No one can find praise enough for the heroic people of Ukraine, whose struggle against aggression and tyranny will one day take their place in the finest annals of human history. And we thank our lucky stars that western democracies have seen the danger and are stepping up to the plate with supplies of all kinds. Yet in one important area our efforts are lacklustre at best, and floundering at worse. Diplomacy, and its associated trope of sanctions. Why are countries like South Africa, India and China so wary of what at first sight seems a clear-cut case of right and wrong?
Before we condemn, let’s see the arguments from their point of view. The current state of play is admirably summarised by Jose Caballero in this incisive article for The Conversation. Inequalities in access to things like the IMF are still firmly skewed the West’s way, And structures like the UN Security Council are frankly decrepit, reflecting a world pecking order more akin to 1945 than 2023. 
We at LSS think there are deeper, historical reasons why the West no longer asserts the diplomatic and above all moral pull that it once did, say around its apparent moment of triumph back in 1991. In reverse order these are:
1 The Capitol riots of 2020 If you wanted to run a TV advertisement to show that the Enlightenment values of Reason and rational enquiry were dead, this would scoop all industry awards. Didn’t this country once have someone called Thomas Jefferson, or something?
2 The Election of Donald Trump 2016 If a political system can throw up operatives of this quality, what’s the point of Democracy anyway?
3 Brexit 2016 An old and mature democracy went through a whole referendum and produced this outcome of -how shall we say?-suboptimal economic success. It even did the exact opposite to the wishes of its most fervent supporters, with immigration now far higher than it was in EU days
4 The Financial Crash 2007-2008 So what’s so good about western capitalism if this is what it does?
5 The Iraq war 2003 Most of the above flowed from this catastrophic decision, which we have discussed before. See LSS 18 3 2023 and its references to the analysis by Jonathan Freedland. Particularly the bit about the more boastful hangers on of the Bush Administration who seemed to hint that Beijing was next on the list after Baghdad.
None of which exactly inspires admiration, does it? Especially of you throw in more general themes like inequality, global warming and antibiotic resistance, all of which have their roots in the political and economic systems designed and run by western corporations. It’s not that we deeply love or admire the countries named above, or wish to emulate their political and state security systems. But they are made up of people. Some of them intelligent people, who understandably take a jaundiced view of the above list, and cannot be expected to rush to our support with wide eyed, naive enthusiasm.
“Physician heal thyself” is a sound maxim. We really do need to put our own house in order before we can once again expect our ideals to flourish once again. At base, they are the right ones, and it would be a pity if they were lost.
#india #china #brazil #south africa #un #ukraine war #russia #united states