Day By Day

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Problem with the "International Community"

Many years ago, when I was taking an undergraduate degree in "International Affairs", one of my professors, a distinguished member of the foreign policy establishment, made a statement that shocked me at the time. He said, "International law works best when and where it is least needed." Over the succeeding decades I have become more and more convinced of that proposition.

International law works well when all the participants are in general agreement on fundamental rules, goals and procedures -- in other words, when there is a broad consensus that precludes serious conflict. But in the absence of such consensus international law is essentially void because the mythical "international community" cannot mobilize the resources necessary to make it stick.

Today we are faced with just such a crisis as cannot be effectively addressed by the toothless "international community." Stefan Nicola, writing for UPI, reports the paralyzing distress and frustration of EU leaders faced by EU diplomats when they confront people who won't play by the rules of the game.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new President of Iran, doesn't play by the rules. He has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," has called for it to be relocated to Europe, has blatantly intervened in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and Iraq, has pushed ahead in the development of nuclear and other WMDs in open defiance of international prohibitions, has purged the Iranian government of potential rivals, and is mobilizing the country to meet an anticipated invasion. We've all seen this movie before. Right now Ahmadinejad is a flaming nuisance. With nukes he's a real threat.

So how does the "international community" react?
'His [Ahmadinejad's] comments throw a shadow over the whole negotiation process,' Erwin Haeckel, Iran expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based foreign policy think tank on Thursday told United Press International in a telephone interview. 'There is a certain feeling of helplessness: What to do with Ahmadinejad, what to offer him?' [emphasis mine]
That's the instinctive response of the Eurocrat elites. Appease, speak softly of your "concerns", toss a few bribes out, and hope for the best. But that won't work with Iran, so more strenuous measures are being contemplated, to wit:

[T]alks collapsed in August when Iran reopened a plant in Isfahan that had been locked down under a November 2004 deal between the so-called EU-3 and Tehran, known as the Paris Agreement.

In light of Ahmadinejad`s aggressive rhetoric, the EU-3 are fated to strike a harsher note, observers say.

The President of the Jewish Central Council in Germany, Paul Spiegel, said the EU-3 should wave goodbye their 'appeasement politics,' break off diplomatic contacts with Tehran and think about economic sanctions.

The German Green Party said Iran should be excluded from next year`s FIFA Soccer World Cup in Germany. The international soccer federation FIFA on Thursday quickly announced that was not an option.

'The only way you could hurt Iran is by sanctioning on oil exports,' Haeckel said. 'But that is virtually impossible because our global economy depends on a stable oil price which you could wave goodbye in case of an Iranian oil embargo. Ahmadinejad knows that very well.'

Stopping talks altogether could destroy the hope for a peaceful solution of the conflict, said Johannes Reissner, Iran expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a Berlin-based think tank.

'We need to stay on the ball here,' Reissner on Thursday told UPI. 'Breaking off talks because of Ahmadinejad`s recent remarks would be wrong, it would lead to nothing.'

Read the whole thing here.

Notice how every proposal, even weak ones like banning sports teams, is immediately followed by a statement that such action would be impossible or even counter-productive. This is the mind-set of the "international community" and it is one that is entirely inappropriate to the revolutionary times in which we live.

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