomat is to use the threat of conflict or instability to sell a better alternative, and make the best possible deal for their interests in the process.

So how can you tell if you’re dealing with a genuine diplomat, versus someone who purports to be “the man or woman to talk to”?

A key clue is the threat of violence; it is implied in diplomacy but a diplomat should never directly resort to it. If someone opens with threats of violence, they’re either really bad at their job, or they’re not a diplomat. It usually ends up being the same thing.

That is not to say that many do not use the threat of violence, particularly in a position where they are able to remind someone in negotiations of their asymmetrical bargaining position. A strong military position is a diplomatic tool unto itself. In fact, in certain protracted debates the threat of violence can be a very effective tool, but it should not be ‘the first stick they reach for’.

A diplomat is a man who thinks twice before he says nothing. – Sir Edward Heath

Threats of violence are indeed the nuclear deterrent of diplomacy. One should, as Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far”.

Diplomats let people know that the party they represent can come-in swinging if need be, but it is the least preferred route to success. The objective, as diplomat, is to extract maximum reward from every encounter. Diplomats are the deal makers and the peace keepers.

As effective as violence can be, it breeds enemies. Even then, violence is in-and-of-itself not the last resort of the diplomat.

The last resort of the diplomat is “No.”

One gains nothing with a closed response. All trade of intelligence, all positive opportunities for commodification, and all actions in common security fail when communication stops. One cannot get something for nothing, and cannot broker peace with the silent. It all stops at “No.”

The Colours of the Flag

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. – Albert Einstein

There is an unspoken assumption that diplomats must be patriots; or at worst, nationalists. This simply is not so.

The role of the diplomat is, after all, to extract the maximum benefit for their party while mitigating the greatest degree of loss. It is the dance of opportunistic compromise. As such, no one wants to deal with a diplomat who is unflaggingly patriotic and unwilling to bend their identity and their values to come to an accord. That kind of zeal is the truck of soldiers and extremists. Diplomats are salespeople.

Joseph Stalin famously remarked, “Sincere diplomacy is no more possible than dry water or wooden iron”. There is some truth to this because a diplomat is always of two worlds; ever operating at maximum national interest, while acting as the agent and ally of other diplomats and nations. It is their job to be seen and approached as everyone’s “inside man”; the person to whom people go when they need something, or several somethings.

Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.  – Mario Puzo

When diplomats choose to exercise their tool set to extract said maximum benefit, there are a plethora of approaches one can take, depending on the strength of the bargaining position the diplomat is operating from. I will cover a few of those here.

Appeasement: Economic or military concessions made to a more powerful, aggressive foe – or more numerous coalition – in order to avoid conflict. “Here, take my lunch money.”

Checkbook diplomacy: Using economic aid and investment to make an enemy or ally more receptive. Checkbook diplomacy can also come in the format of paying for public works or funding special interest projects. “Oh, no lunch money? Here, have some of mine.”

Coercive diplomacy: Strong-arm tactics and brute coercion. Forceful persuasion. “Give me the lunch money.”

Cultural diplomacy: The exchange of ideas, information, organizational tools, and laws to align enemies or allies with your interests. “Let me show you how to grow your lunch money.”

Defence diplomacy: Organizing force-related defensive agreements to avoid reprisal from a common enemy. “Let’s work together to stop him from taking our lunch money.”

Economic diplomacy: The art of using the full suite of economic tools to establish influence over an ally or enemy. Includes economic sanctions and trade partnerships. “You have to spend your lunch money on the school’s bag lunch. No exceptions.”

Guerilla diplomacy: Using alternative methods to make your statement or impact, in a way that influences policy and spending. “You have my lunch money? Awesome, but I just gave your skateboard to the college football team.”

The most effective diplomats, and corps of diplomats, use a combination of the above in a form of regional diplomacy where benefits are paid or made available to regions adjacent to that of an enemy or adversarial state. This usually has the effect of separating those neighbors from your adversary, and weakening their offensive and defensive positions without taking a single military action.

Or, as Sun Tzu said it, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

The Sword Thrust

In the end, the work of diplomats continues even while others fight. So, it’s not necessarily true that everyone needs to march. – David Brin

When communications break down or the stresses of a bargaining position – say a dispute over income from moons – are overwhelmed by their demands, parties go to war.

How the war starts, who strikes first, what strategic positions are taken and how many super- and sub-capital fleets get whelped into enemy kill boards; these are semantic details which, while interesting, only affect the diplomat insofar as they change the landscape and the resources available to bargain with. After all, you can only sue for peace if you have something worth suing for, or the other guy does.

There are times when, if you use the threat of violence, someone will call your bluff. You can, in this instance, do two things:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Go to war.

The first option isn’t one, unless you want to forever be known as the boy who cried wolf. People won’t take you seriously if they know your threats are empty and your ability to back up your guns isn’t matched by fingers on triggers. This is why, in diplomacy, “Honest is often the best policy, but sometimes the appearance of it is worth six of it” to quote Mark Twain.

If you never outright show your force or openly threaten its use, your enemies or adversaries will have to wonder at its strength until they see it used.

When it does come time to show your force, commit fully.

Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft! – Teddy Roosevelt

When parties are not properly prepared for the task they have threatened, or they do not fully commit to war, you get what happened at MTO2-2. Three weeks of decent fights but otherwise a zero sum game.

Jurius Doctor is an author, YouTuber, and a teacher/recruiter for Iron Armada. Stay tuned to INN for the following parts in this series.

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  • liwaenahari

    Well-built article. I’m excited to read the following series! Thnks, Doctor.

    November 29, 2017 at 7:08 PM
    • Rhivre liwaenahari

      Agreed, it will be interesting to see where this series goes.

      November 29, 2017 at 8:27 PM
  • Lekly

    I enjoyed this article and look forward to the series. The diplomacy and meta-game is what first interested me about Eve.

    November 30, 2017 at 6:19 PM