Diplomats are rarely dreamers or gamblers. The experience of grinding negotiations means that most ambassadors and their advisers dislike big ideas and unnecessary risks. But sometimes they have to take a gamble in pursuit of national goals.
Governments and independent experts have found countless metrics to evaluate the successes and failures of military interventions such as those in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, judging them on everything from casualty rates to the provision of public services. The number of girls attending school in Afghanistan, for example, has been a standard point of reference for supporters of the NATO mission there.
But what metrics can be used to evaluate a deliberate nonintervention?
Does Lakhdar Brahimi have any good options for ending the Syrian war? Brahimi has served as the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria for more than three months, having been chosen to replace Kofi Annan in August. Unlike Annan, who tried to mediate a resolution to the conflict under constant media scrutiny, Brahimi has adopted a low profile. But like Annan, he has struggled to find a way to bring the regime and rebels together.
The wars in Mali and Syria have followed very different trajectories over the past month. While Syria has become symbolic of international inaction, France’s use of force in Mali has shown that some Western governments are still willing to launch new interventions abroad.
Despite the presence of 1,500 peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). U.N. planners believe that drones would improve the operation's ability to track, and possibly pre-empt, hostile militia movements in future. There are further plans to deploy drones to other U.N. missions in West Africa.
History may be about to play a nasty trick on the Obama administration. The diplomatic renaissance in the U.S. seems to be coinciding with a worrying decline in interest in diplomacy among other powers.