Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Limits of “Soft Power”

Painstakingly revealed in this op-ed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Desmond Tutu & former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright.

Robert Mugabe is impervious to soft power diplomacy. If he cared about such things, he wouldn’t be busy beating opposition leaders with iron bars, etc., etc., etc. .

Sending him a memo about the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights * isn’t going to make a whit of difference.

Here’s Tutu & Albright’s stirring call to do… nothing very much:


“We are not suggesting that the world should intervene to impose political change in Zimbabwe. We are suggesting that global and regional organizations and individual governments should make known their support for human rights and democratic practices in that country, as elsewhere. We should condemn in the strongest terms the use of violence to prevent the free and peaceful expression of political thought. We should make clear our support for the standards enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Given Mugabe's consistent unwillingness to respect the legitimate complaints of his people, this is not the time for silent diplomacy. This is the time to speak out.”

In short, they propose talking him to death. Pehaps since he’s 83 or so, that might be a feasible strategy after all.

The other unfortunate thing is by using the phrase "... unwilling to respect the legitmate claims of his people.." Tutu and Albright pretty much concede the Mugabe's sovereignty, and legitimize his rule. After all, there "his" people. Why can't he do what he wants with them?

I know, it's only a poor word choice. But we should expect better from seasoned diplomants.

* “human and peoples rights” seems a tad redundant to me. Does this imply that the existence of non-human people, or human non-people? Just being human or a person not good enough? You have to be a human person?

Maybe this just didn’t translate well from some other language.