Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Role of Instincts in Inter-state Negotiation – Dissertation by Ariadna Anamaria Petri

Dedicated to my sister, Fabiola


My profound appreciation and sincerest thanks to all those who believed in my dissertation and in my power to bring it together, to all who supported and helped me and especially to those who did not help me but did not stand in my way either. My entire love and gratitude goes to my parents, Gabriela and Eugen, for having done everything possible under the sun to raise me on the highest peaks of knowledge and achievement. I want to thank Fabiola for the sunrise, Bart for the afternoons, Leinad for the sunset, Emma for the midnights; Tati for the glimpse, Alan for the rock, Noah for the star, Mihaela and Dan for the road, the Alcalas for the inn; Cristi, Kevin, Rodica, Belle and Mikkel for the seconds in between; Romania for being my dream-country, Britain for rising me, Mexico for adopting me and Japan for hosting me.
The entire gratitude to the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages for the invaluable education and all the support afforded throughout my three years in the University of Westminster and especially to my supervisor Dr. Aidan Hehir, whose continuous encouragement, prompt assistance and broad knowledge helped me both for the research and writing of this dissertation. I am deeply indebted to all my wonderful professors from the University of Westminster, and in particular to Dr. Richard Barbrook, Dr. Caroline Barnes, Rob Macmaster, Dr. Thomas Moore, Dr. Farhang Morady, Dr. Frands Pedersen and Dr. Derrick Wright who kindly and voluntarily contributed their time and expertise to this dissertation. The completion of this paper was only possible with the support of Dr. Aidan Hehir from University of Westminster
Further thanks are extended to the ‘Romanian Government’ Special Scholarship, who has generously sponsored my Bachelor of Arts degree as a first step in a successful career to benefit the international standing of Romania; El Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Estado de Mexico for the amazing experience I have had as an exchange student, and in particular to Dr. Luís Miguel Pérez Juárez for having planted with a lot of skill and care the seeds of the passion for negotiation in me; the Ryukoku University for managing to keep alive a handful of foreigners with no Japanese language skills, and especially to Mr. Eiji Manita for having changed that into almost academic Japanese in 4 months.
For their stimulating support and practical help, I am bound to Dr. Mihai Delcea, Minister-Counsellor at the Embassy of Romania to the UK; Dr. Alex de Waal, at the Social Science Research Council; Mrs. Ionela Flood at the Romanca Society in London; Mr. Noah Tucker at 21st Century Socialism; my great colleagues at WestMUN and all my dearest colleagues I met during these three years.


AID Agency for International Development of the United States
CIA Central Intelligence Agency (US Secret Service)
ECOWAS Organization Organisation of West African States
EU European Union
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
IR International Relations
OPCW Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
P5 The 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, UK, USA
PLO Palestine Liberation Organization
UK The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
UN The United Nations
UNGA The United Nations General Assembly
unintel. In the context of an interview: unintelligible
UNMOVIC United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee
UNSC The United Nations Security Council
US, USA The United States of America
WMDs Weapons of Mass Destruction
WWII Second World War

“[Negotiation is] difficult and unpredictable, because human behaviour is still dictated by factors in which reason plays a lesser part than passions and instincts, imagination and sentiment, bias and ambition. [It is] essentially a political art, as it tends to establish a new human and social order” (Morizet cited in Plantey: 447).


This dissertation aims to explore the relationship between diplomacy, negotiation and instincts and establish the role of the latter in the conduct of the former two. The outcomes of negotiations are generally aimed at shaping behaviour and regulating actions, thus essentially creating future reality. Michel Foucault, one of the most prominent members of the post-structuralist school of thought, pointed to the direct relationship of causality between discourse, as the structural base of society, and reality, including the future and the past[1]. He argued that issues like power, economic relations and knowledge can be seen as a product of the creation and manipulation of discourse. Negotiation is in itself a form of discourse, creating its share of reality, of future and of history. It is thus important to analyse this process as a type of human behaviour and which has proven very important in international relations, particularly since the creation of the United Nations in 1945.
Opinions about the role and importance of instincts in the process of negotiation vary. Gambaudo believes that “four goals are part of any negotiation: controlling instincts, de-escalating conflict, identifying needs, and solving problems” (2007:151). Trump, however, articulates a contrasting view, namely that negotiating is an art and he stresses that one of the rules is “trust your instincts. There are a lot of situations that will not be black and white in negotiating, so go with your gut” (Trump, 2007). Approaches to the issue of the role of instincts in international negotiation diverge between different schools of thought, primarily between the realist and idealist poles. Nevertheless this has not represented a major source of controversy. Rather instinct is possibly one of the major common denominators of the two traditions. The argument presented in this dissertation is centred around the possibility of a role for instincts in the process of negotiation with particular focus on what Condoleezza Rice called American realism (2007:17) and the US-led invasion of Iraq.
A major problem in the study of negotiations, especially for non-practitioners, is the scarce availability of information and accounts about the process itself. The majority of statements are either strictly theoretical, with few practical examples, or they describe the outcome rather than the course of the negotiation. To overcome this issue, I have used a negative space approach. The term originates in plastic art and music, and refers to the pauses, blank or white spaces, non-movement etc. which pass unnoticed to the negligent eye, but actually play a fundamental role in the composition or piece as a whole (Farber, 1998). Similarly instincts can be seen as an element of the negative space of negotiation, which may be ignored sometimes but, as this dissertation argues, can help explain various aspects of this process.
Instincts, and the survival and aggressive ones in particular, together with other factors such as education or social and cultural background, contribute to the development of an aggressive behaviour. They are all part of the negative space of negotiation. But aggression is not sufficient in itself to cause a war – Baudrillard argues that it has to be reciprocated (2006:60) – and neither is the aggressive instinct enough for aggression to occur. The inherent human aggressive instinct can stimulate the build-up of tension and threats and thus contribute to diplomatic and political conflicts and ultimately to wars, but it can also have, like the survival instinct, a positive effect, speeding up decision making and maintaining the focus on the major aims.


The concept of ‘instinct’ has had a multitude of meanings and values over time. Chapter One separates the academic and popular uses of the term, and subsequently outlines a distinction between its usage in the social and natural sciences. These aspects are analysed in turn and the link between 'instincts' in each of these understandings and international negotiation assessed. It is argued that instincts can be either inherited or acquired and in both cases negotiation is one of the areas of human activity profoundly shaped by their manifestation.
In light of a nurtured rejection of a direct connection between instincts and what is traditionally associated with the realist school of thought, Chapter Three argues that there is a key role for instincts in the structuring of the realist paradigm. The desire for military and economic power can be seen as a manifestation of the aggressive instinct, while self or national, interest and the self-help doctrine can be seen as products of the survival instinct. These can have both a direct impact on the psychological construction of individual negotiators and an indirect impact, by shaping the national and international political environment and thus the culture and context in which negotiators operate.
Chapter 4 argues that instincts have influenced very difficult decisions and, depending on the individual’s ability to understand and use their own instincts and exploit those of the others, have led to positive or negative outcomes. The general image that officials, diplomats and negotiators portray, or indeed allow to permeate outside their environment, is one of rationality, clarity, and dispassionate engagement. This is surely the case for some aspects of negotiations, but non-rational elements such as feelings, instincts and intuition do play a vital role in the building of personal relationships between negotiators and between statespersons, which will in turn influence the outcomes of negotiations and international policy making. Several examples of US foreign policy behaviour in the lead up to the 2003 conflict in Iraq will be analysed to demonstrate the practical manifestation of this phenomena. In order to establish the possibility of a role for instincts, two particular examples, aggression and survival, will be identified in a variety of contexts and their possible effects analysed in turn.
The Conclusion will reassess the main argument of this dissertation, namely that instincts have the potential to influence the outcomes of negotiations. This can be true for the various connotations of the concept analysed in Chapter 2 and for both sides of the spectrum of political theory: idealism and realism. Some professional negotiators have recognized an awareness of the role of instincts and use them either consciously or spontaneously.


Instincts are one of several irrational elements that incur in the course of a negotiation. A positivist and normative approach would be needed to establish the precise role of instincts, or exactly what percentage of the negotiation process is based on each of the manifestations of non-rationality. Such an approach would have to be constructed on a thorough scientific investigation, on measurements, data, statistics, etc. which are beyond the scope of this dissertation, but will hopefully be pursued in future investigations.
Both diplomacy and negotiation are rather secretive domains. Public diplomacy is sometimes a mere presentation of what had already been discussed, a justification in front of the public of decisions already made. The UNGA and indeed the UNSC are used as means to “present to the world” (Powell, 2005) rather than as real forums for debate. Such secrecy is also the reason why it is so difficult to know how negotiators really behave, what tools they use to achieve their aims and establish whether any of it is instinctive. There are few accounts by practitioners – (ex-) diplomats, negotiators and politicians – but these are in their turn subjective, especially in high-level negotiations, thus only partly reliable. The sources explored in this dissertation include autobiographies, electronic diaries (blogs), and speeches by professionals as well as interviews I conducted with international negotiators.
There is somewhat more information about the activity of politicians. In order to establish the possibility of instincts playing a role in the negotiations I have chosen to focus on the negotiations surrounding the war against Iraq in 2003. I have analysed the public statements made by politicians at this time and their views as expressed, in printed form. Furthermore, in order to give consistency to the argument and allow it to stand and be explored in different contexts, this analysis will combine elements of several fields of study, mainly international relations and psychology. Such an interdisciplinary approach is necessary due to the complex constitution of the process of negotiation and the numerous areas of human activity involved.

Chapter One

This chapter defines the concept of instincts in a broader, interdisciplinary framework, rather than a purely scientific understanding, which has been more common, but is also more reductive. After acknowledging the most important stages in the evolution of the concept, a more thorough investigation of some disciplines for which instincts are relevant will be analysed in turn, including psychology and psychoanalysis. After considering other factors that may influence the involvement of instincts in the exercise of negotiation, the focal point of this dissertation will be established on multiple-valence instincts.
1.1 Origins of the Concept
Dictionaries and thesauruses are regularly updated to incorporate neologisms, archaisms, modified words and meanings. All these changes originate in the common usage of the language. Since language is a primary tool in international negotiation, it is important to take into consideration these definitions. The New Oxford Thesaurus of English gives a most complete and accurate definition of instinct, to be an
instigation, impulse, prompting, natural or spontaneous tendency or inclination, […] an innate propensity in organized beings (especially in the lower animals), varying with the species, and manifesting itself in acts which appear to be rational, but are performed without conscious design or intentional adaptation of means to ends. Also, the faculty supposed to be involved in this operation (formerly often regarded as a kind of intuitive knowledge) (2000: 514).
These selected synonyms and phrases outline the relevance of some notions of instincts for the wide and complex process of negotiation. Despite negotiation being generally held to belong to the realm of the real, conscious and perfectly controlled, void of any innate reaction, it clearly does involve natural and spontaneous impulses or promptings sometimes called instincts and mostly performed without conscious design or intentional adaptation. The issue is to what extent negotiators are aware of such implications of instincts and whether they are ready to exploit or counteract these influences.
A chronological development of the epistemology of instincts can be observed. Initially the understanding of these was rather basic, as unlearned patterns of action ready to respond to certain stimuli. James outlines some thirty different human instincts in Principles of Psychology (1983), while Fitt defines them as “the power to act in such a way as to produce certain results, without foresight of those results, and without previous education in the performance” (1922:6). Later on, after consistent diversification, the need to distinguish between different interpretations of the concept became imminent. Thus, Dunlap distinguishes between
’instinctive reactions’ - implying unlearned, simple responses to stimuli - and ‘instincts’ considered as groups of such simple innate responses capable, in advance of experience, of reacting to stimulating conditions (cited in Geiger 1923:59).
This account is particularly relevant to this analysis, as it introduces a category of instincts in which the primary drives are enhanced by experience. This first enlargement of the perception of instincts opens the way for further diversification.
Freud is considered to be the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology and wrote from a scientific perspective. Being a neurologist and a psychiatrist, he pointed to a different aspect of this argument: he divided the human mind, also known as psyche, into id, ego and super-ego, and associated instincts mainly with the id (Freud, 1989:19). He further argued that all instincts or drives can be fit into two complementary classes, which he suggestively called Eros and Thanatos (ibid.: 38). The id uses two types of energy: cathexis, the libidinal and creative energy to fulfil instinctual desires and anti-cathexis, the energy acting to annihilate any excess and counteract the first in order to eventually return the body to the initial inorganic state, or death (ibid.: 41).
It is essentially this antinomy between Eros and Thanatos, between instincts belonging to each of the two classes and their respective energies (cathexis and anti-cathexis), that facilitates the permeation of contrasting instincts such as an aggressive and a gregarious instinct in individual and collective behaviour (ibid.: 44). This in turn creates problems during negotiations and renders instincts a potentially dangerous trait. This is because there are instincts in both Eros and Thanatos that can intervene in the process of negotiation at different stages or concomitantly. Depending on how much cathexis and anti-cathexis is employed together with each of the instincts, this may lead to behavioural patterns or imbalances. In the realm of international negotiation they may have a strong impact on the behaviour of actors, as well as the final outcome. Some specific examples will be analysed in Chapter Three.
1.2 Basic Instincts
Physical well being is a basic requirement for an optimal functioning of the mind and thus it is vital in the process of negotiation. Ikle points out that “a negotiator may be more willing to make some concessions because he feels relaxed and in good spirits, having just enjoyed a fine lunch and imbibed lots of sake[2]” (1999:336). National governments generally offer their diplomats and negotiators appropriate housing and a daily allowance appropriate and proportional to the standard of life of their recipient country[3]. Basic needs or basic instincts have to be satisfied before anything else.
Another important instinct that inevitably influences everybody, including negotiators is the sexual instinct. Ministries of foreign affairs and supranational or international organizations generally provide free accommodation and an extra allowance for spouses and dependants of diplomats, a measure aimed at maintaining the unity of families, but also at keeping the basic needs satisfied and thus reducing the incidence of the sexual instincts in the process of international negotiation (e.g. in the European Parliament). However, when the sexual instinct does come into play, a good way of dealing with it is to have both men- and women-negotiators. Here Victoria Nuland, the US Ambassador to NATO portrays the problem and the solution in a very concise and effective way, referring to her 25 male fellow ambassadors: “when the men get a little testy I’m able to come in with a little different style” (See Document 4).
Another important aspect of the framework in which the negotiation takes place is the location. Carne Ross talks about a small, over-heated caucus room with not enough seats at the table for all negotiators as the ambiance within the UN headquarters in New York, where the most ruthless negotiations over Iraq took place (2007:23). He goes on to describe the personal confusion caused by the desire to occupy a seat at the table (behaviour originating in a combination of survival and aggressive instinct) and the embarrassment of stealing it from colleagues.
Bill Clinton (like Jimmy Carter some 20 years earlier) used mild physical constraints in an attempt to make the Israeli and Palestinian leaders more flexible: at Wyre River Plantation, when he brought Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu together, seeing that the negotiations were not advancing, he decided to “pull an all nighter”(Quandt 2001:28). At Camp David II, the negotiating teams (the Israeli one now headed by Ehud Barak) were “sequestered at the presidential retreat; there would be a near-total news blackout” (Quandt 2001:31). Such constraints, Clinton rightfully thought, would unconsciously boost the negotiators’ practical survival instinct and increase their willingness to find a rapid solution, thus increasing their flexibility in the negotiation. In both cases the results were excellent in comparison to the departure positions, and this was helped by the skilful manipulation of basic human needs and instincts by President Clinton. One very important issue is the measure. As one UN military negotiator pointed out, “people are always forced, but it depends on the nature of the force: a mild coercion, rather than a strong aggression” (see Document 5) might offer some beneficial results, as Clinton and Carter have demonstrated.
While such basic instincts, also known as fundamental needs, as hunger, thirst, sleep or even sex may influence behaviour, in international negotiation there are usually automatic provisions for the satisfaction of all (free housing, food allowance, extra allowance for the spouse or children) and usually supplied by the sending country. However, there are other more complex instincts like aggression, survival or the gregarious instinct that cannot easily be satisfied by any straight-forward procedures or legal provisions and their influence on the process of negotiation can be very intricate and far-reaching.
1.3 Psychology versus Physiology
There was much dispute over the “instincts debate” in the 19th and the first part of the 20th century and the diverse range of literature on the topic in this thesis proves this. A fundamentally relevant view is that of Hamlin who distinguished between a psychology, a physiology, and a biology of instinct. Following Titchener, she established a threefold formula of the mind in order to “represent what the psychologist finds in making a cross section of the instinctive consciousness: sensation, affection (pleasure-pain) and conation” (1987:69). Following her analysis of each, and by establishing possible relationships between them, she reaches the conclusion:
…instinct is a conscious complex in which the perceptual elements are more or less obscured by the strong affective[4] tone of the mental state and by the impulse to activities which the animal performs without consciousness of their end, and by means of a mechanism provided by its physical organisation (1897:70).
This viewpoint remained relevant long after, and Hampton reiterates the idea of instinct being “the foundational concept in psychology and social science” (2006:58). The concept should retain this foundational role not only in behaviourism, but indeed in the entire discipline of psychology, and Hampton further argues that it was the emergence of the former that led to a decoupling of psychological and physiological forms of instinct (Ibid.). This in turn led to a devaluation and spoiling of the meaning of “instinct” and Bernard shows that it came to be little more than a “catch-all for vague and indefinite ideas about the causes or relationships of activities [used when authors were] unable to account clearly for the occurrence of a particular behaviouristic phenomenon on a purely objective basis” (1924:172). In order to prove this Bernard embarks upon a daring project by researching and enlisting 14,046 instincts subdivided into five large groups[5] (see Document 1). Rather than aiming at a scientific account, he enlists the common perceptions and those of other authors, thus coming closer to the present day general understanding of what instincts are. Although many of these connotations are still included in the generality of the concept, the contemporary perception of instincts and the one that applies to international negotiation is much closer to the definition of innate, “simple reactions to stimuli” (Dunlap cited in Geiger, 1923:59).
1.4 The Baldwin Effect
An important question for this analysis is whether to accept what has been termed “the Baldwin Effect” as a valid means of interpreting the relationship between instincts and negotiation. In other words, could negotiation be seen as learnt behaviour or an acquired trait and to what extent did it become part of the human phenotype? Furthermore, how much of the art of negotiation can be seen as incidental with phenotypical negotiation?
What has become known as “the Baldwin Effect” is the theory that individually acquired traits and especially psycho-genetic ones, if they spread over generations and across the respective population, can turn into instincts (in Weber and Depew, 2003:116). Baldwin identifies three sources of individually acquired traits: fluctuations in the physical environment (physico-genetic), the internalized effects of the organism’s own neural and other activities (neuro-genetic), and the effects of learning and intelligence (psycho-genetic). On different levels, human kind has engaged in negotiation since the formation of social groups, ranging from inter - and intra-tribal negotiations to the present-day bi- or multilateral negotiations between states, nations or smaller groups of people. Negotiation exists between two stone-age humans, carving a tool or hunting together, and responding to their survival and gregarious instincts. Negotiation also exists between heads of states and governments discussing a military solution to the alleged threat posed by another country (US-led invasion of Iraq) under the influence of their gregarious (coalitions) and aggressive and survival instincts (against a perceived threat).
But would it be accurate to say that negotiation has become an instinct? Tooby and Cosmides warn that “the phenotype of an individual organism must be carefully distinguished from the design of the phenotype” of the population, over generations (cited in Hampton, 2006:70). This is to say that what becomes internalised to a particular individual or to several ones who had been subject to similar conditions and/or education may become instinctive to them. Papineau argues that, at least in social learning of complex behavioural traits, the Baldwin effect does hold (2005), however there is yet no guarantee and no empirical evidence that this will be transposed into a structural modification of the genome and transmitted genetically to future generations as an inborn instinct. If Baldwin’s theory was true, then the explanation for such a complex system of international diplomacy, negotiation and law rests in the evolution and constant accumulation of negotiating experience in the human phenotype. This is then transposed into the genotype which allows future generations to improve it and enlarge it.
1.5 Other Determinants
Under the vast umbrella of instincts, we can speak of instincts in a broad sense by including acquired, learned behaviour and responses to certain stimuli. Such responses became incorporated into the person’s conduct to such an extent that in future situations in which stimuli are similar, their reaction will be spontaneous, as under the effects of a genetic or inborn instinct. Similarly, education, upbringing and other constraints or means of shaping the personality of a negotiator may come to produce such learned instincts. This type of behaviour is commonly associated with intuition, but because it is frequently referred to as instinct and for the purpose of this dissertation, it will be included in this broad concept.
In Freudian terms, the profession of an international negotiator can be seen as the ego acting as a mediator between the id of inherited and acquired instincts and the super-ego of the negotiation environment, which brings together numerous and sometimes conflicting elements: the principal or multiple principals[6], the negotiating team and hierarchical positions within this or negotiating alone, the adversary, their team, their principals, their conflicts of interest, accounting to all these and the effects of the negotiation over the future of the groups represented, etc.
The concept of instincts has undergone a great amount of diversification and has come to have different meanings in most disciplines employing it. However all of them retain the non-rational mark and some (psychoanalysis, linguistics, the behaviourist branch of psychology) maintain that it is an inherent characteristic of all human beings. As such, negotiators, too, come under its incidence, and the ways in which they may be affected by it are explored in the subsequent chapters.

Chapter Two

Conflicts are the constellations from which negotiations start.
(Pfetsch, 2007:16)
Many characteristics of the international political system, recognized by theorists of international relations, can be seen to originate from basic human instincts. Some examples include the aggressive, the survival and the gregarious instincts, which have been considered fundamental since the first classifications by James (1890) and Dunlap (1919). The first two of these are the structural base of what Dunne and Schmidt saw as the three core elements of realism: statism, survival and self-help (2005:163). As realism is the dominant school of thought in contemporary international relations, the analysis of the role of instincts in diplomatic negotiation has to start with the realist perspective. By contrast, liberalism seems to have a much greater importance at national level and sometimes within supranational organizations, such as the EU. Dunne further outlines the structural role of societies and communities in a liberal system, which in turn implies a role for the gregarious instinct, subsequently analysed in this chapter (2005: 189). At the same time, the role of these theories and their respective determining instincts will be evaluated in relation to negotiation, as a manifestation of international relations.
2.1 The Individual and Relational Models
While the initial focus of study in the field of instinctive behaviour, at the end of the 19th century, was on instincts as individual, rather than social phenomena, in the late 20th century there were significant changes in this perception (de Waal, 2000:586). In the case of aggression, the individual model claimed that a number of external (role models or governing authorities) and internal factors (genetic aggression) determined the individuals’ propensity to become aggressive.
The relational model of instincts emerged in opposition to the individual model of understanding and analysing instincts and is based on the need to maintain mutually beneficial relationships. Thus it sees aggression and survival with the catalyst of the gregarious instinct, as a tool for competition and negotiation (de Waal, 2000:586). The equilibrium between the social and anti-social, or aggressive and gregarious instincts is understood and explained in the context of society.
2.1.1 Aggression and the Realist Theory
The external and internal factors which determine individuals’ propensity toward a certain type of behaviour, in this case aggression can be seen to represent the two sides of the nature-nurture divide and have been proposed by Lorenz and Berkowitz respectively. Lorenz, like Freud, believed that aggression was a primary instinct, closely connected to the instinct of struggle for survival and is aimed at the preservation of the species (Lorenz, 1967). Extrapolating these views to the realm of politics, he interpreted the actions of global leaders in light of instinctive drives towards violence and concluded that war is inevitable. Berkowitz founded his theory on the frustration-aggression hypothesis and saw aggression as a relationship between unpleasant stimuli and negative affect that can trigger either fight or flight, or in international relation offensive or defensive policy approaches (1993). Nevertheless the conclusion on either side of the nature-nurture divide was that aggression was an anti-social behaviour.
The individual model can be seen as a minimal version of the realist theory of international relations, and parallels on an ontological level its basic assumptions: self-help, self-interest and the centrality of power as a determinant of individuals’ and states’ positions (Dunne in Baylis and Smith, 2005:95). Both models presuppose aggression to be an instinct, and thus an inherent human characteristic. The tension created by this instinct between its manifestation in Eros and Thanatos respectively (Freud, 1989:28) will require a discharge. For the realist theorists[7], this amounted to a natural state of conflict. Machiavelli (1999) believed that the desire for self-preservation and power lay at the origin of conflicts. For Hobbes the three principal ‘causes of quarrel’ were competition, diffidence and glory (Hobbes, 1651). For Hume (1953), the underlying conditions for human conflict were relative scarcity of resources and limited altruism, while Rousseau (1978) believed that ‘the state of war’ was born from the ‘social state’ itself.
At this point it is important to differentiate between aggression at an individual and state level. While Hobbes and Rousseau focus on aggression between individuals and within the state, Kant, writing from a liberal perspective, agrees that “the natural condition is a state of war”, but only in “the right of nations” (i.e. in international relations) (Kant, 2002:214). Morgenthau makes the parallel between the two “natural states” and postulates in the Six Principles of Political Realism that “it is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature” (1975:8) and further that “politics, like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature” (1975:4). This essentially proves the inductive relationship between aggression and the corresponding instinct and the realist understanding of the international order: the aggressive instinct, along with other factors, confers the “natural state of war” characteristic of the international political system under the theoretical framework in discussion.
2.1.2 Survival and the Realist Theory
The same basic reactions of fight or flight in response to aggressive behaviour, as outlined in Berkowitz’s model, are also generated by the survival instinct, although the actual manifestations, as in the case of aggression, might be greatly varied. Through a similar process of induction, the same properties can be outlined for the survival instinct. The survival of the individual is generally accepted as a fundamental instinct and has been described as such by Darwin, Freud, Spencer or Kouser across various fields of study such as biology, psychology, sociology, economics or politics. Darwin based his entire theory of the evolution of species on the survival of the fittest, while Spencer and Kouser et al pointed to the manifestations of the same instinct in economics and politics respectively. In Freud’s division of the psyche, the id hosts the basic instincts, grouped into Eros – life or survival and Thanatos – death.
The major significance given to the survival instinct by Freud in the individuals’ psychology is echoed by an equally key role attributed to the same by Morgenthau in the relations between states. He believes that the state has to survive and should be protected at all costs and considers “the moral principle of national survival” to be the primordial rule which the state has no right to surpass (Morgenthau, 1985:166). This becomes more important than morality or justice: “[r]ealism maintains that universal moral principles cannot be applied to the actions of states. […] The individual may say for himself: "Let justice be done, even if the world must perish", but the state has no right to say so in the name of those who are in its care” (ibid.).
2.1.3 Alternative Approaches
There are two primary critiques articulated by opponents of the idea that aggression and, more generally, instincts have a role in the realist paradigm. On the one hand, there are those arguing that the mere concept of instinct is flawed and thus that it does not have any role in the individual’s psychology. On this side of the debate, Geiger (1923:58), Kantor (1921:328), Dunlap (1922:65) and Holt[8] (1931:4) feel compelled to express their doubts about the usage of instincts as a concept and tool of analysis. However Hampton, more recently (2006) explains that the notion is of key importance both for evolutionary psychologists and for behaviourists, and further, that they have used partial synonyms[9] to refer to the same basic notion (2006:58). And, since we are concerned with the actual meaning of the concept, which Hampton shows in an elaborate essay (2006) is maintained, the above judgements about the roles of the aggressive and survival instincts in international relations will also be equally relevant.
On the other hand, demonstrating that the aggressive and survival instincts determine some aspects of interpersonal relations does not directly project the same sources for similar characteristics of international relations. The critical perspectives outlined above can be identified with the critics of the personification of state theory, which is a recent reformulation of Morgenthau’s position. Although interdisciplinarity has been sought since the Enlightenment period, there has still been no direct connection established within any school of thought between the psychological and political roles of instincts at personal, community, national or international level. Thus any connection between them has to be mediated by the personification of state theory and the consequent projection of individual traits and behaviour onto the state and international relations. A strong supporter of this theory is Alexander Wendt, who argues that the existence of group selection at the level of states is an indisputable empirical phenomenon (2004:23). He further shows that the “neglect of state personhood in IR scholarship seems to stem from a widespread philosophical and political scepticism, and even hostility, toward the realist notion that state persons could be real” (ibid: 315). Lomas responded to this with the essay entitled Anthropomorphism, personification and ethics: a reply to Alexander Wendt, which seems aimed more at the realist school of thought and some of its basic assumptions[10], rather than Wendt’s theory. Consequently adopting the personification of state theory is a logical step in the analysis of the role of instincts in inter-state negotiation, allowing for a more palpable embodiment of the concept. At the same time, it confers more strength to the inductive relationship established above between the aggressive instinct and the realist school of thought.
The realist school of thought considers it unnecessary to distinguish between foreign policy, international relations, diplomacy and negotiation, because they are all based on the power game (Burton, 1968:199). Realists further believe that the success of a negotiator is a linear function of the capabilities that his/her own state possesses (Schneider, 2005:665). High-level manifestations of the aggressive and survival instincts are only a part of their overall roles. Another aspect is the influence of instincts on individual negotiators, which has been theoretically discussed above and will be exemplified in the last chapter. Finally, there is the role that a realist political system, based on aggression and survival, will have over the individual negotiators representing it. As some of the most successful diplomats have recognized, the structure of the political system in their home countries becomes second nature to them. Thus, Henry Kissinger is also known as a fierce Realist and takes the notion that “relations among states are determined by raw power and the mighty will prevail” as an unquestionable premise in all his writings (Kissinger, 1994:104).
2.1.4 The Gregarious Instinct in Liberal Institutionalism
The gregarious instinct has been one of the main reasons behind the cohesion of groups throughout history (Rivers, 1920) and is thus a “basic social force” (House, 1925:357). It has been closely associated with the self-preservation or survival instinct, because it is easier for animals and humans alike to organise and defend themselves against a common (real or perceived) enemy. Later, in more complex societies, the impact of this instinct was extended to all fields that involve a society: culture, politics and international relations, etc.
The principal merit of the relational model is contextualisation. It recognizes that individuals are socially embedded, and thus both aggressors and victims, or indeed all members of a society, share some form of common past and are expected to share a future (ibid.). In other words, the social milieu becomes central to the understanding and interpretation of actions. This holds true at the inter-personal level, as well as inter-community and inter-state levels. The gregarious instinct can be seen as one of the bases leading to the formation of the European Union. The Second World War proved that conflicts arising from overlapping interests could cause immense damage to all parties. The way found by the founding fathers of the EU to avoid future overt violence was to raise the cost of damage to the relations between states, such that nowadays any military action by one member of the EU against another would be inconceivable.
Hardin follows Dewey to show that liberal institutionalism was aimed at liberating an impoverished working class from the control of large private organizations, and then suggests that group liberalism can be seen as an extension and update of the demands of the first (Hardin, 1999:325-6). The regime of liberal institutionalism, as it affects large institutions, might be mutually advantageous and self-enforcing in a democratic society (ibid.).
A modern understanding of liberal institutionalism – or neo-liberal institutionalism - shifts the focus from national to international politics and makes international institutions in charge of promoting cooperation between states. This has been seen as an effective way of reducing states’ fear of each other and promoting global security by increasing the cost of damage to reciprocal relations. Theorists like Keohane (2002) or Allison (2000) further advocate global governance and cooperative multilateralism as means to promote development and closer diplomatic ties between all international actors. The practical outcome of such ideas are policies of mutual benefit, or the positive-sum game, which is present at different levels of integration, between the members of the European Union, ASEAN, ECOWAS, NAFTA or NATO.
2.2 Models - A Positive Sum Game
Theorists and scholars of International Relations have often found it useful to reduce very complex situations to the essential elements of the respective conflict, in order to understand better the underlying dynamics and find solutions. Such reductions, also called games, originate in a branch of mathematics studying strategic interaction and have been drawn on by liberal institutionalists to “enhance the theoretical appreciation of factors that inhibit collaboration in an anarchic setting” (Little in Baylis and Smith, 2006:378). This school of thought is traditionally oriented towards a positive-sum game, an arrangement whereby cooperation and negotiation makes it possible for a solution to be reached, in which at least one party will be better off and no party will be worse off than before. This model is frequently found in negotiation and is based on an integrative approach, where a wide rage of interests, needs, desires, concerns and fears are taken into account, so as to reach an optimal solution for all participants. The European Union and some of the United Nations negotiations are based on integrative, positive-sum strategies. Recent examples include the negotiations for the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU and UN environment talks, such as the Forest Negotiations (1990-2000) or the Climate Change Conferences (2005-2007).
An optimization of the positive-sum game is the Pareto perfect compromise (Davis Cross, 2007:18) which presupposes negotiations based on mutually beneficial aims and seeks to find the exact outcome from the Pareto frontier range, that would maximize the gains of all actors involved. All possible outcomes on the Pareto frontier are to some extent beneficial to all parties involved and, in a (neo-)realist model, which presupposes an anarchic system, lacking collaboration or a higher authority, the optimal outcomes would tend towards the extreme points A or B (See Document 2). These are not zero-sum situations, because they do not maximize one party’s gains over the others’, in a direct competition, but rather, avoiding direct negotiations, each assumes a position of sub-optimal gains. A (neo-) liberal institutionalist view would place the perfect outcome in point C, where, through negotiation and collaboration, the advantages of both are maximized.
Several theorists and politicians have argued that the European Union needed Romania and Bulgaria almost as much as these two needed integration (Brucan, 2000:78-84). On all three sides (if we are to consider the European Union as a unified voice) there were interests, needs, desires, concerns and fears, which were integrated in the negotiations for accession and a positive-sum, (arguably) perfect compromise deal was reached: the Accession Treaty. Mutual benefits[11] were the base for the creation of such an extended society of states, and this was reached through gamesmanship, which “is the very essence of diplomacy” (Plantley, 2007:103).
In “The Practical Negotiator”, Zartman and Berman set the framework of their discussion by pointing out to the widespread idea amongst diplomats that “if negotiation does require some special skills these come through an acquired ‘feel of things’ and are beyond capture and transmission as rules and theories” (1982:1). This chapter has argued that this “feel of things” as well as the dynamics of international relations can be seen to have a common root in instincts such as aggression, survival or gregarious behaviour. These influence at a structural level both the psychology of individual negotiators and the political and social system in which they operate.

Chapter Three

The political negotiator requires a profound knowledge of issues and personae; a special talent for making use of the passions of the other and for controlling his own.
(de Felice 1778 cited in Pfetsch, 2008:35)
As it has been shown in the previous chapters, the instincts at personal and state levels have a similar origin – in human nature. This chapter starts off by providing a descriptive outline of diplomatic actions and events in international relations leading up to the Iraq War, the main case study of this dissertation and will serve as a factual basis for the subsequent analysis. As the proceedings of negotiations are almost never made public, this chapter is based on the declarations of diplomats after meetings or rounds of negotiations, accounts by past negotiators or interpretations of theorists and analysts. Furthermore, the possibility of instincts influencing personal and state behaviour will be analysed in the context of international negotiation, diplomacy and politics, by evaluating the possibility of a role for the aggressive and survival instincts in the particular case of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The technique called in plastic art and music negative space will be adopted as a means of deconstructing the political and diplomatic proceedings related to this war. A negative space analysis highlights the importance of usually unnoticed elements, but which contribute to the bigger picture, by isolating and ignoring the obvious, also called positive space (Farber, 1998). Thus the less prominent elements – and in international negotiation these can be very important – are brought to the front, which allows for a better understanding of how and why the whole complex works. In the case of the current analysis, the positive space is represented by rational and well-informed bargaining, whereas the negative space – what this dissertation aims to outline – is the subtle, sometimes hard to perceive role of instincts in international negotiation.
3.1 Negotiations and the Invasion of Iraq
After the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the focus of diplomacy and inter-state negotiations has shifted from debates over the power positions and desires of actors to much more specific arguments, such as geo-political or legal aspects of conflicts. Thus it is nowadays surprising and condemned by an increasing percentage of public opinion if states undertake actions that are illegal under international law. And yet international lawyers and scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have agreed and published their views on the US-led intervention in Iraq: "illegal and illegitimate" (Slaughter, 2004:1; Sands 2005:175), but to little avail. Furthermore, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, amongst many others[12], took the unusual step of stating publicly that the war was illegal. However this did not change the course of events and, despite accusations of unilateral and imperialist action, the USA and the UK proceeded with what seems to have been a pre-determined action plan. This interpretation is supported by several analysts such as Philippe Sands (2005:178) and reconfirmed by documents like the 23 July 2002 memo by Matthew Rycroft, a Downing Street foreign policy adviser. This acknowledges the fact that terrorism and WMDs were mere justifications for a policy of regime change that had been decided upon, but could not have been publicly acknowledged especially by the British government, and “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” (Manning, 2005).
The main difference between US and British international decision making is the sensitivity of and importance afforded to the national public. This was also the case in the Iraq War: whereas Bush declared as early as the 5th April 2002 that “Saddam needs to go” (2002:9), Blair made no such public statements and waited until 17 March 2003, just a few days before the invasion, to have the Attorney General give a public account of the legal aspects of the case for war. As Sir David Manning acknowledged, regime change would not get past “a press, a parliament and a public opinion that was very different from anything in the States” (2003). One indication of this is the willingness of the press in the two countries to publish letters demonstrating the illegality of the war[13], or the number of government officials who resigned in protest of the invasion. This further increased the pressure on the British Prime Minister, who had promised the US to support a military intervention (Sands, 2005: 178), but at the same time had to have a plausible case for the scrutiny he would meet at home.
While Blair was eagerly seeking a final resolution authorising ‘all necessary means’, which would provide a legal justification, for Bush this seemed like a useless exercise, with the potential of complicating the situation even further. But with Iraq taking promising steeps in accordance with the requirements of the UNSC and the broader international community, starting with the acceptance of UNSC resolution 1248 on the re-admittance of inspectors in the country on the 16.09.2002, the case of the USA and UK to go to war was diluting day by day. Further positive developments include the submission of requested information by the Iraqi delegation[14] and the briefing by UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors on 19 December 2002 on the progress of the inspections. With these developments there was naturally going to be decreasing support for the draft resolution authorising the use of force that the USA, UK and Spain had prepared. A Foucauldian analysis would outline the two different types of discourse, according to the power relations existent between the higher political and diplomatic circles on the one side, and the public and media on the other. The discourse and associated knowledge for the public and media were decided upon and, some argue, partly invented, and were quite dissimilar to the discourse and knowledge that negotiators and diplomats used among themselves.
The negotiations leading up to the invasion of Iraq stirred different regional interests in a number of areas of activity, mainly revolving around economic advantages of taking part in the expected post-war reconstruction of this country. Recognizing the power of the P5 and the need to have them agree on a plan of action first, the other members of the Security Council conceded to suspend their negotiations until the permanent members reached a solution that they could all accept and support. However, as this did not happen, the works of the SC resumed in the regular format in October 2002, including non-permanent members. It seemed like the big powers had reached an unsurpassable dividing wall: the USA and the UK were committed to go to war at all costs, while France, Russia and China were decided to resist. The information that permeated outside their negotiating environment was scarce and generally came as opinions or conclusions of either side over the progress or moves of the opponents.
Different interpretations of the negotiations and diplomatic processes leading up to the Iraq War emphasize completely new interpretations of documents, legislation and states’ intentions. After having been unable to pass a final resolution authorising the use of ‘all necessary means’, the jargon used in UN resolutions for ‘military action’, Blair’s last resort to justify the war was the much criticised ‘revival’ argument. The Attorney General of the UK provided the parliament with a written answer of only 337 words. The argument was that UNSCR 687, which set out the conditions of the ceasefire after Operation Desert Storm, only suspended but did not terminate the authority to use force under UNSCR 678. Consequently, a breach of 687, which was acknowledged by 1441, revived the authority of 678, the theory claims, thus granting legality to the 2003 invasion. All these different perspectives and debates over “what is a fact” (Ross, 2007:12) and what were the facts before the invasion led to endless rounds of negotiations with no ultimate resolution for the problem. The difficult situation led to an increased degree of difficulty in the process of negotiation, which thus had to involve any available tool of persuasion, belonging both to the positive and negative spaces of negotiation.
3.2 Dealing with Instincts in Diplomacy
Carne Ross was UK’s chief negotiator and expert on the Middle East at the United Nations and he was in charge of the weapons of mass destruction dossier: he made the case, he negotiated resolutions and sanctions, he reported back to London and he also drafted part of the case for politicians at home. In his biographical book Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite he confesses: “I became proud (to my present shame) of my Rotweiler-like reputation at the Security Council, as the most effective and aggressive defender of the British-American Iraq policy, sanctions and all” (2007:14). This aggression did not emerge with his appointment to the job: his natural aggressive instinct was well trained, carefully constructed and eagerly applauded by his superiors. This construction of a particular psychology of the “unaccountable elites” is of major importance for Ross’ analysis of the world of diplomacy. He shows that daily choices in the diplomatic environment bring into play the instincts, intuitions, personal prejudices and emotions of diplomats (2007:23). All these non-rational elements influence to different extents the process of negotiation, but, as inherent parts of human behaviour, they will all play a role in international negotiation.
The competitive context of Ross’ work – of negotiations in general – also brought into play his survival instinct: in negotiations (even in positive-sum ones), like in most other areas of human activity, only the best prevail. He confirms this Hobbesian notion of self-interest based on the survival instinct, both at individual and state level: “the performance of diplomacy is founded on a particular view of the world – one of competition – of nation states, of limited resources, of agreement or contest” (2007:19). Such competition can become very acerb even in – or especially in – the UNSC, thus increasing the importance of instincts in inter-state negotiations.
3.2.1 The Non-Rational Aspect of Negotiation
Instincts can be both a catalyst and an inhibitor for inter-personal relations. This depends both on inter-cultural communication and understanding, and on personal ability to recognize and use instincts. Cohen shows that in high-context cultures – ones which place great emphasis on the negative space: context, background and side-issues – signs, symbols, non-verbal communication, intuition and instincts are all important (1997:154-6). Examples of such cultures include Japan, China or the Arab world. By contrast the low-context cultures – western countries, focusing on positive space – tend to aim only for the achievement of a specific objective and pay little attention both to personal relations and to non-rational elements[15]. These elements offer a considerable degree of relativism and a predisposition for confusion and misinterpretation for those coming from a different negotiating culture – in this case the USA or UK -, but they are an accepted norm in places like Iraq, Egypt or Palestine.
Carnevale and Choi report that (probably one of) the fatal mistakes in the run-up to the First Gulf War was Saddam’s half brother misinterpreting the words and over-interpreting the reactions of US Secretary of State James Baker. He understood the diplomatic calmness and lack of affection of the US official as lack of interest in the Kuwait problem and non-belligerence. He reported to Saddam “the Americans will not attack. They are weak. They are calm. They are not angry. They are only talking” (Carnevale and Choi, 2000:105). Baker instead was saying quite the opposite, and the inability of Barzan al-Tikriti to convey the right message contributed to Saddam’s final decision. He followed his instinctive response to a particular (expected) physical reaction, without realising that this may vary across cultures. He was expecting a direct manifestation of Baker’s own aggressive instinct if he was going to convey a message of hostility, without taking into consideration a the fact that in the West diplomats are usually encouraged and trained to control and hide any signs of affect or instinct, even when they use them (Cohen, 1997:155).
Nevertheless training may play, at least for some negotiators, only a minor part. De Waal sees the processes of negotiation and mediation as “90% attitude, temperament and personal relationships and 10% professional training” (see Document 3). The fact that he places so much importance on the non-rational part of negotiation indicates a consistent degree of achievement using them throughout his successful career. In a similar, but much more moderate tone, Ross postulates that “[w]e need to find ways to account for the irrational, the ineffable and other vital elements of what makes us human”(2007:24). In other words he does not dismiss the presence of these elements in the exercise of negotiation – and human instincts are included in the above – but rather he acknowledges them and argues that they should be accounted for, trained and channelled just like any other type of behaviour. De Waal and Ross have specialised not in a type of negotiation or a region, but rather in a particular employer, which has cast a prominent mark on their ways of thinking. The first has always worked as an independent negotiator and mediator, received less training and appears to be more instinctive in his actions and attitude, more spontaneous, and less reliant on education or intelligence. Ross was an ambassador of the FCO, well accustomed to enormous dossiers (like the Iraq WMDs one, Ross, 2007:10) and much more reliant on rationality. Although he is slightly more cautious with using instincts in international negotiations, he does acknowledge their existence and importance in the process.
3.2.2 The Rational Aspect of Negotiation
Instincts are mostly considered a dangerous and uncontrollable feature, an impediment for rational thinking and thus tend to be dismissed or minimalised, especially in what Pfetsch calls hard diplomatic negotiations (2008:37). The proponents of this theory suggest that the real evolution of man rests precisely on the renunciation of instincts for a greater flexibility of adaptation and specialization. This is in particular true for the traditional realist school of thought. The course of negotiation is restricted by the dialectic of bargaining and this makes it subject to a logical and rational analysis (Plantley, 2007:421). A rational analysis will show that the easier it is to reduce the area of activity to a pattern, the larger its rational part will be, because following that pattern is meant to produce a certain level of success. Thus, supporters of ‘hard’ diplomatic negotiations argue that when “the irrational rears its head in negotiation, it is the more dangerous for being less and less bound by rational structures or logic” (ibid: 365).
However, only when the results are put to test can an assessment be made of the quality of the rational or intuitive judgement guiding the negotiation (Plantley, 2007:416). In the case of the conflict in Iraq, the rational judgement of the US Secretary of State did not hold. Powell was wrong in his now infamous address to the UNSC on the 5 February 2003, and he admitted it himself years later: “I think without that weapons of mass destruction case, the justification would not have been there” (2007). Powell acknowledged his mistake and seems to regret it[16]. His reasoning (whether sincere or fake) misled him, the US public and attempted to influence the whole world. Powell seems to have followed a perfectly rational (even if slightly naïve) reasoning, based on two unquestioned assumptions: that the material received from the CIA was accurate and trustworthy and that the political line promoted by President Bush and followed by the US government was correct. In both cases, trusting his rational reasoning less and his instincts more could have made a big difference to his actions. His gregarious and survival instincts might have induced more caution and a better revisiting of documents and sources.
It was rational for the US government to ask for the UNSC backing before starting the attack. The draft resolution prepared by the US, the UK and Spain would have “[d]ecided that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in resolution 1441.” (US Department of State, 2003) and thus make it the responsibility of the entire international community to act. “Few governments can resist the temptation to fight and win a war that will boost their standing at home. It enables them to stand tall as defenders of the homeland” (Cockburn, 2007). However the extent to which that happened with the USA in this case is doubtful. It was very rational and strategic to withdraw the proposed draft resolution when it became clear that it would not pass. For Bush, however, the resort to force is too often crudely instinctive (Alter, 2004:29), in this case despite the thinness of the arguments for war. The President was severely punished by the public: recent polls show him to be the most unpopular president in modern history, with a disapproval rate of 71% (CNN, 2008).
3.2.3 Aggressive Lobbying
In international relations and negotiation, aggressiveness can sometimes be exacerbated to the degree of aggressive lobbying or even bullying. This is no longer a simple manifestation of an aggressive instinct in constant opposition and balance with a gregarious instinct, like between Freud’s Eros and Thanatos discussed above, but rather a thoroughly and consciously constructed type of behaviour. The roots of this behaviour can indeed be traced back to the instinct, but in this case, rather than being controlled or suppressed, it was cultivated and enhanced. Such behaviour can be identified not only in the techniques of persuasion, the use of a relative (or absolute) power advantage or intimidation, but also in more serious means of exerting pressure. Since the case for the war in Iraq was not an easy one to make and the international community had to be convinced, the Bush administration did not shy away from the use of strong pressure and threats, in an attempt to coerce members of the Security Council to support him. For example, Mexican diplomats complained that discussions with US officials had been "hostile in tone", and they were threatened that “[a]ny country that doesn't go along with us will be paying a very heavy price” (Soto, 2003). Henry Kissinger also made a trip to Mexico warning officials that the Bush administration would be “very unhappy” if Mexico opposed them. Towards the end of the month, the US Ambassador Tony Garza said that Congress might attempt to punish Mexico economically if it fails to support the US position at the UN (Linzer, 2003).
Ron Manley shows why the Bush administration is not interested in multilateral arms control regimes: they prefer the freedom of conducting their own bilateral negotiations. José Bustani, had to step down from leadership of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons under US pressure, because he created an organisation, which was more effective than the member states were ready for (Manley, 2003). They tried to change his approach, “to get him to tone down, but you’re not going to change José’s approach to things when he thinks he’s right” (ibid.). There are numerous factors that contributed to such aggressive behaviour, amongst them the current balance of power, but, few countries act in such a patronizing manner with the representatives of other nations in the UN, the foremost forum expected to safeguard international peace, security and human rights. Despite the impact aggressive lobbying may have on the outcome of international negotiations, these practices are rarely visible for the wider public, thus also being part of the negative space. One of the elements of negative space in the above example is the particularly prominent aggressive instinct which influenced US behaviour.
3.2.4 The Instincts of George W. Bush
Aggression is not an uncommon feature of US officials. US President George Bush Sr., in the run-up to the First Gulf War, said “we will put Iraq back into the stone age”, while his Secretary of State, James Baker, was contempt with reducing Iraq “back to the pre-industrial era” (cited in Aschkar, 2005). These examples of impulsive verbal aggression were not sporadic or playful. They were absolutely real and were followed by a war. Short before the invasion, Saddam Hussein said in a TV interview that “all guests are very welcome and treated with respect” in Iraq (2003a). In this case why did the US choose to go to war instead of a diplomatic solution? The Iraqi president called on numerous occasions for “negotiations, talks, debate, diplomatic alternatives, any solution that may restore peace to the region, while being in accordance with US national interests” (Hussein, 2003a, 2003b). Three of the five members of the UNSC believed that diplomacy had not yet failed and so did Iraq; one possible explanation is an excessive aggressive instinct of the US leadership, and the President in particular.
George W. Bush is probably the most instinctive personality in contemporary international relations and arguably also the most important one on a global scale. As Jonathan Alter notes, the president “makes decisions by instinct, then he sticks with them. It's what makes him a good politician and a poor chief executive at the same time” (2004:29). It is hard to determine, in the context of the USA, what forces came into play in the decision to invade Iraq. However, it was ultimately the president making the decision, being at the same time the person with most nationwide political support, the chief of the executive and the supreme commander of the armed forces according to the US constitution.
In the political realm, Alter further observes that “operating on instinct keeps everything simple and clear, without the confusion of facts. Clarity is important, as Bush keeps pointing out, and clarity works politically. The voters like it” (2004:29). The President managed to convince the public opinion with a very straight forward case for war, and Powell’s speech to the UNSC was instrumental: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and can attack any time; the US cannot take the risk of that happening, so they have to follow their survival instinct, even if that means a pre-emptive war. The first argument was put in plain words for the US (and worldwide) public by the president: “we found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.” (Bush, 2003a), while the secretary of state declared that, despite what the UN may say, in a post 9/11 era, “the United States cannot and will not run that risk to the American people” (Powell, 2003). Despite the falsity of these statements, which was proven after the invasion, the two politicians were unequivocal in their statements: the US had to go to war.
Sticking to his position is certainly a trait of George W. Bush, even in difficult situations: he was determined to go to war with Iraq before 2003[17],[18] and still maintains it was the right thing to have done, despite the fact that the grounds for doing so were erroneous. At the Fifth Anniversary of the invasion, Bush declared “The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency; it is the right decision at this point in my presidency; and it will forever be the right decision” (Bush, 2003b). In contrast, Colin Powell said that if he had known that Iraq had no WMDs, he would not have supported the war (2007). If it was instinct that prevailed in the run-up to the invasion, especially in President Bush’s behaviour, then he certainly kept to his instincts and still does.
Under the US constitution, the president of the USA is the head of the executive, of his cabinet and has the power to appoint judges, ministers, ambassadors and consuls, which in turn means that all of them are accountable to him (less so the judges). He also has the power to make and unmake treaties, – which then have to be submitted to the Congress for ratification – essentially making him the chief negotiator. He may retain and exercise this power without being a diplomat, or having diplomatic training. Furthermore, he has to receive ambassadors and other foreign public ministers, which puts him at the top of the diplomatic service, both in terms of power and duties. This lack of formal training is one of the reasons why Bush and other leaders tend to ‘hold discussions’ or ‘talks’ rather than ‘negotiate’. Someone influenced so much by his instincts, will also use them in international affairs: his criteria of judgement became dependent on whether something ‘felt right’ at the time or not, whether his instincts had inclined him to think that a particular choice was correct. As Immelman rightly anticipated, Bush “does not seem to possess the emotional intelligence – the triumph of reason over rigidity and restraint over impulse – to steer the course” (2001). While instincts can be a very useful attribute of an international negotiator, it may also be harmful if one does not know how to maintain the balance between different instincts, or between instincts and rationality. If negative space, which encompasses instincts, is important in negotiation, it cannot exist in isolation or by itself, or the whole composition would be no more than a collection of blank spaces; it needs positive space, rationality as well.
Malcom Gladwell argues that “decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately” (2006:14). He called the technique which ensures an optimal outcome “thin slicing, [or] the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behaviour, based on very narrow slices of experience” (p. 23). This technique can prove beneficial, but it can also produce catastrophic outcomes. In the case of the invasion of Iraq, Bush’s decision to follow the main ideas of the neo-conservative Project for the American Century and start a preventive war can be seen as thin slicing, snap judgement or responding to instincts. Either way, it might have proven much more difficult to make such a decision if he had known, anticipated or taken into consideration all the effects and outcomes of the war, the invasion might not have happened.
There is certainly one overwhelming characteristic of US foreign policy, including diplomacy, under Bush: excessive violence. As the president himself confesses “I’m a war president […] I make decisions in foreign policy with war on my mind” (Bush, 2004). This chapter has outlined and analysed the most important developments in the diplomatic processes preceding the Iraq War. Furthermore it demonstrated with practical examples and through a negative space analysis that the way international aggression emerges and is used indicates a strong correlation with the aggressive and survival instincts. Especially under the Bush leadership, the US seems to have developed a particularly aggressive attitude in international relations, which can be seen to be partly based on the President’s strong reliance on instincts. As the President is also the most important representative of the country in the realm of diplomacy, they also have the power to imprint the same reliance on instincts in their diplomats and negotiators.


This investigation has brought into focus the connection between instincts and international negotiation and attempted to establish the possibility of an influence of the first on the latter. Although the behaviour connection described in Chapter One and illustrated with examples in Chapter Three is rather straight forward from a logical point of view, there is little academic research devoted to it. One of the reasons may be a rather narrow understanding of the concept of instinct: biology has prevailed as the main subject area dealing with it, thus all definitions are invariably related to it. A purely biological approach cannot on its own produce a useful and comprehensive basis for an extension of the analysis in other areas. This is why an interdisciplinary framework may be more appropriate. However, this means a proportional involvement of scholars from all these areas of activity, as described in the methodology.
A stronger interdisciplinary character of any further projects on this topic would decrease several other limitations of this dissertation. One would be the subjectivity of most sources used. It is inconclusive to address a normative issue with subjective tools, and thus only a positivist investigation may proportionate adequate data. Furthermore, it is not sufficient to analyse merely two instincts, in order to be able to generalize that there is or may be a role for them in international negotiation. More examples may have to be considered, but due to time and space constraints, this dissertation had to be narrowed down to these two cases.
Even with the limited tools of analysis of merely one discipline, international relations, and an appropriate amount of research into several others, and with only two examples of instincts, the aggressive and survival ones, it was possible to establish a sizeable possibility of instincts influencing the exercise of negotiation. Such influence can act both directly onto the individual behaviour of negotiators and indirectly, by shaping the international system and socio-cultural context in which negotiators have to operate and to which they have to adapt.


The hypothesis for this dissertation is that instincts may have a considerable role in human behaviour and thus in negotiation as a particular manifestation of it. Chapter One explores the different connotations of the concept and establishes the focal point of this dissertation. Before the end of the 19th century, the concept of instincts had a very broad and rather undefined spectrum of meanings. With pioneering works by authors like James (1890), Dunlap (1919), Fitt (1922), and Bernard (1924) the interest of other scholars across several disciplines was stimulated. This led to a diversification of the understandings of instincts, with applied branches in biology, psychology, sociology, linguistics or more recently international relations and negotiation. All the above disciplines analyse human behaviour from different perspectives, but all of them have some position in relation to instincts. One of the most fervent supporters of instincts was Baldwin, who went so far as to advocate the emergence of instincts as a result of phenotypical changes. However, for philosophy, natural science or other branches of psychology, the whole idea that there may be an aspect of human behaviour that we cannot fully control implies an unacceptable vulnerability.
In a contemporary context, even within the same discipline, instincts can have quite different meanings and roles across schools of thought. In international relations, diplomacy and negotiation, rationality is generally associated with the classical realist tradition, which dismisses instincts as non-rational and unimportant. However Chapter Two sets out the theoretical framework for an analysis of the origin of some aspects of behaviour in basic human instincts. Thus national interest and state survival can be seen to stem from the survival instinct, and are further augmented by the aggressive instinct and other elements that create conflict and may lead to war. The effects of the counterbalancing gregarious instinct may be better reflected in the activity of international institutions such as the UN or the EU.
Chapter Three starts by outlining the main developments in the diplomatic process leading up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Consequently, the theoretical aspects in the first two chapters are used in the analysis of the events leading up to the Iraq War to demonstrate the importance of instinct in international negotiations. For the purpose of a thorough analysis, the scope was reduced to only the aggressive and survival instincts. A number of examples were chosen to outline a disproportionate, excessive aggression from the American side, which, following a negative space analysis, can be justified by some non-rational elements. As such, there is a strong possibility of a positive correlation between an excessive aggressive instinct and the US’ keenness to wage such a war.


Document 1: A shortened list of specific instincts, Bernard’s
second category

Document 2: The Pareto Perfect Compromise
Adapted from Davis Cross, 2007
Document 3: Interview with Dr Alex de Waal
writer and researcher on African issues. Fellow of the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard University, as well as program director at the Social Science Research Council in New York City. During 2005 and 2006, he was seconded to the African Union mediation team for Darfur.
1. From your experience, are personal relations important in negotiations? Could you think of any circumstances in which a good personal relation with other negotiators improved communication and helped you achieve your desired outcome?
2. As a scholar and practitioner, would you say that it is important for negotiators and diplomats to be aware of the role of human instincts, explore their own and exploit those of others? Do you do this yourself and do you think many other professional negotiators can do this, maybe as part of a common negotiating culture?
3. Do you find there is a role for instincts in international negotiation and to what extent have you managed to use them to your advantage in your extensive dealings with politicians and diplomats across the world?
4. Do you believe that the responsibility to protect should come first on states' agendas and thus that survival is a noble cause and a useful instinct in international relations and negotiations?
5. From your experience, do you think that diplomats and negotiators from less developed countries are in an inferior position relatively to their well trained, highly skilled western counterparts, and do you think they sometimes base their actions on instincts? Is that a possible way of overcoming this diplomatic deficit?
From: Alex DeWaal
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2008 10:34:25 PM
To: Ariadna Petri  


thanks for this.

I would say that mediation and negotiation are 90% attitude, temperament and personal relationships and 10% professional training. There is far more training and guidance available in negotiation than mediation, and most of the mediation material is not relevant to peace talks (it's for divorce proceedings, arbitrating between employers and unions etc). In fact I wonder if there are any truly "professional" peace mediators.

As to your questions: good personal relations are essential to a good mediator. For negotiators, it depends on what the outcome is to be. If the aim is power-sharing in a post-war government then personal confidence is essential; if it's a trade deal then it's much less important.

I'm not quite clear how to define "instincts" in this situation. I think that much of what appears to be instinct is in fact internalized experience and training. But I think that handling emotions, choosing when to show anger, is very important. Mediators have very different styles, based on different personalities and emotional temperaments, which are differently suited to different challenges. Most important is empathy.

I am a sceptic about R2P. Enforcing it demands an international order very different (and not necessarily more desirable) than the one we have today--one in which global policing of states can be carried out. I wrote about this in International Affairs late last year.

I don't see a difference in quality between mediators from richer and poorer countries. Developed country negotiators are always in a stronger position because they can exert more leverage, and insofar as some mediators (e.g. from the US) also enter into the role of negotiator, because the US has an interest in the outcome of peace talks, then they have that advantage too.

Let me know if this is any help


Document 4: Question addressed to Mrs. Victoria Nuland,
The US Ambassador to NATO during a speech given at the London School of Economics and Political Science, 25 February 2008, available online at

Q: How is it to work as a woman in NATO?

A: (Laughs) That’s a fun one! What’s it like to be a chick at the NATO? Well I’m the only woman among the 26 around that table and I’m gonna say it’s kindda fun. You know, I do think that although we’re there to represent our countries I think women […] come out the issue of team building and relationship building slightly differently than men do, so sometimes when the men get a little testy I’m able to come in with a little different style, but I’m sure, you know, a combination of being United States and being different, I irritate them as well. So it’s a little bit of both, but they certainly never forget me, so yeah, it’s fun. […] I forgot to say that I affectionately refer to them as my 25 boyfriends. I’ll tell you I’m the only one and it’s kindda fun.

Document 5: Excerpts from an interview with a former UN negotiator (under the condition of anonymity)

Question: Do you believe that personal relations are important in negotiations and could you think of any actual instances in which a good personal relationship with other negotiators improved communication and helped you tilt the balance towards your own desired outcome?

Answer: Personal relations are important in negotiations since you try to influence decisions of the other party; however you need to be careful since it works both ways. I don’t think the negotiations are necessarily about a good personal relationship with other negotiators but about good communication between parties. The good communication brings the good personal relationship not the other way round.

Q: For you personally, and as a diplomat and negotiator, is the first impression you get of people important? Do you think that your first instinct about another negotiator can influence the dynamics of the discussions and can you think of a particular case?

A: I wouldn’t say that the first impression you get of people is important. I would say that it is important to pay attention to that; make sure you are not distracted too much. There is no such thing as the first instinct or second instinct. However, there is first impression or first impulse. In this regard, the first impression about another negotiator can influence the dynamics of the discussions. This becomes obvious when your interlocutor is of the opposite sex. It is, though, difficult to anticipate where the discussions would evolve to.

Q: During negotiations, do you sometimes rely on your “feel” about things, and which of the following do you think contribute most to such an instinctive response: education, cultural background, psychological predispositions, personal instincts or any other elements?

A: Personality and cultural background would, most likely, play an important role here.

Q: Is it important for negotiators and diplomats to be aware of the role of human instincts, explore their own and exploit those of others?

A: I think this should be a part of their professional training.

Q: How do instincts actually come into play in international negotiations?

A: Well, you don’t want to starve people on the other side just to get an advantage. That’s not negotiation. Negotiation means a fair exchange. People are always forced, but it depends on the nature of the force: a mild coercion, rather than a strong aggression.

Q: Do you consider there is a role for instincts in international negotiation and to what extent have you managed to use them to your advantage in your extensive dealings with politicians and diplomats across the world?

A: There is absolutely a place for instincts in international negotiation. As compared to the past, nowadays it is more about reaching a win-win situation rather than getting advantages against the other party. The efforts are directed to have everybody leaving the table with the same level of satisfaction. As far as I’m concerned, I managed to do that most of the time.

Q: Do you believe that the responsibility to protect should come first on states’ agendas and thus that survival is a noble cause and a useful instinct in international relations and negotiations?

A: I wouldn’t say first, but it should be on their agenda. The instinct for survival, as noble a cause as it may be, pushes initially toward aggression. Resort to negotiating, surprisingly enough, comes when all the other means to resolve the difference have been exhausted. If when you say instinct you read “flair” than this one is definitely useful in international negotiations.

Q: The principle of the indivisibility of Allied security was reiterated after the Bucharest Summit. Thus, can common aggression, driven by the need for common security and protection against international extremism and terrorism, be seen as an innate need for survival, shared by the states and citizens of the Alliance?

A: First of all, in the particular circumstances of the war against extremism and terrorism, the word aggressor can be debated since the “aggressor” took the first blow, then it reacted. Subsequently, I wouldn’t go that far as to portray it as an “innate need for survival”. Definitely we are not there yet and I hope to never get there. It is merely defending a principle, defending a way of living.

Q: Is it any different to negotiate with Russia than with NATO members, and if so how?

A: Every negotiation is different even in the discussions with the same partner when the subject is different. I haven’t had an opportunity to negotiate at high level, neither with Russian Federation nor with NATO countries. However, in discussions with individuals belonging to those countries I realized how biased we can be toward both of these groups.

My experience was with Russian that had a very direct, straightforward attitude and language, without “diplomatic choice of words”, whilst with the other side, from NATO countries, the tendency was to have a more careful choice of words. The results were both successful. I think is important to keep an opened mind.


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[1] This is more convincingly argued in his late work, starting with The Will to Knowledge, the first part of the trilogy The History of Sexuality.
[2] Traditional Japanese wine made out of rice.
[3] A diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, under the protection of anonymity.
[4] By affect, Hamlin understands here the feeling or memory recalled by the sensation.
[5] The first category is groups of instincts, containing references to groups or classes of instincts, such as perverted instincts, communal instincts or instincts of public opinion - it contains 2,539 cases; the second category is specific cases - it contains 5,684 cases; the third category is the indefinite and peculiar instincts – it contains 2,238 cases. These are characterizations of the qualities, nature or origin of specific instincts. Examples include acquired-, base-, inherited-, crude-, indefinite-, natural-, fine-, primitive-, general- and specific-instincts. The fourth category represents the instinctive attitudes and contains 3,585 distinct cases. This category includes all references with the terms instinctive and instinctively, instead of instinct. (after DeRaad and Doddema-Winsemius, 1998)
[6] In this case the principal is the hierarchical superior or any other person who has the authority to tell diplomats and negotiators what policies to pursue or what particular moves to make.
[7]“During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man.” (Hobbes, 1996:84)
[8] Holt provides an amusing exaggeration of this position: “Man is impelled to action, it is said, by his instincts. If he goes with his fellow, it is the ‘herd instinct’, which actuates him; if he walks alone, it is the ’anti-social instinct’; if he fights, it is the instinct of pugnacity; if he defers to another, it is the instinct of self-abasement; if he twiddles his thumbs, it is the thumb-twiddling instinct; if he does not twiddle his thumbs, it is the thumb-not-twiddling instinct. Thus everything is explained by magic – word magic.”
[9] Some of these examples cited include ‘fundamental / primary desires’ (Dunlap, 1922, 1934), ‘units of desire’ (Kuo, 1924), ‘human proponent reflexes’ (Floyd Allport, 1924), ‘native impulses’ (Ellwood, 1925), ‘motives’ (Gurnee, 1936), ‘dependable motives’ (Klineberg, 1940), ‘viscerogenic and psychogenic needs’ (Murphy and Newcomb, 1939), etc.
[10] “[O]ne of the strongest and clearest trends in IR writing over the past half-century has been a series of attacks on political Realism and its associated conceptions of the state as monolith and primary agent in world affairs.” (Lomas, 2005:315)
[11] Some of the benefits for the acceding countries were access to European Funds and the common market, while for the other members, access to a market of 30 million people, investment opportunities and cheap production opportunities.
[12] High rank British officials who have publicly taken a stand against the Iraq War include Sir Stephen Wall, Clare Short, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, etc.
[13] In the UK, The Guardian newspaper published on the 7 March 2003 a letter by fifteen British and European scholars and experts in international law, which foresaw and tried to pre-empt the ‘revival’ argument made and put before the parliament only 10 days later by the Attorney General. A similar letter by American academics was refused publication in the New York Times.
[14] The Iraqi delegation handed over four CD ROMs containing the backlog of semi-annual monitoring declarations for the sites and items covered by the ongoing monitoring and verification plans for the period June 1998 to July 2002.
[15] One of very few exceptions is Carne Ross’ idea that delegations of UNSC members should take turns in bringing a song to play each morning at the beginning of sessions. The result was that “the rancour and acidulous tone of earlier sessions gad disappeared. The differences of substance were still as acute, but the acrimony had passed” (Ross, 2007:61). The author goes on to outline the diverging attitudes of other diplomats and observers, ranging from “the coolest thing [a German diplomat] had ever heard of” to “crass inhumanity of western diplomats, dancing on the graves of Iraqi children” (ibid: 63).
[16] In a televised interview he confessed: “Well it’s a…it’s… blot! Of course it will, it's blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations - ah, United States to the world. And it will always be part of my reckon...It was painful, it's painful now.” (2005)
[17] Time Magazine reported in a disclosure that in March 2002 – one year before the invasion – Bush outlined his real thinking to three U.S. senators, “F___ Saddam. We’re taking him out.” Cited in Elliott and Carney, 2003
[18] “America was right to enforce that demand” (Bush, 2003b).

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