The recent gathering of diplomats hosted by Saudi Arabia in Jeddah was a notable event – at least in size and participation, if not outcomes. Over 40 nations were represented, with the “peace talks” revolving around pathways for ending the war in Ukraine.

The Russians weren’t there, so it was easy for everyone to agree “in principle” that Kyiv should get all of its territory back. But the entire affair was really just a Ukrainian attempt to corral support, especially from the Global South, for president Zelensky’s unrealistic 10-point “peace plan” as if peace is a popularity contest rather than the bloody outcome of a tragic conflagration.

The Saudis had their own motives for playing host to this rather pointless exercise, to do with the never-ending jockeying for power and influence within the Middle East and projecting some sense of respectability and concern for human rights abroad. Just as with the African delegation that went to Kyiv on a “peace mission” in June – comprised of no less than five presidents, including Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa – the Jeddah get-together was less about actual diplomacy and the war at hand, and more about posturing and political opportunism.

The very notion of holding “peace talks” without one of the belligerents present would have been nonsensical until relatively recently. In the age of social media, however, where the optics of concern for world peace and of “relevance” on the world stage seem to matter more than the substance, such chances to play at “diplomacy” and take instagram selfies are not to be missed.

But there was a time when peace – and stability – was a serious pursuit, with serious and responsible statesmen like Henry Kissinger striving hard to achieve it in the teeth of vicious opposition from the ever-present pro-war hawks’ party.

Civil society was more interested in the matter then, certainly during the Cold War but also up to the 2003 Iraq War. But today even the traditionally anti-war radical Left across the US and Europe has turned from the subject, leaving mostly elements of the Right to argue for the virtues and necessity of peace in its stead.

This atrophy of our collective peace-making and peace-willing powers is not accidental; it has profound causes stretching back years – even decades, by now. It goes hand in hand with the progressive descent of Western society and political culture into the dumbed-down, distracted, corrupt, increasingly authoritarian and farcical carrousel of absurdities we now see in public life on a daily basis.

Read the rest at Brussels Signal.

Gabriel Elefteriu is a Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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