by Jennie S. Bev
The world is both rational and irrational. Specifically, the world of politics is full of irrationality throughout the history of mankind. Thus, it might attest that men are intrinsically irrational, or at least those with power are.
In Laws, Plato said, “Peace is only a name; in reality, every city is in a natural state of war with every other.” Peace is the rational choice, yet those in politics have been deliberately choosing violence in the name of security and maintaining power status quo.
To balance this out, idealists have been using diplomacy as its antidote. But why doesn’t diplomacy always work? Is diplomacy over-rated? Some diplomatic missions are even abandoned due to no result. What are alternatives to diplomacy in building and maintaining peace?
Indonesia is renowned for its “playing it safe” foreign policy, bordering insecurity. Often, for the sake of protecting national interests, which might have stemmed from diffidence due to various reasons, the focus is on domestic affairs, instead of active international relations. For some reason, parochial nationalism still exists among government officials, which is reflected in over protectionism in things that matter, such as medical advancement, while being over liberal in harvesting non-renewable natural resources, such as the mining industry.
The Democratic Party of the USA, to the contrary, is known for adherence to activities based on “supranational constraints on unilateral policies and the progressive development of community norms” based on the Kantian perspective. Such philosophy opens many doors for Barack Obama in his attempt to join the European Union’s leading position in soft power diplomatic missions.
Whether Indonesia should be more active diplomatically goes without saying. Diplomacy is an instrument for both the strong and the weak to build and maintain peace while achieving their goals.
Frankly speaking, while Indonesia has many things to offer other than its strategic location, it is less favorable when it comes to building collaborations in achieving a harmonious world community.
Indonesia should be more diligent in strengthening its mediation and persuasion standpoint pertaining to world issues, which might not necessarily affect the country directly. Being environmentally conscious is a good start and maintaining leadership in this might prove to be beneficial in the not-so-distant future.
The importance of such a standpoint is to join the circle of idealistic internationalism, which was inspired by Immanuel Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” essay. The benefits will pay off over time in the long-term, while at the moment it may simply increase the existing workload of professional diplomats.
Of course, other than language and diplomatic skills, such idealism requires commitment and strong peace building awareness. Personal behavior might receive much attention, but fighting for injustices at various levels might be key.
Diplomacy itself has been used by Indonesia to create an impression that things are going the way it should be and to buy time. Words, after all, are politics’ most useful tools. It’s inexpensive and flexible.
Meanings can be hidden and deeds can be undone as long as the mannerism reflected in wisely chosen words makes sense. Just make sure not to insult any body’s intelligence, as it is common knowledge that many Indonesian government officials don’t necessarily see themselves as equal partners with their peers from other countries.
Also as a tool for the strong, diplomacy can be used for oppressive purposes. Rounds and rounds of talks, summits, and agreements have been deliberately betrayed by Manila in centuries-old Mindanao conflict and in Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, we should keep optimism intact and improvise with diplomatic missions rather than ignoring it all together.
It might have been human nature, at least in the realm of politics, to be irrational and to use threat and violence to reach the destination. Interests, at best, should be directed for people’s well-being, which require intense oversight. And for this, citizen diplomacy is key.
The core of diplomacy is words. Words in action are words that give meaning and words in action are attitudes and behaviors. Mark Twain said, “the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
The core of soft power is also words. Words mark everything, both spoken and unspoken, projected and injected. Words literally make world goes round and words have the privilege to convey the messages of life or death. Using correct words in a diplomatic mission is likely to do more than buying time and creating a favorable image. It literally resolves conflicts and deepens peace, assuming they are followed through with proper deeds.
Anything that violates human dignity, humanity and peace is irrational. It’s my standpoint and I believe it wholeheartedly, because violence — the opposite of peace — doesn’t give the required stability for normalcy and livelihood.
Indonesian leaders and policy makers must return to a peaceful conscience and be less insecure about the past or the future.
The Jakarta Post, July 26, 2010