Posts Tagged ‘Saving Face’


About “Face”—Ottoman Style

March 5, 2010

If anyone has any doubt about the extent of the “face” issue and how it is playing out in today’s world (both political and business), they  merely have to read the latest news about the vote by the House Foreign Affairs on the 100-year old Turkish-Armenian controversy.

The House committee has voted to pass a resolution that states that in the early 1900’s the Turks committed genocide by killing approximately 1.5 million Armenians. The Turks are so upset (even though the atrocities occurred during the Ottoman era) they’ve threatened to recall their US Ambassador. The Turkish pressure to stop the resolution from passing was so intense that President Obama even reneged on one of his campaign promises that stood on the side of Armenia. Apparently, getting Turkey to agree to sanctions against Iran is enough justification to break a campaign pledge.

Secretary of State Clinton weighed in last week warning the committee chairman that the resolution could harm reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia. Maybe the secretary has a new found respect for the issue of “face” after her Pakistan and China forays that created tension and controversy. In Pakistan she accused the government there of not wanting to catch the Taliban and the China/Google hacking issue is still making news.  This is not to say Secretary Clinton isn’t a good and capable chief diplomat; she definitely is, but her American-style bluntness—or disregard for  “face”—has had its shortcomings.  

The Armenian lobby in the U.S. Congress is very powerful and is part of a larger global effort to have the Ottoman era killings labeled by governments worldwide as genocide.  A similar resolution, pushed  by the influential Armenian lobby efforts was passed in 2007, but was prevented from getting a full House vote by the Bush White House (during that time there was a fear that the Turks would prohibit use of a certain military base that was key  to the U.S. Iraq war effort).

This century old issue has not been this hotly debated since the tragedies occurred—it’s an issue that is certainly a resonating indicator of the omnipresent and enduring influence of the concept of “face.”

For a greater understanding of “face” and its global cultural impact, pick up a copy of my book, Lies, Bribes & Peril.


US Envoy visits North Korea

December 9, 2009

As a part of a continuing story highlighting both Negotiation and Face Lessons, this meeting was, without doubt, set in motion by the series of events culminating with the trip President Clinton made to North Korea last August to ‘negotiate’ the freedom of the imprisoned journalists Lisa Ling and Euna Lee.

After grabbing Ling and Lee, thus obtaining the Negotiation Leverage he needed, Kim Jung Il broke from the six party talks in April and then proceeded to make a nuisance of himself on the world stage, acting more in keeping with a South Park episode than running a country. He launched numerous missile tests (worrying even the Chinese as gosh knows no one thought the North Koreans had any clue as where they might go after being fired) and even threatened Hawaii on the 4th of July (Okay, not even Stan & crew would be so outlandish).

From both a Negotiation and Face standpoint, the Administration and all concerned handled it well and that’s why it was successful.

As I said on various radio programs (during that time) it was a great way to bring Jung Il out of his cartoon world.  By saying “they had nothing to do with it, The Administration could open a dialogue without seeming to acquiesce to Jung Il–a major Face issue for the Administration. Jung Il gets to seem (to his own people) like a major world player by the visit of former President Clinton (in most Asian cultures a former US President holds a unique revered status reflecting their reverence of age & wisdom)—a major Face coup for Jung Il.

The true Negotiation was held well before President Clinton got on that plane.  All was set in stone to insure Face was enjoyed by all.  The Administration could condone but not appear to overtly participate & Jung Il looks like a bona fide world leader at home. Letting the Negotiation for the journalists freedom play out precisely as it did, and thereby ignoring the crazy missile launching and threats, enabled this meeting and perhaps a shot at bringing North Korea in line with world regarding nuclear proliferation.