The Failure of Quiet Diplomacy

by | Dec 22, 2008

We have posted various snippets about the tragedy of Zimbabwe. The Times expresses its dismay at the  failure of British diplomacy to do anything. Today’s Leader neatly captures the British Government’s empty rhetoric

The world has watched the slide towards starvation and collapse in despair. At each stage, Britain, the former colonial ruler has muffled its reaction. Diplomats appeared to think that quiet diplomacy in tandem with Zimbabwe’s neighbours would achieve more than an open call for Mr Mugabe’s overthrow, which, the Foreign Office believed, would be used by the President as proof that colonialists were plotting against him.

Mr Mugabe has made a mockery of African neighbours who urged him to negotiate with his opponents. He has danced rings around the so-called international community. He has outwitted the political Opposition, scorned the result of an election and killed his defenceless compatriots. He is now convinced that he is untouchable, that he cannot be removed from power either by his opponents in Zimbabwe or by any external force.

So far, he has been proved right. Harsh words at international meetings have had no effect. Isolation makes no difference to a country where money no longer has value and government no longer functions. It is high time David Miliband recognised that international intervention is the only course now available to save more than seven million people from catastrophe. Britain’s reticence has been not only fatuous; it has encouraged Mr Mugabe in his hubris and the pampered party and military elite to believe they can hang on and outlast their enemies.

Britain is guilty of more than feeble diplomacy. It has failed to ensure all the loopholes are closed in this country. The United States Treasury has named some 21 companies that it has placed on its blacklist that are still trading with Zimbabwe. Disgracefully, many of these are in Britain or in terrorities controlled by Britain.

The Prime Minister has declared “enough is enough”. He should call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and authorise armed intervention. As The Times suggests

There are enough legal powers, including the visible threat Zimbabwe’s collapse now poses to the health and security of its neighbours. Mr Miliband should respond to Mr Mugabe’s odious claim with his own démarche. The world can take his despairing country from him. And it must.


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    Charlie Edwards is Director of National Security and Resilience Studies at the Royal United Services Institute. Prior to RUSI he was a Research Leader at the RAND Corporation focusing on Defence and Security where he conducted research and analysis on a broad range of subject areas including: the evaluation and implementation of counter-violent extremism programmes in Europe and Africa, UK cyber strategy, European emergency management, and the role of the internet in the process of radicalisation. He has undertaken fieldwork in Iraq, Somalia, and the wider Horn of Africa region.

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