Belmont Club

Roundup

Forces loyal to Mohammer Khadaffy bombed the Misrata fuel supply recently, using a modified crop duster. Rebels claimed 3 months worth of fuel went up in flames after the attack by the improvised bomber. Other sources, however, say artillery and not light aircraft were used for the attack. This comes as Italy prepares to send “self-defense” equipment — some limited type of weaponry — to the rebel forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron have both said they believe U.N. resolutions on Libya allow arming the rebels.

But other nations in the NATO alliance that is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and bombing Gadhafi’s military have opposed arming the rebels.

Belgium came out against the idea and Germany has insisted there could be “no military solution” in Libya.

The reluctance to send arms stands in contrast to former willingness of Italy, France, Malta, Germany, Britain and Portugal to arm the former regime. AFP reports that Khadaffy has stepped up his assault on rebel positions across the country.

Moamer Kadhafi’s troops unleashed a salvo of Grad rockets on towns in Libya’s western mountains Saturday, killing at least nine rebels as they pressed the insurgents on several fronts, rebels said.

Forces loyal to the Libyan strongman shelled fuel depots in Misrata and dropped mines in its harbour using helicopters bearing the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, the rebels said as they braced for a fresh ground assault.

“It seems that the more desperate Kadhafi gets the more he unleashes his firepower on the people,” said Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the opposition National Transitional Council.

In other news, the Telegraph reported increasing concern that staunch US ally Pakistan is preparing to smuggle parts of the stealth helicopter used in the Bin Laden raid into China.

Pakistan has a well-established military relationship with China, working jointly on the JF17 Thunder fighter project. The Chinese have exclusive access to a naval port.

The People’s Liberation Army is in the early stages of developing an attack helicopter that would benefit significantly from stealth technology. The Chinese are experts at reverse-engineering, using Western technology to develop its own armoured vehicles, warships and aircraft. It recently released photographs of an aircraft that closely resembled the US Air Force’s highly advanced F22 Raptor.

But Pakistan felt confident that neither the Bin Laden raid nor any dealings over the stealth helicopter parts would have an adverse effect on the amount it received from the US. The Pakistan Daily Times quoted senior Pakistani officials who said that nothing in the relationship would change.

Talking to reporters after attending the meeting of Economic Advisory Council on Saturday, Federal Minister for Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh, responding to a question about the possibility that US might suspend aid to Pakistan in the wake of the Abbottabad incident, said there was no such danger as economic relations between the two countries were at government-to-government level. He said the federal cabinet would decide about increase in the salaries of the government employees in the budget.

Economic Affairs Division secretary was also of the view that there was no chance of blockade of the US assistance to Pakistan due to the prevailing situation.

He also said that resolutions were often tabled in the US parliamentary institutions and these were always referred to the parliamentary committees for heated debates but very few votes were cast in favour of such resolutions when time for the voting came.

These incidents illustrate how diplomacy and military action are often found acting together in international relations. Rarely are bullets exchanged without accompanying diplomatic notes. In the modern world especially there is rarely such a thing as conflict without conciliation. No sooner does the cruise missile go out then the Hallmark Card is in the mail. Even during World War 2, the Allies maintained some kind of indirect relationship with the enemy via humanitarian relief agencies or neutral countries. But today diplomats keep on smiling, keep on laughing even as others are locked in mortal combat.

RAND, in a monograph published in 2008, dubbed the act of talking to the enemy “diplomatic track two”. It asks, “What has been the payoff?” The payoff is mostly in keeping lines of communication open between hostile parties.

As a result, we need to set realistic expectations about what track two can accomplish. Track two dialogues on regional security are less about producing diplomatic breakthroughs than socializing an influential group of elites to think in cooperative ways. …

Such dialogue serves as a conditioning process in which regional actors are exposed to new concepts, adapt them to their own contexts, and shape policy debates over time.

Winston Churchill said that “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”. But when you send the wrong message the riposte to the word is often the deed in dudgeon. RAND notes that Track Two may increase rather than reduce hostility between parties who until merely hated each other in the abstract. Faced with real human beings with repulsive personal qualities, the parties in conflict might hate each other even more.  It writes, “indeed, interactions in track two dialogues have, in some cases, led participants to develop views of their adversary that are more rather than less negative.”

That means the ambassador to Track Two talks must be chosen carefully. Any old motormouth or fool won’t do. Sending Jimmy Carter to North Korea or Hillary Clinton to Pakistan or Jesse Jackson anywhere may, depending on the cultural context, make things worse rather than better. For example, Yonhap News believed that Jimmy Carter was purposely humiliated and insulted by Kim Jong Il during his last visit. The Korea Times wrote, that in the context of the traditional Confucian respect for aged persons, Kim’s snub of Carter was especially insulting.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Pyongyang this week turned out to be a non-event partly, if not primarily, because Kim Jong-il didn’t show up. …

Although omnipotent in North Korea, Kim is also known to have a “softer side” too. That is, being raised in a Confucian society, he respects age. Even former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung pressed Kim to make concessions during the historic 2000 summit, reminding the North’s leader that he was older. Carter is 87 years old, much older than Kim Jong-il. This makes us more wonder at Kim’s refusal to meet Carter.

One source told the Korea Times that Kim refused to see Carter because he now a nobody. “Kenneth Quinones, a former U.S. official, who was in charge of North Korean affairs at the State Department during Carter’s visit to North Korea in 1994, pointed out that Carter and three other retired state leaders were religiously motivated, while having little to offer in terms of real political leverage.”

Although diplomats quite naturally believe in the efficacy of the profession. The hard men of the world are sometimes less sentimental. Where the West offers the hand of friendship the enemy can see weakness. Hand them an olive branch and they’ll flog you with it. As RAND notes, the Track Two can be useful but it is normally a secondary channel. It can help, but only when its messaging is coordinated with the main policy. It is rarely decisive by itself and it sometimes does more harm than good.


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