Except for that rarified species of intellectualoid, ensconced in a permanent state of denial, the type that tends to either reside in the far reaches of academia or performs as a talking head on boring Sunday TV programs, one thing is now abundantly clear: All the king’s diplomats and all the king’s Nobel peace prizes won’t put Humpty Dumpty or a Middle East peace together–either again or ever.
Despite its grandiose history, even its most vocal defenders would be hard pressed to name a single instance in world history when a major conflict was settled by diplomacy alone. The disaster in the Middle East is merely the latest in a multi-millennial unbroken series of failures. There is a simple reason why diplomacy always fails. Compromise, when between individuals, is invariably difficult to achieve, but will eventually occur because of personal limitations, such as physical strength, time, or money. This notion can never work amongst nations since the very negotiators have no personal stake in the process! If the negotiations fail, they live on to talk another day.
Stalin, Hitler, Arafat, Roosevelt, Johnson, Lincoln, Churchill, Tojo, and any other warlord you care to name could commit untold human resources to achieving his end, with no risk to himself. Long gone are the days when princes Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and Diomedes would themselves face the opposing army.
Any time one discusses diplomacy, there are so many ironies, it is becomes one big sick joke.
Even now, the US State Department is making Israel promise not to hurt Arafat. Let’s see. WE want to kill Osama bin Laden, but Arafat should not be harmed. I suppose that is because Arafat is a “legitimate” leader. But then, so was Muammar Qaddafi, who became much quieter when we nearly killed him. Even now, our State Department is pining away for the good old days of Rabin, whom they could “work with.” Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? You could work with the likes of Rabin, you could just never accomplish anything.
It seems to me that killing Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Tojo would have been preferable to the deaths of 55 million common people. Heck, you could have taken FDR, De Gaulle, and Churchill too, and called them martyrs. The numbers are still in my favor.
For all our talk of diplomacy, this very country of ours was founded in the Revolutionary War, that started BEFORE our diplomats crafted the Declaration of Independence. For all our professed love of negotiations, Janet Reno and company had hardly scratched the surface, when a military strike force stormed a modest South Florida home to capture dangerous fugitive Elian Gonzalez. Go figure.
By far, the most often cited example of failed diplomacy is British prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement toward Hitler in September, 1938. In fact, it should be regarded as one of the few successes, limited though it was.
Kissinger and Arafat got Nobel Peace prizes for accomplishing NOTHING. Chamberlain, at least, postponed a war, that Britain was ill-prepared to enter as it did, a full year later. He was, for a short time, regarded as a popular hero, and despite the talk of “Peace in our time,” sped up the British rearmament program. In March, 1939, when Hitler grabbed the rest of Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain disavowed appeasement, and established Anglo-French guarantees of armed support for Poland, Romania, and Greece in the event of similar attacks. Soon after, peacetime military conscription was instituted for the first time in British history.
One wonders what more he could have done, noting that the mood in Britain at the time was anything but bellicose.
As for the United Nations, that ultimate shrine to failed diplomacy, Lewis Fein suggests that it should be converted to condos. Call me old-fashioned, but I really preferred the slaughterhouses that were there before.
Kind of appropriate, don’t you think?