the Disillusioned kid: The Fine Art of Diplomacy
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Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Fine Art of Diplomacy

There are a lot of people in the anti-war movement who tend to view the Iraq conflict as Bush's idea which Blair felt compelled, perhaps begrudgingly, in order to try and rein in his over-zealous American colleague. I happen to think this is complete rubbish. Blair was a committed advocate of the invasion, approaching it with messianic zeal in the hope of ensuring his place in history (which he's certainly done, although perhaps not the way he intended). I used to comment, only half-jokingly, that the key difference between Blair and Bush was that the former knew when to smile and how to spell diplomacy. Recent events suggest that I may have been a little generous. He certainly knows how to smile, but perhaps he isn't so strong on the diplomatic front.

The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Paul Berenger, visited the UK yesterday and had hoped to meet with Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. He was however denied such a meeting. Berenger had hoped to discuss the question of Chagos and its population, displaced to make way for a US military base. Apparently angered by recent moves to prevent the Chagossians returning to Diego Garcia, the only inhabited island in the Chagos archipelago, Berenger has hinted that Mauritius may leave the Commonwealth and take the UK to the International Court of Justice (not to be confused with the International Criminal Court, the former is for disputes between states, the latter for cases against individuals) in the Hague.

The refusal to meet with Berenger and changes to the law on the eve of the visit, to prevent such a claim being brought, drew criticism from Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary general, who The Times notes, "all but accused Britain of behaving like an old-fashioned colonial power". He rebuked the government, remarking, "You do not hit someone over the head before they come to your front gate." This is the contempt with which our Government treat their foreign counterparts. Are they really any better in this regard than Bush (who incidentally did meet Berenger, as did Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, when the Mauritian PM visited the US recently)? If so we may need to reconsider our moral compass.

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