1. Months ago, the writer began to pen episodes that were presented as “The Dictator’s Tantrum.” Originally, the topic was a vehicle to share something funny and bizarre with the reader. Recently the laugh stopped and the matter got serious. With that the conflict turned into a lesson about dealing with dictatorships and their “Leaders-in-need-of-treatment.” As it unfolds, the story is also a warning to potential hostages about going to work in dictatorships or visiting there.
Long ago, Geneva’s police arrested Gaddafi’s son Hannibal in a luxury hotel for beating his imported personal servants. Once Hannibal returned home Dad Gaddafi had two Swiss working in Libya arrested for violations of immigration rules.
In August, the acting President of Switzerland went to Tripoli to settle the matter. There he gave the Gaddafi family the factually unwarranted apology they demanded in their tantrum. He did so even though, “Mr. Son” has been handled according to the laws of the realm. Naïve Mr. Merz returned without the hostages but with promises. He guessed that the Libyans did not want a high publicity welcome for the returned hostages. A government plane and the head of state would have had that effect. The idea was that the hero’s welcome, such as the one given to the Lockerbie bomber by with which Libya’s violated its promise to Britain, had to be avoided. He did, however, have the commitment of the ranting dictator that by the end of September the case would be closed in exchange for an “independent” investigation of the arrest in Geneva. Therefore, a government plane was sent to bring the hostages back quietly. After three days, the plain was ordered to return empty. Following some complication, the deadline passed and the hostages stayed. Supposedly, the Leader was insulted because a local paper published a picture showing Hannibal while under arrest. The Libyans now claimed that all that they had promised was to take some action regarding the detainees. That promise was fulfilled by referring the issue to the Ministry of Justice. “Justice” and the “independent judiciary” did not see it fit to ignore the alleged overstaying of visas.
Now the matter gets more serious. The two Swiss who resided in the Embassy were asked to come to a hospital for a pre-exit check-up. Was it the facility in which the “Bulgarian nurses,” that were sentenced to death for infecting children with Aids, used to be working? The insinuation was that this examination is to prove that the detainees were in good health prior to their release. Well, the presumably healthy hostages never returned from their check up. For weeks now, they are being held in an unknown place. Violating several rules, they are not allowed to have contact to either their consulate or to their family.
Late developments. Libya protests the Swiss foreign minister’s recent use of the term “hostage.” We learn that the two non-hostages are free. However, they are kept in a safe place where no one can harm them. (Be sure you are seated as you digest the absurdity that follows!) The secrecy is needed to prevent Swiss commandoes from kidnapping them Entebbe style. Again, the Swiss, presumably having been invited to do so, sent a plane to Tripoli with foreign office staff to resolve the matter diplomatically. The would-be “negotiators” returned empty handed.
Typically, the humiliated Swiss are confused. Should they apply retaliatory sanctions? Those would anger Gaddafi. Whatever they do, the international community will not help them because Libya has oil money. Furthermore, no one wishes to irritate dictators unless they are directly involved. Who cares, unless he has to, about Lockerbie, the “nurses case” or bozo’s recent stand up comic show at the UNO? That being the case, a criminal regime is again “getting away with it.” That eggs on other similar systems to emulate the example. Just think of Iranian and North Korean promises and their ignored, consequence-free disregard that is followed by new demands and delays. The comportment jeopardizes everybody and signifies a crisis of the international order. The global order is being undermined by discrediting, through their misuse, the proven procedures that sustain it. The pattern that emerges promises to lead to more and more substantial violations. For those transgressions the now silent potential victim states and the “international community” (what a misnomer!) is responsible.
2. Elsewhere, too, the tactic of “on again, off again”, but never delivering on the promises made, proves to be an effective approach. This is a profitable recipe for negotiations that amount to warfare by diplomacy. The trick that aims to make political capital out of the credulousness and good will of “the other side” should not function more than once. Nevertheless, as Pyongyang’s and Tehran’s ongoing cases prove, it works even if it is part of a repeated ritual. All one needs to do is to apply the ploy brazenly. Well-intentioned negotiators that are not swayed by negative evidence in their attempt to find a “solution “no “matter what” guarantee a good return.
3. Politics’ real or imagined necessities produce more than only strange bedfellows. A fall-out of the pairing can be classed under “odd mutations.” Some of the virtual prostitutions – see above – actually reflect an inner inclination that is in need of a public saving justification. The view has little merit that “realism” should keep one from setting moral norms when negotiating with eccentrics. Those supportive of that proposition also hold that, one sidedly, we need to be content with the politics of the possible. Therefore, we are to accept the truncated success that is a consequence of self-limiting principles.
4. Slovakia’s new language law imposes a maximal fine of €5,000 ($7,500) for violating the primacy of Slovak. The matter has now been raised in the rather reluctant-to-hear-it European Parliament. Members of state organs (administration, police, hospitals) are now under orders that they may only speak Slovak when on duty. If therefore, in a Hungarian-speaking region one addresses a police officer in Magyar then, even if the cop is also a native speaker of it, he may only respond in Slovak. Even if the client does not understand, what he is told. One wonders whether the regulation also applies to English and German. (No. It is possible that in a Magyar speaking town the railroad station’s signs are in Slovak, German, English but not the idiom of the residents.) There has been an extended period during which “Europe” tried to ignore the situation in the pious hope that the problem will resolve itself. The consistent jacking up of the issues having a background in bizarre practices such as described above, forces reluctantly extended international attention to arise. Even the US’ Bratislava representatives are reported to have claimed they have taken notice of Europe’s minority commissar’s, Kurt Vollebaek’s concerns.
5. The following gem further illustrates the general insanity that can be the consequence of running a state whose theory makes it want to be unitary while in reality it is multi-ethnic. This wish tries to ignore reality created by the disturbing, centuries or millennia-old presence of minorities that are local majorities. When this happens, the result is what would be a joke if the implication would not be serious. Take a village. It has 1,500 inhabitants. Five of these are natives to the official and protected language of the state. The village elder has always made announcements on the public address system in the majority’s language. He is now accused of violating Slovakia’s language law. Comparable is the case of a local paper that appears in Hungarian/Magyar. Absurdly, it is now asked to publish the ads it carries in Slovak.
6. A problem arises with the expanding size and the resulting ethnic complexity of state territories. Unless a federal system able to accommodate local peculiarities is accepted, the central power will tend to secure the land by extending its purvey. This authority claimed by the center of power creates a political context in which dictatorship flourishes. First, it functions in the name of the majority over the allegedly separatist minority. Ultimately, it subjugates the originally consenting but shortsighted majority, too.