A Leaderless World Faces The Unthinkable

Sometimes leadership means reaching out for the unreachable to avoid the unthinkable. It is something for would-be leaders to think about

By Anil Madan

Within the last ten days, after North Korea launched a missile across Japanese territory, a U.S.-led effort to condemn North Korea was blocked by China and Russia, each with veto power, arguing that the missile launch was provoked by recent U.S.-South Korea joint military drills.

Think about that for a moment. Two of the world’s largest nuclear nations provide cover to Kim Jong Un even as he threatens the use of nuclear weapons against the U.S. and South Korea. And what did Japan have to do with any of this? The idea that China and Russia would not condemn the very mention of potential attacks with nuclear weapons is preposterous.

Having accounted for these three members of the U.N. Security Council, I pause to point out that the remaining 12 members all voted to condemn the test missile launch. These included, and notably so, both India and the UAE, two states that failed to condemn Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s President Putin is no stranger to crossing what should be a red line for any leader in the modern world, that of threatening its neighbors and all else with the use of nuclear weapons. Putin has done this more than once.

Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons. Whatever the merits of former President Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal may have been, President Biden’s efforts to revive the deal have been met with Iran’s refusal to engage in direct talks with the U.S. Nevertheless, the U.S. has agreed to “talk” with Iran even if indirectly through European intermediaries. Put aside the symbolism of refusing to talk, the fact is that the two sides have established a channel of communication.

The Kim Jong Un regime declares that there is no reason for it to engage in negotiations with the U.S. and South Korea. In other words, the channels are closed.

Recently, when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, China retaliated by cutting off dialogue with the U.S. on many subjects including strategies for dealing with climate change. In other words, the channels were closed.

War produces losers

What do these developments have in common other than a failure to communicate? They evince a disheartening and debilitating absence of leadership in the world. To be sure, all of this started long before the current crop of so-called leaders assumed their charges, but no less than their predecessors, they have seemed blind and deaf to the need for finding a way out of the mess that we humans have created.

There is nothing like a long and devastating war to focus the minds of people on the basic idea that war produces losers all around. Even the victors often have gained no territory, no wealth, no new loyalty, indeed nothing to boast of other than survival. The vanquished have their wounds to lick but their tongues are not the only ones trying to come to terms with loss and injury.

So it was that after World War I the League of Nations was formed. President Woodrow Wilson was one of those leaders who insisted that the formation of an organization, the League of Nations as it came to be called, be the first order of business of the peace conference. For the first time, the nations of the world seemed to agree that aggressive war is a crime, not only against the immediate state that is designated an enemy and made a victim, but against all of humanity. As a corollary, it was accepted that it is both the right and duty of all other states to band together in preventing such aggressive war. The premise was that if all other nations were certain to take preventive action, aggression would not get a head start in the first place. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 14 October 2022

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