Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dangerous Diplomacy in Syria

When does diplomacy become dangerous? The answer: when it is not sincere. Now that may sound a tad naïve, but give me a moment of your time to explain. The purpose of diplomacy is to allow nations to settle differences through talk rather than war. It can work, and it can fail miserably. The most often cited case of diplomacy failing is the now infamous peace plan brokered by British Prime Minister Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler just prior to the outbreak of World War Two, and Chamberlain's famous words "Peace in our time". More often than not diplomacy solves small issues between nations, while the more serious, or strategic issues generally have ended in military action.

In todays world we have all kinds of "diplomacy" happening every day, and all day long, but we also have wars raging during the same period. In fact, diplomacy has been reduced to acts of one-up-man-ship for some theoretical "moral high ground" rather than its intended purpose of resolving disputes. The peril that results from this kind of behaviour leaves mankind with no real dispute mechanism other than war, or the "Law of the Jungle" - might is right and the end justifies the means.

Just recently I had the unfortunate privilege of watching the Israeli military Chief of Staff give a brief interview regarding a possible Kurdish state being formed from the countries of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Although that push to create a Kurdish state from these countries is not news, his particular delight in the idea, and his "too cute for words" pronouncement that Israel wouldn't be opposed to such a development, as he smiled into the camera, was in a word shocking. It wasn't shocking because he believed in the idea, but rather it was shocking because he showed no respect for the territorial integrity of the three nations already at war for their survival. In other words, while Israel sits somewhat quietly on the sides of these conflicts, feigning if you will diplomacy, in reality Israel isn't uninvolved or sincere.

Similarly, while the United States sits at one UN Security Council meeting after another, in many cases over Syria, and attempts to diplomatically pressure the Syrian government and its allies, one of its senior Generals recently pronounced that the Syrian army and its allies would not be permitted to cross the Euphrates River to enter Eastern Syria. Take a moment and consider that General's pronouncement. The Syrian army would not be permitted to enter the eastern half of its own country... Where in the rules of international law could this statement be rooted? The idea that a sovereign power cannot exercise sovereignty over its own territory is an affront to the very foundation of nationhood. An exception to this rule can me made in cases of genocide, such as Rwanda, but that is clearly not the case in Syria.

In fact, with the establishment of at least two US airbases in eastern Syria, and according to the Turkish government at least ten US bases of all types in the same area, it is clear that the American government is occupying eastern Syria in order to reinforce the Kurdish annexation of that area in order to establish a Kurdish state. The impending independence vote of the Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq, an area also heavily aligned with the US government, reinforces the notion. Yet, and here comes the dangerous diplomacy, the Americans continue to posture internationally that they want a peaceful settlement of the Syrian civil war.

The question then becomes, obviously, how sincere are the US diplomatic pronouncements about peace in Syria? The answer quite clearly is they are not serious what-so-ever. That leads to a greater problem: if the US is not serious about its diplomacy in Syria, then is it serious in its diplomacy toward Iran, North Korea, or even Russia and China? Should these countries take American diplomacy seriously at all, or should they rely on military means to resolve their inevitable national clashes of interests? Therein lies the danger of diplomacy without sincerity, and diplomacy that ignores its fundamental foundation which is international law. How nations must act toward other nations.

Real diplomacy has resolved some of the world's most anxious moments. The Cuban missile crisis comes to mind. There was also the fall of the Berlin Wall. These were crisis that, once resolved by diplomacy, gave nations a chance to move forward without the direct use of force. Yes, they had their origins in force, but sincerity and adherence to international law overcame the threat of war, because the nations involved sincerely did not want such a confrontation. That is missing today. On a daily basis we here one side or the other threatening nuclear war, or "limited" nuclear strikes as doable. The aim is not to restore international law, or for that matter international order. The goal quite clearly appears to be the reverse - "strategic interests or national interests" trump (pardon the pun) the law of nations. The same type of scenario the world witnessed just before World War Two and the "peace in our time" declaration. It was not "appeasement" that didn't work in 1939, but the sincerity behind the "appeasement". The exact same conditions exist today. So, yes, dangerous diplomacy is alive and well, and ruling the hearts of men and women who lead their nations, but conveniently toss the lessons of history to the side - at all our peril.