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Sorry is the Hardest Word

CANBERRA – Apologies, or the lack of them, have been back in the news, raising questions again about how useful they are in resolving international problems. The efficacy of timely and sincere apologies in defusing personal tensions cannot be doubted. Is the same true for diplomacy?

In some recent cases, the issue has been not much more than an irritating sideshow, as when Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded an apology from the United States late last year for causing unintended civilian deaths – at the price, bizarrely, of allowing the Americans to continue defending him and his country (the US understandably refused).