Dec.01, 2014 | HANDBOOK OF INTL.DIPLOMACY 

Handbook of International Diplomacy―The Authoritarian Edition: Diplomatic Schadenfreude or How To Score Points

There is a long tradition of authoritarian regimes finding great delight in the misfortunes of their adversaries, especially those that are self-inflicted. Diplomatic savoir-faire dictates of course that you refrain from public displays of smugness. Nonetheless, such occurrences are  not-to-be-missed opportunities for diplomatic point scoring. Namely, to spin the news in your favor and self-righteously accuse your foes of something they have surely at some point pinned on you. In other words, applying a diplomatic veneer of self-righteousness to your schadenfreude.

 

The extent of such inopportune (for your adversaries) events to exploit for your benefit is wide, from the innocuous (China criticizing France for smog in Paris) to the systemic (North Korea telling off the US for its high incarceration rates and economic inequality).

 

A stellar case study is the recent racially charged turmoil unfolding in Ferguson USA and spreading throughout the country. This has proven an ideal opportunity for the usual bearers of anti-Americanism to look down in smugness and neutralize any criticism they have received by America or American-backed bodies regarding human rights. Some of the highlights for your reference:

 

• Russia, a stalwart of human rights violations and practically a democracy only by name, talks about "large-scale domestic problems with safeguarding human rights" and a "systemic flaw in American democracy".

 

• China, another notorious human rights abuser, mentions that "racial divide still remains a deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart" and that "U.S. human rights flaws extend far beyond racial issues". Crowning its scathing critique is the advice to America to "concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others", encapsulating perfectly the collective venting of all the criticized authoritarians the world over.

 

• Not to be outdone, North Korea, riling from the recent vote in the UN to be referred to the International Criminal Court over its human rights record, also weighed in with its own unique lyrical style calling the US among other things a "tundra of human rights". Of course for the North Korean propaganda standards this was kind of mild. Previous characterizations include "tundra of a human being's rights to existence" and "living hell" inhabited by "cannibals seeking pleasure in slaughter".

 

• Iran went a step further in the hypocrisy scale, not only castigating America for its abysmal treatment of its minorities but using Amnesty International sources to back its claims. The irony of course being that Amnesty has much more and much harsher things to say about Iran rather than the US. For more succinct critical absurdism there are also Grand Ayatollah's tweets. 

 

• But probably the award for sheer cheekiness goes to the Egyptian military government who has called for restraint and urged America to follow international standards in dealing with protests. This is the same regime whose recent crack down on protesters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government has resulted in 1,400 deaths and more than 15,000 prisoners, many of who have been given death sentences.