The need for continuous negotiation in diplomacy.

In light of the current political debate over proper diplomatic technique I have provided for you the answer to this question in the form of excerpts taken from one of the most successful political advisers in all of political history, that of Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu , adviser to Louis the XIII.

Chapter 6, the need for continuous negotiations in diplomacy.
States receive so much benefit from uninterrupted negotiations, if they are conducted with prudence, that it is unbelievable unless it is known from experience. I am now so convinced of its validity that I dare say emphatically that it is absolutely necessary to the well-being of the state to negotiate ceaselessly, either in open or secretly, and in all places, even in those from which no present fruits are reaped and still more in those for which no future prospects as yet seem likely.

He who negotiates continuously will finally find the right instant to attain his ends, and even if this does not come about, at least it can be said he has lost nothing while keeping abreast of events in the world, which is not of little consequence in the lives of states.

Negotiations are innocuous remedies which never do harm.

Common sense teaches us that is is necessary to watch our neighbors closely, because their proximity gives them the chance to be bothersome. But it also puts them in the position of serving as the outposts preventing the close approach to our walls. Omit nothing which can fortify them thoroughly against any eventualities.

I should point out… different nations have different characters, some quickly carry out what they have in mind, while others walk with feet of lead. Republics are in this latter category. They proceed slowly and one ordinarily does not get from them at the first attempt what is sought. Rather it is necessary to be content with little in hope of getting more later. For this reason it is wise to negotiate painstakingly with them in order to give them time, and to press them only when they are ready for it.

It should be noted that while strong and convincing reasons are proper for presentation to men of power and genius, mediocre minds are more influenced by small points, since these are on the level of their comprehension.

There are some so presumptuous as to think they should bluster on all occasions, believing this to be a good way to obtain what they could never acquire by reasonable persuasion and that which they know they could never get by force. They think they have dealt a blow when all they have done is to threaten to do it. Such a stratagem never succeeds with honorable men.

Just as ignoramuses are not good negotiators, so there are certain minds so finely drawn and delicately organized as to be even less well suited, since they become overly subtle about everything.

The most successful use their keenness of mind to prevent themselves from being deceived, having care not to use the same means for deceiving those with whom they are negotiating. one is always suspicious of those who employ cunning.

Important negotiations should never be interrupted for a moment. It is necessary to pursue what one has undertaken with an endless program of action so ordered that one never ceases to act intelligently and resourcefully, becoming neither indifferent, vacillating, nor irresolute…. also necessary is not to be discouraged by a bad turn of events, since it sometimes happens that the wisest undertakings produce unhappy results. It is difficult to fight often and always win. It is ideal when negotiations are so harmless that one can acquire great advantages from them without ever suffering misfortune… even if it does no other good on some occasions than gain time, which often is the sole outcome, its employment would be commendable and useful to states, since it frequently takes only an instant to divert a storm.

It is true, that I would never advise a great prince to embark voluntarily on the founding of a league designed for some difficult objective unless he is strong enough to carry it out alone should his allies decide to desert him. Two reasons lead me to this conclusion. The first is based on the weakness of unions, which are never too secure when headed by several sovereigns. The other consists in the fact that lesser princes are often as careful and diligent in involving great kings in important commitments as they are feeble in aiding them, although they are fully obligated to do so. Although it is a common saying that he who is strong is ordinarily right, it is at the same time true that when two unequal powers are joined by a treaty, the greater courts the risk of being abandoned by the lesser.


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