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Diplomacy’s Darkest Hours

MADRID – Diplomacy is not having its finest hour nowadays. Quite the contrary: resistance to diplomatic solutions is a common thread in most of today’s major conflicts.

Afghanistan will continue to bleed until the allies finally recognize that only by engaging the Taliban do they stand a chance of ending the war. But the West will also have to recognize that conflicts with a potent cultural and religious component are simply not susceptible to a military solution – a realization that points toward ending the ostracism of political Islam – Hamas and Hezbollah, for example.

Meanwhile, Iran’s unstoppable rush to develop nuclear weapons could prove to be a monument to the international community’s failure to stem the atomic tide in the region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be the diplomatic charade that it has been for many years now. And nothing has attenuated the tensions between Israel and both Syria and Lebanon.

History teaches that diplomacy all too frequently produces results only when backed by overwhelming power. Such was the existentialist worldview of US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Theodore Roosevelt, a major advocate of American expansionism: “A just war is, in the long run, far better for a man’s soul than the most prosperous peace.” A century later, another American president, Barack Obama, immersed in two hopeless wars in the Middle East, received his Nobel Peace Prize with an apology for “just wars.”