The Existential Crisis of the Current International System: Inaction

By Dr. Mustafa Öztop

The current international system began in the aftermath of the Holocaust during the Second World War, as well as large-scale massacres and destruction in Hiroshima-Nagasaki, Dresden, Algeria, and Indonesia. The bipolar Cold War period was shaped as a system that the West wanted to build based on principles and norms and to govern based on power-interest. While this system produced some balanced and fair processes for the actors in the center of the bipolar world, it was a period of great crisis for both the owners of the order and the peripheral (other) actors outside the two poles.

During this period of crisis, the current international system failed to prevent the massacres and genocides in Palestine, Cambodia, Laos, Cyprus, Vietnam, Argentina, El Salvador, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Khojaly, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Sudan, Darfur, East Turkistan, and Myanmar. In these days, this crisis process is deepening day by day. Especially the massacres of defenseless civilians in Gaza by Israel show that this crisis period must come to an end by any means necessary.

Diplomacy for Action

In recent months, demonstrations have been organized around the world to demand Israel to stop its long-standing occupation and massacres in Palestine. In the 10th Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly on Palestine, a draft resolution demanding an “Emergency Humanitarian Ceasefire” was voted on, and despite the votes of 153 countries in favor of a ceasefire, the UN failed to take concrete and effective measures against Israel and to stop the human tragedy in the region. At the UN, where 193 countries are members, the joint decision of 153 countries failed to translate into concrete action. Moreover, on February 20, 2024, the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to stop Israel, condemning all attacks against civilians, and opposing forced displacement, but the resolution was blocked by the US veto.  Similarly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held meetings in Palestine but failed to take any significant action to ensure stability and peace in the region. On February 29, 2024, the European Parliament called for the first time for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza, where Israel continued its attacks.

As seen in these examples, many attempts have been made under the umbrella of international organizations, especially the United Nations, to stop Israel’s inhumane practices and massacres in Palestine and to ensure peace and stability in the region, but no concrete and effective results have been achieved from these attempts. Despite repeated meetings and votes, the UN and other international organizations have remained inactive against Israel’s war crimes, massacres, and lawlessness.

In this context, the inaction of the international system has become the most important problem of the world today. Any diplomatic activity that is not aimed at overcoming this inaction has lost its effectiveness and credibility. Of course, diplomacy is the main way to overcome this inaction, but just as every means to an end does not produce sufficient and necessary benefits, every diplomatic activity that does not focus on overcoming inaction is inadequate. In this respect, at every table and on every ground, it is necessary to go beyond making determinations and focus on steps to overcome this crisis of inaction.

In the face of the crisis of inaction in the international system, some countries, Turkey in particular, have reacted and tried to overcome this inaction. Guarantorship efforts are an important example of this. However, these efforts have also been confined within the boundaries of the existing system. Such periods of great crisis require overcoming the barbed wire that limits the perimeter of ideas and practice. Otherwise, while reform efforts will continue at the UN for years, humanity will face losses that will be difficult to compensate.

In this sense, efforts to overcome inaction against Israeli massacres in Palestine should be sought in new initiatives outside the UN. Similarly, if the OIC is unable to take quick, effective, reasonable, and concrete action decisions (which seems to be the case), Turkey should bring together countries seeking concrete action on Palestine without confronting the OIC. The issue here is to end the human tragedy in Palestine. The expectations that are strengthening among nations in the world are gradually being reflected at the level of governments. This reflection process can be made faster, more effective, and coordinated. Turkey must coordinate and manage this process, first as a humanitarian responsibility and then as a matter of national interest. Turkey’s religious, historical, and geographical conditions also support this process.

If Not Today, When

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently tried to bring Palestinian groups together. One of the main reasons for this initiative is Putin’s realization that the rising anti-Israeli and anti-American voices in the world are tending to produce results. Of course, Putin also wants to intervene in the current situation in terms of geopolitical balances. On the other hand, another example at this point is US President Joe Biden’s statement that air aid will be provided to Gaza. The US, the biggest supporter of Israel’s violation of human rights without any boundaries and law, is trying to manage the reactions rising against it from the world with perception operations such as airdropping aid, which does not solve the problem but has the potential to alleviate the pressure on it.

In general, Turkey’s policy on the post-October 7 developments has been very well shaped. Diplomatic contacts in Egypt, President Erdogan’s definition of Hamas and efforts to make more effective decisions in the OIC, diplomatic activities with regional countries and the US, and many other initiatives have been beneficial for Palestine and Gaza. On the other hand, although the state has taken an important stance on economic activities, it is seen that new measures are needed in terms of economic activities with Israel in the private sector. And more importantly, Turkey should now move on to the next phase of crisis management, which it has carried out successfully so far. Because of this, both responsibilities and obligations have come to the fore, and in real political terms, the avalanche of reactions against Israel and the US from the world has strengthened the ground of opportunities and possibilities.

Moreover, Turkey has conducted more effective and successful policies in Libya, Karabakh, and Ukraine after the Syria experience in foreign policy. In the cases of Libya and Karabakh, the request for support from these governments strengthened Turkey’s hand in the international arena. In Ukraine, the block politics of the parties and Turkey’s policy of balance have yielded very successful results. Yes, there is a different ground in Palestine, but it is certainly possible to reach a better point on this ground. Consolidating the support of countries from the world with full support for Palestine and a clear reaction to Israel, as well as the support of countries from Muslim countries that will not leave Turkey alone on Palestine, will open a new window in terms of achieving a ceasefire in Palestine and ensuring Turkey’s national interests.

Towards Multipolar World

The current international system has been eroded because of geopolitical shifts such as rising US-China tensions during the pandemic in 2020, developments in Karabakh in our immediate region, the US being forced to exit Afghanistan, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and anti-Western trends in Africa. The events in Gaza are moving in a direction that will lead to the collapse of this erosion. What is seen in this picture is that the unipolar system is giving way to a multipolar world. In terms of timing, these developments have created a very favorable ground for new initiatives.

In conclusion, the current developments have shown that the international system is incapable of producing fast and fair solutions and taking steps by the decision of the majority. In this situation, the Islamic countries, the OIC, and all the countries of the world must find a solution to this problem of inaction by the UN. Otherwise, Israel’s relentless massacres will increase the number of dark pages of history, Palestinians will be left to die in front of the eyes of the world and the world will not be able to get out of the vortex of insolvency. At this point, the urgent reform of the UN or the establishment of a new community of nations should be opened to discussion. Similarly, the OIC should urgently reorganize its structure, or a new “Organization of Muslim States” should be established. In this regard, efforts should be made to establish a structure that can produce solutions to the expectations of the nations of the world, make quick decisions, and take concrete steps.

The deepening humanitarian crisis in Palestine necessitates the strengthening of new searches. If these searches are strengthened, a new community of nations may not emerge as a quick result, but the atmosphere strengthened by these searches will both offer a new long-term way out and accelerate concrete decision-making or reform of the UN in the short and medium term.

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