Todd’s challenge: vocabulary

Hello, hello! I’m back!

And now I want to see how your vocabulary is coming along! Here is the ‘Preventive Diplomacy’ text that was used on the 2014 third phase exam. We will work on it as a summary exercise in the course. But for now, let’s see if you can answer these 5 questions regarding vocabulary.

They’re tough; they’re tricky; so take your time and use the contextual references to your advantage.

Good luck!

* The Answer Key is available below.


Underrating Preventive Diplomacy

by Michael S. Lund, Foreign Affairs, July/August 1995 (excerpt re-written by IRBr examiners)

The malaise of U.S. foreign policy is such that academic gadflies now debunk any proposal sounding suspiciously positive. The charge is that proponents of preventive diplomacy oversell its potential and naive policymakers are taking the bait. It is argued that problems of prescience, policy prescription, and political support mean the “intractable” conflicts “endemic” to the post–Cold War period cannot be averted unless major resources are invested in situations in which risks are high and success doubtful. Preventive diplomacy, the contention runs, merely means that one founders early in a crisis instead of later.

Scaremongers conjure up a nightmare in which zealous purveyors of preventive diplomacy mesmerize unwitting policymakers into buying a discount antidote for local quagmires that has little potency and hidden side effects. Yet responsible proponents of preventive diplomacy obviously do not presume easy solutions to such disasters can be found, nor do they advise key players to do something, just anything, in dealing with incipient conflicts, tout preventive diplomacy as a cure-all with no cost or risk, or assume no value judgments need be made. Not only do the scaremongers distort the views being expressed, but they also insult policymakers by implying they would fall for such policy nostrums.

Advocacy of a policy slogan is confounded with adoption of the substance behind it. The fact that “preventive diplomacy” is a buzzword of foreign policy does not imply that early warning and conflict prevention have become official doctrine or standard operating procedure. The term “preventive diplomacy” refers to actions or institutions that are used to keep the political disputes arising between or within nations from escalating into armed force. These efforts are needed when and where existing international relations or national politics fail to manage tensions without violence erupting. They come into play before a point of confrontation, sustained violence, or military action is reached.

The claim is that while we know the societal conditions that stoke the chances of war or state collapse (e.g., poverty, environmental degradation, ethnic and economic divisions, and repressive and corrupt regimes, and so on), murky individual and group decisions make it impossible to predict exactly when and where violence will surface. But just because political forecasting is not rocket science does not disqualify it. Early-warning specialists are, though, making progress in pinning down the probable precipitants of more gradual, public phenomena such as ethnic warfare, genocide, and the breakdown of states. Demonstrations, repressive measures, hate rhetoric, arms buildups, separatist communities forming parallel institutions: these signs one ignores at one’s peril.

In Estonia, for example, restrictive citizenship and language laws adopted in 1993 by the newly independent government were perceived by resident Russian speakers – then a third of Estonia’s population – as discriminatory and threatening. Mindful of this group’s powerful patron next door, the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and other governmental and private actors acted preventively to allay tensions.

The rub, so the argument runs, lies in knowing what actions to take. But preventive strategy is not the stab in the dark that some observers insinuate. The blanket view that ethnic tensions uniformly lead to intractable conflicts is based on a few recent instances where, despite efforts to avoid it, violence has ensued: Croatia, Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. One should look instead at the numerous ethnic and national disputes deemed potentially destabilizing and menacing that were actually managed in relative peace: Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, the breakup of the Czech and Slovak Republics, Congo’s transition from autocracy, Zambia’s nonviolent shift toward democracy, and Hungary’s moderated relations with its neighbors, among others. Such success stories are virtually ignored. Only two policy options (“little more than talking” or armed force) are mooted, whereas governments and NGOs have resorted to a gamut of measures to influence parties in disputes.

One may well be skeptical that preventive action would save more lives, cost less, and obviate the need for humanitarian intervention. No need, still, to go to the opposite extreme, wherein the financial and political cost of preventing such crises is prohibitive. The logic of conflict escalation is prima facie support for the view that less violent and short-lived disputes offer much greater opportunities for peaceful management by mediators. Issues in those types of disputes tend to be simple and singular, disputants are less rigidly polarized and politically mobilized, fatalities (and thus passions) are low, and communications and common institutions may have survived. Other states or external groups are less likely to have taken sides and may even share an interest in keeping local disputes from burgeoning.

The calculus of deciding whether preventive diplomacy is worth the price must comprehend the costs of alternatives such as mid-conflict intervention and noninvolvement. That includes not only lives lost and injuries, but also the price of humanitarian relief, refugee aid, and peacekeeping, if done. It should also include the cost of losses in health, education, infrastructure, trade and investment opportunities, and natural resources.

The feeling is that the public will not endorse preventive diplomacy’s risks and costs, but the considerations described above cast the issue of “political will” in a different light. Preventive efforts are often much less challenging and more prosaic than cases in which a government must endeavor to rouse the country to expose troops to possible danger abroad. For example, the dispatch of 500 American soldiers to join the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Macedonia was hardly noticed. Were preventive diplomacy to prosper, incipient conflicts would not even reach the desks of the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper echelons, and the Pentagon.

Rather than ignore crises and threats out of some unexamined theory of their imagined intractability, policymakers might prudently track political disputes around the world and develop policy options for addressing them promptly rather than belatedly. That would enable decision-makers to better assess whether they should act, when, with what means, and with whom. As successes mount, the burden of proof will shift to those who would still defend the notion that current wait-and-see policies and practices are best. The stakes in these potential crises are simply too high for such options to be dismissed with cavalier analyses carping on about a few frustrating experiences.

Vocabulary and Grammar:

1. Determine if the sentences from the text could be substituted by the following sentences. (in green)

a) The malaise of U.S. foreign policy is such that academic gadflies now debunk any proposal sounding suspiciously positive.

Can be replaced by:

The discontent with U.S. foreign policy is such that academic meddlers now derail any pitch sounding shadily optimistic.

b) Preventive diplomacy, the contention runs, merely means that one founders early in a crisis instead of later.

Can be replaced by:

Preventive diplomacy, the controversy proceeds, solely means that one dawdles early in a calamity rather than later.

c) Scaremongers conjure up a nightmare in which zealous purveyors of preventive diplomacy mesmerize unwitting policymakers into buying a discount antidote for local quagmires that has little potency and hidden side effects.

Can be replaced by:

Doomsayers evoke a nightmare where fervent spreaders of preventive diplomacy enthrall unsuspecting policymakers into swallowing a cheap remedy for local predicaments that has little vigor and veiled side effects.

d) Yet responsible proponents of preventive diplomacy obviously do not presume easy solutions to such disasters can be found, nor do they advise key players to do something, just anything, in dealing with incipient conflicts, tout preventive diplomacy as a cure-all with no cost or risk, or assume no value judgments need be made.

Can be replaced by:

Nonetheless, accountable advocates of preventive diplomacy clearly do not assume easy-outs for such misfortunes can be encountered, nor do they advise fundamental players to do something, simply anything, in tackling emergent disputes, hype preventive diplomacy as a panacea with no cost or peril, or presume no value rulings must be made.

2. Determine if the following statements are true or false. (in purple)

I) The linking words “while” (p.4) and “whereas” (p.6) are interchangeable both grammatically and semantically.

II) The linking word “but” (p.4) can be replaced by “yet” without changing the grammatical structure of the sentence.

III) The linking word “though” (p.4) can be replaced by “nevertheless” without changing the grammatical or semantic structure of the sentence.

IV) The linking word “despite” (p.6) can be replaced by “albeit” without changing the grammatical structure of the sentence.

3. Determine if the following statements are true or false. (in blue)

I) The expression “confounded with” (p.3) can be replaced by “muddled with”.

II) The expression “escalating into” (p.3) can be replaced by “nose-diving into”.

III) The expression “pinning down” (p.4) can be replaced by “pinpointing”.

IV) The expression “carping on” (p.10) can be replaced by “harping on”.

4. Determine which of the following statements is true. (in yellow)

I) The expression “naive policymakers are taking the bait” (p.1) can be replaced by “innocent politicians are falling through”.

II) The expression “these signs one ignores at one’s peril” (p.4) can be replaced by “these omens one disdains at one’s own risk”.

III) The expression “acted preventively to allay tensions” (p.5) can be replaced by “took steps precipitously to appease the disputes”.

IV) The expression “stab in the dark” (p.6) can be replaced by “wild goose chase”.

V) The expression “endeavor to rouse” (p.9) can be replaced by “seek to goad on”.

5. The conditional expression “Were preventive diplomacy to prosper, incipient conflicts would not even reach the desks of the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper echelons, and the Pentagon. (p.9) can best be replaced by which of the following? (in red)

  1. Should preventive diplomacy thrive, initial conflicts will not even be assessed by the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper levels, and the Pentagon.
  2. If preventive diplomacy waned, budding conflicts would not even be analyzed by the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper strata, and the Pentagon.
  3. Had preventive diplomacy burgeoned, early conflicts would not even appear within the ranks of the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper branches, and the Pentagon.
  4. If preventive diplomacy flourished, emerging conflicts would not even be considered by the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper ranks, and the Pentagon.
  5. Were preventive diplomacy to have succeeded, embryonic conflicts would not even be scrutinized by the National Security Council, the State Department’s upper tiers, and the Pentagon.

* ANSWER KEY.

Do you need help with English?

Matricule-se já!


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Todd Marshall é professor de inglês do Curso Sapientia. Mais informações sobre Todd e sobre a prova de inglês do CACD, veja este vídeo.

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