Diplomatic hostilities resumed today between Zimbabwe and the rest of the world, as Barack Obama lead several countries in pouring condemnation on Robert Mugabe’s regimen. The decision to uphold trade sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year is hardly surprising, but what is really noteworthy is Obama’s choice of rhetoric:

The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe [...] has not been resolved. These actions and policies pose a continuing, unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.

Seems rather similar to a certain G.W. Bush nearly six years ago:

The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

I’m not comparing Obama to Bush, or suggesting that an Iraq-style campaign against Zimbabwe should be undertaken. However, it seems like ‘threat’ is a very active noun for Barack to use, and it suggests escalating action in the near future. He may not refer to terrorism, but the choice to call this an ‘extraordinary’ threat sets up Zimbabwe as an unavoidable issue.

The main reason the UN has not interfered in Zimbabwe so far is that the only threat Mugabe poses is to his own people. Whilst his actions and policies may result in a domestic humanitarian crisis, it is not a crisis of international relations. Therefore the rest of the world contentedly sits on the sidelines and prefers to act via aid rather than intervention or, dare I say it, regimen change.

One thing is clear: Zimbabwe cannot stay the way it is for much longer.

Getting down to work

Getting down to work

A week on from Obama’s inauguration, and he sure is quick getting to work on the unenviable task of cleaning up the biggest mess America has found itself in since the ’30s.

Closing Guantanamo Bay on Day One was obviously a key symbolic victory for liberty and the concept of a fair trial, and his early diplomatic phone calls show his commitment to pursuing peace in the Middle East.

But today we hear the news which, for me at least, is the biggest step forward for this new administration. Obama and his team are ready to take on a global villain called Robert who has been wreaking havoc in Africa.

I watched intently last March as the spectre of Mugabe seemed to wane, before he heartlessly overthrew the election result and drove his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai out of the country. Now it seems the UN is finally readying itself to step in, taking the lead from Obama’s UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

This policy decision is all the more admirable considering the aforementioned American mess – you would have thought Obama would be content with juggling a collapsing economy, motor industry and two contentious foreign conflicts. I guess he just likes a challenge.

This move for me marks the biggest difference between the Bush years and the fledgling Obama era. Instead of simply consulting the UN just in case they agreed before firing gung-ho into Iraq, it looks like though Obama is keen to get everyone (or at least the majority) onside before getting serious about Zimbabwe. Seems international diplomacy isn’t dead after all…

p.s. For those who prefer their commentary on international politics to be more well-read and erudite, please have a look at this blog by my good friend Charlotte.

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