The continuing slaughter of women and children in Gaza is a painful reminder of the inadequacy of international institutions and our collective inability to impose order, let alone justice, in the world. The absence of a united ‘international community’ is plainly one reason it is so difficult to address even the most confronting and unnecessary of humanitarian crises.
There are others, though, which may point to an even more pervasive and corrosive threat to the way we conduct and think about international relations.
It is not only the Palestinians who are being brutalised at the moment, though. So are we, albeit at an altogether less traumatic, sensory level. The increasingly routine nature of human suffering not only deadens our emotional responses, it also risks normalising high levels of indiscriminate organised violence as an acceptable part of international affairs.
Cynics may say it was ever thus, but it’s important to recognise that – until recently, at least – there seemed to be a growing aversion to using force to ‘solve’ international problems.
This is – or was – not only surprising, but mildly optimism-inducing, especially when seen against the backdrop of what some of the leading lights of international relations theory would have us believe.