It is not a win for Moscow or Washington, but a gainful move for diplomacy and international law.

2013-09-14 12:56

It is not a win for Moscow or Washington, but a gainful move for diplomacy and international law.

This opinion piece is literally punching above my weight; it is beyond my intellectual capacity to examine and try to provide insight into such complex world events. Therefore, the effort is just to contextualise the lack of appetite for war at the global level through the narration of history and offer a prism through which current global developments in relation to Syria can be viewed.

The looming Washington bombing of Syria after the use of the chemical weapon that witnessed over 1400 casualties has thrown international systems into disarray and almost rendered the United Nations Security Council irrelevant overnight, just like the toothless League of Nations.

It is noteworthy to point out that the Second World War invalidated the League of Nations as its diplomacy failed to prevent the Second World War. The League of Nations was the post-world war creation designed to ensure peace and cooperation between countries, and the Treaty of Versailles made provision for its establishment. It was a direct response to the total number of deaths in the nations, which fought in the war, which is thought to have been 8.5 million, with 21 million wounded. Though it was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson of America, America decided against joining the League in order to maintain its isolationist diplomacy stance.

It goes without saying that the League failed to uphold world peace; hence, the Second World War saw the light of day and claimed the lives of many people. This catastrophic failure of the League resulted in the establishment of the United Nations (UN), which is provided for by the United Nations Charter.

The UN Charter’s preamble states,

[to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.]

Article 7 of the Charter provides for the establishment of the UN principal organs such as “a General Assembly, a Security Council, an Economic and Social Council, a Trusteeship Council, an International Court of Justice, and a Secretariat.” These organs function to uphold the Charter's imperatives.

Although there are only a few countries with veto powers within the Security Council, it does give a certain degree of stability or rather diverse views on the international events that are of global interest. However, the eve of Syria’s conflict has seen veto by Russia and China, preventing the international community from intervening in Syria in the interest of peace and world stability. The veto did not only frustrate Washington, but also many organisations and ordinary citizens concerned with human rights violations. However, at first glance, any actions outside the authorization of the Security Council seem to be counterproductive.

It was against this backdrop that Washington decided against using the Security Council to respond to the use of chemical weapons against civilians, which is forbidden under international law. Clearly, such a move brought into question the relevance of the Security Council and International Law as a couple of countries, including South Africa, seems to be against any intervention that is not authorised by the international body, the United Nations.

As American warships prepared for the strike against strategic Syrian locations, Russian warships joined the party to balance the equilibrium in a move that was also seen to give moral support to Assad.  Amidst these moves poised to facilitate what looked like the inception of the Third World War, Putin saved the day (including Obama’s reputation) with the unprecedented diplomatic option requesting that Syria brings before the international community all its chemicals weapons to be destroyed in an attempt to give Washington no reason to bomb Syria. Assad quickly welcomed the proposal in principle. Obviously, now it is about who first submitted the proposal; some say it was Kerry, and others say it was discussed on the sidelines of the most recent G20 summit in Russia. However, Moscow seems to have claimed the diplomatic victory or coup. The world hope is now pinned on the ongoing discussions in Geneva.

Though this opinion piece is punching above my weight, I do believe that what is necessary at this point is that world leaders have managed to prevent what was poised to claim the lives of many innocent people. I’m particularly happy about the fact that the international body is now regaining most needed traction and authority in the international system. It is also noteworthy to point out that it is good to have more than one powerful nation within an international system, as such distribution of power seems to balance the scale of justice and prevent unnecessary deaths.

My hope and prayer going forward is that diplomacy may always win over the deployment of weapons of mass destruction because every life deserves to be lived, and recent history suggests that force is counterproductive.

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