Last week on CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked Fareed Zakaria a question: Did Zakaria think the death of Nelson Mandela might make international statesmen turn pacifistic and more concerned with people’s welfare? Zakaria said in a polite way, of course not.
This exchange was extremely significant. Blitzer apparently thinks that the purpose of diplomacy is to avoid conflict. Zakaria knew that the world is run by power politics. I think that’s the view of post-Cold War naivety–that the post-Cold War conflict resolution model is dominant in the West (Blitzer), although he was clearly discussing wishful thinking–and yet, realpolitik, conquest, and armed force is dominant among people of Third-World origin or citizenship.
Another example last week was South Korea willing to go to war with China if necessary over a submerged rock on their sea border.
On a different level, another example comes to mind. I asked one of my American students who was studying intensive Arabic in an Arabic capital how it was going. His response:
“Fine, except when I had a problem.”
“What?” I asked.
“My roommate was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He asked if I could come back later because he hadn’t finished torturing another student.” That was not a joke!
I think people have forgotten: before countries and great powers dealt with the medical systems and making foreigners instant citizens, they dealt with survival and identity. States dealt with stability, conquest, and defense.
Once upon a time, this behavior was taken for granted. England could fight war for territory against Holland or France. Nowadays, the purpose of Dutch foreign policy is to give out money to Sudan or Yemen.
Nowadays, no EU or North American powers play that way.