Why Diplomacy and International Law Matter

Why Diplomacy and International Law Matter

The ongoing dispute over Crimea has led more than one person around me to welcome power politics and decisiveness in the use of force internationally, as opposed to negotiations. My own education leads me to believe that diplomacy and respect for international legal frameworks are not only highly valuable as such, they are the only means for stability and security in the long term. Here’s why.

Guns are important. They are very important, in fact. But no state would be willing to use them unless absolutely necessary. Troops are expensive, and every life counts, especially in those countries where there is accountability and free and fair elections: no-one is going to vote you back in power if you caused someone close to them to die. Ever since 1945, international use of force has been outlawed, except if approved by the UN Security Council, and in self-defence until the Security Council takes up the matter. Humanitarian intervention (the “Responsibility to Protect” or “R2P”) is a new category that has been slow to gain currency internationally, as opinions vary widely on recent cases, such as Libya. States as sovereign entities have thus agreed to ban the use of force by adopting the UN Charter. What is more, there is no provision to leave the UN in its charter. Almost all states signed on to this agreement after the Second World War, and new states ever since have been quick to join the UN. Statehood and UN membership are more or less synonymous today. Therefore, use of force has ceased to be a value in international affairs. War is no longer a glorious, patriotic undertaking, the way it was portrayed in centuries past.

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