Diplomacy and Doing Right

by Arthur Bismark*

Editor's Note: Regular readers are already familiar with the main series of Bismark Lectures, which we have been reprinting faithfully over the past year's issues, including this one. While the main series is fascinating in its own right, we have recently had the good fortune to recover some of the great Doctor's work which had up until now been thought to be lost forever.

Rumours as to the existence of the so-called Lost Lectures in the Bismark Paper series have been circulating for some time. Through the efforts of publishing contacts in New York, the Envoy [hobby Zine] unearthed at least two such lectures, both of which were available for purchase. Copyright is currently held by a San Francisco convent, "The Little Sisters of the Stabbed Heart", although how this came to be is unclear. The Convent maintains that Arthur Bismark delivered two lectures at a nun's conference in the spring of 1974. In any case, the tone and the theme of the papers are extremely introspective, and here we see the first inkling of the brooding pre-occupations that were to lead the great statesman out of the hobby and up himself.

It has always struck me as strange that individuals are forever trying to introduce morality into Diplomacy. There is far too much agonising about fair play, trust, the rights and wrongs of forgery, copy sending etc. As if we should somehow be constrained to play the game in a manner similar to the way in which we lead our lives. This is naive and misguided. It is a form of cultural imperialism whereby we attempt to graft our own subjective values onto a foreign world. We cannot pronounce moral judgements on the slaughter of innocent, terror stricken bunnies by Diplomatic backstabbers. It's just the way they do things around here.

Diplomacy must be viewed as a whole new world where to be handicapped by such trappings of the old world as honesty, compassion and mercy would be to die. That is not to say one should consider the Great Game immoral; far from it, Diplomacy is the purest form of amoral action. Uncluttered by subjective emotions such as guilt, altruism and the pressures of maintaining lofty ethical standards in an unethical environment, the Diplomat plays out the game in an amoral freefall. He can experience the exhilaration of unfettered thinking and bold movement. The successful Diplomat detaches himself from morality utterly and completely. "Doing good" or "the right thing" is to win. "Playing fair" with allies is simply a meaningless term. The ideal Diplomat utilises alliances up to a point and then puts his partner to the sword with the minimum of fuss.

The moral Diplomat is not only a flawed player; he is a menace to those around him. In his efforts to apply his ill-fitting mores he renders himself a prickly and difficult ally. He may baulk away from your Bismarkian brilliances, he may even shy away from delivering the killing stroke on a fallen enemy due to some fatuitous notion of pity. His greatest failing however is that he is temperamentally unsuited to the game. This is quite obvious when you consider he is attempting the impossible — to win a Diplomacy game without compromising unrealistic moral values.

The best players have no compunction. They act from the purest distillation of diplomatic instincts — self interest and survival. They have no problems with moral justifications and have no need to excuse their stabs. They have paradoxically achieved a state of honesty and purity because their game is unsullied by hypocrisy. They don't suffer the confusion and the agony of the moral Diplomat. For that reason they make better Diplomats.

The blunt fact of the matter is that Diplomacy and morality are an incompatible pair. To be a Diplomacy player is to lie, scheme, cheat and ultimately symbolically attack your fellow players with a diplomatic technique which is described in the most aggressive murderous metaphor — the stab. You can evade the actuality of your acts by seeking to excuse them with limp justifications. In any case you are simply being untruthful with yourself for little gain. Your victim will not be interested in petty excuses and bystanders will see through the hypocrisy of your comments. The Key to successful Diplomacy is to grasp the truth of the game. It decides alliances and alignments. The aspiring Diplomat must learn the rhythm of the stab, so that he can wield it or block it as required. Applying moral precepts or indeed expecting them from other players simply clouds the game and interferers with instincts.

Although many of us feel passionate the game and view it as a way of life almost, we should never lose sight of the fact that it is, in the final analysis, a game. It is not reality or even a paradigm of reality. Why then should we be dogged by real world concerns? Essentially we are sportsmen. Does a tennis player apologise when he slams an ace? Does the soccer player register recriminations because he sold a brilliant dummy and dribbled around the opposition to score? Does the rugby player feel guilt for tackling a player when he least expected it? All those pursuits involve identical elements to those contained in Diplomacy — deception, feinting, aggression, killer instinct. The only difference is that the Diplomat's skills are verbal while the sportsman's are physical.

So carry on deceiving and stabbing, my fellow diplomats — it's the "right thing" to do.

*About the author: Arthur Bismark is a Fellow of the Institute of Pathological Mental Disorders, and an internationally acclaimed authority on paranoid schizophrenia. In 1969 he delivered a series of lectures designed to introduce the art of Diplomacy to hospitalised schizophrenics. These lectures were later published in the Envoy from 1988-1990 and again in FIST! from 1995-1997, and are considered a vital part of the modern day diplomatic arsenal.

Next time: Lecture 6, in which Arthur removes the brain of the Diplomacy cadaver, and points out the many amazing and vital functions this complex device is capable of.

Arthur Bismark
c/o the Editor

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.