the framework

(again, stuff everyone knows, but I feel like writing out even the obvious these days)

The problem for hawks and doves is finding a common language.

Of course, the frustrated (hawkish?) doves would say that it’s a problem for them alone since they want dialogue and the hawks don’t. Often, I suppose, they are right.

But what if you interpreted aggresive behaviour as a desire to communicate on the part of someone unable or unwilling to do it any other way? That would mean that both sides want to communicate.

So which are the positive elements that each side brings to the negotiating table? The doves bring an overall desire to settle matters through talking about them and one hopes that in talking about things, people arrive at fairer dispensations than otherwise, though, again, this is never a foregone conclusion. I’m unwilling to cite Versailles as an example here as that was a victor’s (that is, a hawk’s) revenge more than a mutual agreement. I suppose overall one could say that when the doves give in to the hawkishness within (their nature or as personified by some members of their respective delegations), that they fall short of justice.

By giving in to hawkishness I mean when one take advantage of one’s superiority (real or perceived) in material terms to gain concessions at the expense of the other party. In other words, when the terms of the negotiation reflect the nature of the power struggle (possibly an armed conflict) that has preceded it rather than starting a new creative process based on a belief in solidarity (hang together or hang separately / fraternitĂ© / les copains d’abord) as the fundamental source of empowerment (sorry, I didn’t mean to, but somehow I’ve ended up sounding like a UNESCO/UNHCR/UNFPA brochure! You could replace ‘fundamental source of empowerment” with “the only way out for all parties” or “the means of securing salvation for all”. To taste.)

It’s as if, to lapse into Friedmanese, one could imagine a negotiating table with two sides to it, ostensibly the two parties to a quarrel. But then, within each party, there are two broad divisions – the doves and the hawks. This second division is at a somewhat more abstract plane than the basic, real cause of the disagreement, and the job of those who believe in living together, in an inclusive, respectful manner, is to struggle against those who don’t, in their camp and in the other, and build bridges that the hawks on both sides are trying to sabotage.

The most important bridge is language, for communication within one’s camp and and across it, generally first with the doves “over there” and then with their help with their own hawks. So that in the end, hawks on both sides can begin to talk and contribute to the discussions in ways other than walkouts, fisticuffs or assorted rude noises.

So what do the hawks bring to the table? A clear idea of their claims, much righteous anger and indignation, which is generally a sign of a straightforward spirit, a certain force of character, just
expressed differently. In this context, I can’t help thinking of Muhammad’s concerted effort to convert Umar, his most outspoken, dangerous enemy.

Maybe a good way to express the situation would be to say that the two hawks represent the puzzle that the two doves have to solve. They are like recalcitrant and enigmatic oracles (Friedman again?) who define the problem in real but discordant terms and it is the job of
the doves to descend to the real root of their grievances in order to find solutions, many of which may quite naturally not be prejudicial to the interests of the other hawk.

Coming back to language, for me, the two people who really re-appropriated language for me have been Edward Said and Roy. Without their decoding effort, I would be completely lost in trying to gain an understanding that goes deeper than “geopolitics” or “international relations”. Which is not to say that they are pioneers, rather they are the authors (along with Chomsky and Eqbal Ahmed) I relate to most, authors who subscribe to a fairly ancient and robust tradition of straight speaking.

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