The idea of collaboration between nations is a difficult one to ponder; there are often too many rifts in religion, society and notions of expansion to make peaceful relations easy. However, scholars throughout history have attempted to find ways to secure that magic formula for allowing countries to interact peacefully with one another; many of these theories have overly optimistic views on how nations and peaceful diplomacy works, while some attempt to find realistic common ground between two or more sets of people. Madeleine Albright’s perspective on diplomacy rests on finding common ground through religion and faith. Conversely, Thomas Friedman relies upon the Dell Theory, or ‘flat world’ theory, to state that countries will not go to war with each other “as long as they are both part of the same global supply chain” (The World is Flat, p. 421). However, there may well be room for both of these disparate theories to work together in order to ensure collaboration between nations, as these ideas are not mutually exclusive.
Faith-based diplomacy as a strategy for international and foreign relations revolves directly around connecting countries together through their religious beliefs (Cox & Philpott, p. 31). According to Albright, “Religion is a powerful force, but its impact depends entirely on what it inspires people to do” (Albright, 24). Religion is often used to cause wars based on differences of opinion, but there are fundamental tenets of religion that extend along many faiths that can be very useful for international relations. Ideas of peace, cooperation and harmony are present in most religions; these notions can be utilized to great effect to allow nations to collaborate; in this way, “faith-based diplomacy can be a useful tool of foreign policy” (Albright, 31).
Thomas Friedman, in his Dell Theory, believes that the global supply chain creates an ever-increasing web of interdependency on each other that makes it economically impractical to go to war. In the case of the Taiwanese elections of 2004, “the voters seemed to understand clearly how interwoven they had become with the mainland, and they wisely opted to maintain their de facto independence rather than force de jure independence” (Friedman, p. 128). As a result, Taiwan found it best to collaborate with the rest of China over the results of the elections instead of trying to fight for independence. This happened because of the economic risks of the conflict, which they found too great to dismiss.
According to Friedman, a nation’s standard of living is the be-all end-all incentive for whether or not to go to war with another nation. Regardless of the fundamental differences in opinion or policy, if two nations are too interdependent on each other for their essential step in the global supply chain, they will find it unfeasible to go to war. In today’s globalized climate, underdeveloped nations wish to ingratiate themselves to international corporations, who might then include them in their business. Granted, the Dell Theory “does not make wars obsolete,” as the danger of philosophical differences erupting into war is still necessary (Friedman, p. 128). However, Albright’s faith-based diplomacy has the potential to alleviate or treat whatever religious or philosophical disparities might exist between nations before they erupt into full-scale war.
The emergence of faith-based diplomacy as a means of helping nations work together is becoming more visible – a 2011 conference on the subject concluded that “an appreciation of faith can strengthen foreign policyparticular religions affect the course of international affairs, andthe religious community can infuse the practice of public diplomacy with the intellectual energy born of its beliefs” (Seib, 2011). Albright seeks to use faith-based diplomacy to “replace traditional diplomacy”(31); however, faith-based diplomacy itself will have a greater impact if it is supplemented by a more practical, material incentive for peace such as Friedman’s Dell Theory.
The issue of conflicting faiths may not have to be a problem – there are many instances where people of different religions might work better together. “It is often simpler to deal with people of completely different faiths than with those who share a religion but disagree about how it should be interpreted” (Albright, 31). However, even if religious differences do arise, Friedman’s Dell Theory would help to offset this possible issue by creating economic, material incentives for remaining peaceful. Studies have shown that even vulnerable populations with extremist anti-American views are willing to accept health supplies, and the development of a global health diplomacy supply chain would help to diminish extremism (Kumar et al., 2009). In essence, the presence of needed supplies and a position on the global supply chain overrides whatever religious animosity extremist nations and factions may have against a country.
Albright’s perspective on religious-based diplomacy asks to “know your faith at its deepest and richest best, and enough about your neighbor’s faith to respect it”. (Albright, 30). In order for two countries to find common religious ground, they have to respect each other’s faith, even if they do not agree with it. There is tremendous potential in faith-based diplomacy – “Religion at its best can reinforce the core values necessary for people from different cultures to live in some degree of harmony; we should make the most of that possibility” (Albright, 31).
Friedman’s ultimate point is that countries are far too dependent on each other for supplies and goods now to really make war a feasible option. Consider two countries in the global supply chain who wish to fight each other; “if they choose to go to war anyway, the price they will pay will be ten times higher than it was a decade ago and probably ten times higher than whatever the leaders of that country think” (Friedman, p. 128). This can be the ultimate failsafe for preventing war, while Albright’s faith based diplomacy works to achieve positive common ground – “religion at its best teaches forgiveness and reconciliation” (Albright, 26).
In conclusion, Friedman and Albright’s theories have the potential to work together in order to ensure collaboration between nations. Albright’s idea of faith-based diplomacy permits the emotional and religious-based concerns of countries to rest, by appealing to senses of religious belief and fundamental similarities in moral code. This can be supplemented by Friedman’s threat of economic collapse or damage as a result of armed conflict with a nation on whom the other nation likely depends for supplies and products. This confluence of material needs and religious commonality can be combined to create a two-pronged approach to foreign relations. When a country collaborates with another, they can do so out of both sheer practical need and religious doctrine.
Albright, Madeleine. “Faith and Diplomacy.” Emerging. Ed. Barclay Barrios. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 23-31. Print.
Cox, Brian, and Philpott, Daniel. “Faith-Based Diplomacy: An Ancient Idea Newly Emergent.”
Brandywine Review of Faith & International Affairs, Fall 2003. 31-40. Print.
Friedman, Thomas. “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention.” Emerging. Ed. Barclay Barrios.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 121-139. Print.
Friedman. Thomas. The World is Flat. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Print.
Kumar, S., Honkanen EJ., & Karl CC. “Developing a global health diplomacy supply chain – a
viable option for the United States to curb extremism.” Journal of Health Communication
vol. 14, no. 7, pp. 674-89. 2009. Print.
Seib, Philip. “Faith Diplomacy’s Importance is Growing.” The Huffington Post, March 31, 2011.
Web. < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-seib/faith-diplomacys- importan_b_841725.html>.