Emotional actor: foreign policy decision-making


A Compensatory Response: Shame Becomes Pride



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A Compensatory Response: Shame Becomes Pride


 The compensatory response to the pervasive sense of shame and humiliation among both the British elites and the British public was swift aggression. Argentina had "touched a nerve" with the British, and in elite discourses, revenge appeared instead of atonement, and shame was turned into pride. Lord Shackleton68 at the House of Lords declared, "The war showed us to be prepared to stand up for what we believe to be right, this is our pride." Traditionally, lost pride was recovered by enforcing British imperialism through the deployment of the Royal Navy. Professing to see "this ancient country rising as one nation," Mrs. Thatcher stated, "The Navy sets out to win back Britain's pride.69”

By invading the Falkland Islands, Argentina had given to British elites a perfect opportunity to restore some of its lost pride and honor using the famed British Navy against a British territorial invader, and so to reaffirm an imperiled role. In the Falklands crisis, "both national honor and the traditional Royal Navy," were at stake. The future of the Royal Navy and how it would share military burdens with the Americans "east of Suez" was in question. To save one was to save both.70

Pride and shame are opposite emotions that describe polar situations in self-esteem. They serve as intense and automatic signs of the state of a system that is otherwise difficult to observe. While pride is the sign of an intact social bond, shame is the sign of a threatened one, and domestic unrest is its corollary. Britain seized the opportunity to transform the shame of the Falkland Islands invasion by the Argentines into a glorious naval victory, which restored the pride of Britain's past. In addition, the conflict offered the perfect rationale for restoring Naval military capabilities, which were more threatened by British budget cuts than by Argentine Exocet missiles.

The power of Britain's elites emotional construction of events and the effects of the episode on the British psyche are summed up in by a media report on the event. It is quite clear how the emotional overtones play a role as building blocks in the construction of national identity:

 

After victory, certain things will follow. The British have become a nation again, on the back of the Falklands war. Several ministers have said so. The whole thing has been a kind of therapy. As a result, from victory in the South Atlantic, Mrs. Thatcher will stride to triumphs on a wider plane. Supporting this optimism are the opinion polls. The latest poll, showing 89% of the British in favor of the invasion, is surely unanswerable. The war cabinet can scarcely believe its luck.71



CONCLUSION

This research supports the claim that normative/affective motivations underlie all foreign policy decision-making. Domestic concerns for positive national-image recognition are a permanent powerful force still unaccounted for by most foreign policy decision-making paradigms. Superpowers attempt to project images of global superiority, but these images must be maintained continually as constructs recognized by other countries. Image-maintenance efforts can generate circumstances which make international violence possible, and may even produce it, as this research has proven, to stage a confrontation that would confirm resolve and military might.

A vital lesson of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict is the acknowledgment of the importance of emotions connected with national self-images in foreign policy decision-making. This is a hidden element that indeed shapes presupposed rational decision-making, from a balanced self-assertion to the extremes of mythological self--righteous crusades. Conversely, public needs for self-appreciation can be manipulated and used to provide symbolic, emotional substitutions for more concrete subsistence needs, which national leadership somehow perceives itself unable to deliver. This is an impossible trade-off, as symbolic goods are easily spent, and more misery waits in the future if no concrete development plans are made. This research has described how those emotional, symbolic constructs were created, developed and provided to the public in the case studied, but more information about the emotional aspects of foreign policy decision-making is needed if we are to better understand and perhaps prevent armed conflict between nations.

It has been proposed that a comprehensive approach to understanding foreign policy decisions must combine deterrence and assurance.72 I argue that we must move beyond a merely enhanced version of power politics, to build a new paradigm of conflict resolution based on human needs approach. It has also to acknowledge such unexpressed national drives for recognition and consequent needs for self-esteem maintenance that a contending nation is trying simultaneously to express and resolve through deterrence challenges.

If it is true that war begins in the minds of men, a thorough review is needed of the social psychological components of the decision-making process of elites who decide that war has an acceptable cost, and wage it with constructed domestic support. Given social structures as they are now, we have just begun to search beneath theoretical rationales for aggressive decision-making (the "rational man" hypothetical construct) by looking at more sub-conscious motivations (the "emotional man").

From the point of view of the peace researcher, it is regrettable that intersubjective international understandings, friend-images and communities of recognition have no similar dramatic impact, and are not able to gather the same world attention and interest in motivations and needs as armed (televised) confrontation. The positive outcome of Argentina's defeat was in providing it with a needed contrast to the mythical self-image, allowing the internalizing of painful new understandings of self and other, and in beginning the process of acquiring new and more accurate national role identities. Along this path, self-presentation and stage management in a different, non-conflictive setting would provide the opportunity to frame alternative definitions of social situations in ways that create more positive international roles. To teach the rest of the world that Argentina could be trusted, it had to design unilateral initiatives showing strong positive intentions, such as the return to democratic rule in 1983. To reassert moral leadership, Britain had to review the much-neglected relationship with the Falkland Islanders, and grant them benefits previously denied, as the right to British citizenship, so as to assure the lessening of their colonial dependency from London.

Perhaps Kriesberg73 points in this direction, when he calls for an international relations paradigm which encompasses not only the security of individual countries but also a commonality of interests in defending world peace. In a new multipolar world, more voices may be integrated into a shared standing, in different capacities, so as to give some symbolic assurances of the proper place in the international order to all nations, great and small. Failure to do so forces nations to accept being mobilized to wage wars they cannot afford and which basically only seek to redress symbolic wounds.

  

References


 

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74. Louis Kriesberg, "Explaining the End of the Cold War," in New Views of International Security. Occasional Paper Series, (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University, June 1990).


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