In episode 78 our guest is Professor Nick Wheeler, an eminent figure in the field of International Relations and the former Director of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security at the University of Birmingham in the UK. The interview concentrates on the intricate world of diplomacy, trust, and international relations. He underscores the pivotal role of face-to-face diplomacy, even within adversarial relationships, as a cornerstone in the construction of trust. He explains the concept of ‘security dilemma sensibility,’ shedding light on its profound significance in comprehending the dynamics of trust. Drawing upon historical milestones, Professor Wheeler elucidates his notion of trust, offering profound insights that illuminate its delicate and intricate nature. His nuanced perspective challenges conventional wisdom, enriching our comprehension of trust within the realms of diplomacy and international relations. Here is a summary of the subjects that are being discussed.
Interpersonal Trust in International Relations
Nick Wheeler discusses the importance of interpersonal trust in international relations, emphasizing how trust between leaders and diplomats can shape diplomatic actions and outcomes.
Security Dilemma Sensibility
Wheeler explains the concept of the security dilemma sensibility, which is the existential condition of uncertainty about the intentions of others. He explores how this dilemma can lead to conflict or cooperation based on the perception of threat or defensive actions.
The Role of Trust in Diplomacy
Wheeler highlights how trust can play a crucial role in diplomacy, both in terms of leaders developing trust bonds and in people-to-people connections. He discusses cases like Vajpayee and Sharif, as well as Reagan and Gorbachev.
Misperceptions and Conflict
The interview touches on the idea that some conflicts are driven by mutual misperceptions and the importance of empathy and security dilemma sensibility in addressing these misperceptions.
Aggregation and Wider Trust
Nick Wheeler addresses the challenge of scaling up trust from interpersonal relationships to wider collectives and societies. He discusses the European project as an example of how trust can be embedded in decision-making processes and societies.
Upcoming Book “Personal Chemistry“
Nick mentions his upcoming book co-authored with Marcus Holmes, titled “Personal Chemistry,” which explores the conditions under which leaders hit it off or don’t and the significance of personal chemistry in international relations.
Overall, the interview provides insights into the complex dynamics of trust, interpersonal relationships, and diplomacy in international politics. Wheeler’s work delves into the role of trust, empathy, and security dilemma sensibility in shaping international interactions and conflict resolution.
In the interview, some concepts and words may need some further clarification.
“Security dilemma sensibility” is an actor’s intention and capacity to perceive the motives behind, and to. show responsiveness towards, the potential complexity of the military intentions of others.
“Dyad”: Relevant dyads are pairs of contiguous states or pairs of states including at least one major power. They are argued to be the population of dyads at risk of international conflict and are increasingly commonly used as the cases analyzed by conflict researchers (Douglas Lemke, William Reed, “The Relevance of Politically Relevant Dyads”, The Journal of Conflict Resolution Vol. 45, No. 1 (Feb. 2001), pp. 126-144.
Persons mentioned in the interview
Nick mentions a number of historical or fictional characters
- Richard Ned Lebow
- John Herz
- John Mearsheimer
- Ken Booth (co-author with Nick Wheeler)
- Marcus Holmes (co-author with Nick Wheeler)
- Robert Jervis
- Guido Möllering
- James Goodby
- Alexander Kerensky
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee
- Nawaz Sharif
- John F. Kennedy
- Nikita Khrushchev
- Ronald Reagan
- Mikhail Gorbachev
- Dmitri Karamazov (fictional character)
- Trifonov (fictional character)
- Benazir Bhutto
- Rajiv Gandhi
- Mao Zedong
- Chou En-Lai
- Henry Kissinger
- Konrad Adenauer
- Charles de Gaulle