International Diplomacy and Impotence

For quite a while now, I’ve been fairly interested by the failure of all too many international diplomatic efforts. Diplomacy has failed on far too many fronts for me to believe that sanctions and some stern words have any real effect on countries set on following their own path. See, for example, Iran, which has been cocking a fairly large snook at the international community for some time and has continued its nuclear power (or armament…?) programme. That excludes its actions in taking fifteen British sailors (now released), which was a circus in which the nation managed to ignore all diplomacy for a good part of two weeks. (Whether the return was the result of diplomatic action isn’t particularly clear to me.) But similar situations are playing out elsewhere. The impasse reached in North Korea is a very good example. Much ground has been made, but North Korea’s refusal to move forward before it receives frozen funds (from Macau, if I recall correctly) has thrown a huge spanner in the diplomatic process in east Asia. Zimbabwe is another case in point: Robert Mugabe hasn’t wilted in the face of diplomacy or international sanctions. If anything, he’s used comments made (or not made, as the case may be) by international parties to reinforce his position. The recent extraordinary meeting of the Southern African Development Community is a case in point: their public silence has meant that his rule and actions can be construed to be legitimate, which is NOT the case. (See numerous snippets from the Zimbabwean state media for myriad examples of this.)

The situation in Sudan is equally bad, if not worse. Diplomatic pressure has yielded few tangible results, while attacks and mass displacement have continued in (and beyond) the country’s western regions. The list of similar countries/regions continues: Israel/Palestine, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, …

And I’ve now run out of steam. I’ve definitely lost most of the minimal faith I had in diplomacy. Given that so many countries are flaunting international pressure, it is becoming easier to do so. (It’s no longer the preserve of major world powers to flex their might.) My loss of faith extends further, unfortunately. The issues originally at stake in the WTO’s Doha talks and the Kyoto protocol are two such issues where most of the large players are unlikely to change their positions in the near future.

That said, however, the aims of diplomatic efforts are in many cases to be lauded, especially in missions to many of the countries I’ve mentioned above. In others, however, national interest takes over, and nothing much is achieved.

Whew. Sometimes I think I am something of an anarchist at heart. (Though in my case, my thoughts on the matter are less developed and less focused.)

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