Diplomacy without Justice

Diplomacy without Justice

Reza A.A Wattimena

In one of his press statement, Marty Natalegawa, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that Indonesia would put diplomacy to reach consensus as a paradigm of its foreign relations in 2010. Diplomacy that led to the consensus will be the main weapon of Indonesia to respond to issues of bilateral and multilateral world, both the scale of domestic, international, or intermestik, when the difference between domestic and international issues are not too clear. (Kompas, January 9, 2010)         


That brief argument looks sensible and noble. However, there are big problems behind it. Is consensus was simply a form of conformism, and resulted in sacrificing the fundamental interests of the Indonesian people for the sake of reputation? Is diplomacy and consensus is a cover for fear, cowardice, and the inability of Indonesian government to assert his rights as a sovereign nation, or diplomacy is a really sincere efforts to resolve the conflict by taking into account the fundamental interests of related parties?

Diplomacy to reach consensus is the right way to resolve the tension or conflict in various fields. However, diplomacy is not necessarily reach consensus. Disensus, as opponent of the consensus, sometimes needed to achieve justice. Indonesian foreign policy should not reflect the cowardice in the form of excessive desire to reach consensus, but in the end resulted in injury to the public interests.

Disensus and Postmodernism

In philosophy, arts, and social sciences, the paradigm of postmodernism was born as a revolution against all forms of thought, which has a universal claim. One of postmodernist thinker, Jean-François Lyotard, stated that grand narratives, namely the universal thoughts, have lost its legitimacy, and no longer the sole authority in the world. The one remains are small narratives that embedded in the locality of culture or a particular world perspective. (Lyotard, 1979) As a result, difference is more important than unity, and disagreements are more important than the consensus, which often cover the facts of injustice.

Lyotard’s argument creates a big tension in philosophy and social sciences in his time. Philosophy, which for centuries search for truth in the form of an absolute synthesis, are now facing challenges from various directions. The difference and disensus considered more able to accommodate justice than unity and the consensus. Diversity and openness to disensus show the reality of uncertainty, and the humility to continue to seek solutions while maintaining firmness of identity.


Indonesian foreign policy in 2010, as stated by Marty Natalegawa, needs to consider this paradigm. Excessive longing to reach a consensus, without any attempt to confirm identity and, if necessary, to create disensus, will only create injustice situation. That seems to be Indonesia’s foreign policy so far. Cowardice is clothed with excessive conformism. The ‘diplomacy to reach a consensus’ becomes an empty jargon.

Diplomacy is a means to maintain the rights of one’s nation, and not a means to sacrifice the rights of nations in search of temporary safety.


True Consensus


A German thinker named Jürgen Habermas challenges Lyotard’s view. The concept of political disensus will not solve community problems. Disensus political anarchism would lead ultimately to destroy society itself. Therefore, diplomacy to reach consensus is the only way to achieve a stable political and fair.

Habermas gives an account of the conditions to achieve a fair diplomacy. Simply put, he wrote, that diplomacy must comply with at least three signs, namely honestly, truth, and comprehensive. Honesty means the parties involved in discussion states the facts as it is. Truth means to follow the logic of argument that can be understood by common sense. Comprehensive means of diplomacy rests on a comprehensive data. The ultimate goal of diplomacy, Habermas calls discourse, is the free consensus of rational discourse. (Habermas, 1994)


Lyotard and Habermas actually have the same goal, namely to create justice through diplomacy. Lyotard wants to avoid false consensus that often occurs. Habermas wants to reaffirm the nature of diplomacy, namely to achieve a rational consensus that is free of domination, and make justice a primary objective. Indonesia’s foreign policy needs to consider the arguments of these two great thinkers. Diplomacy to achieve consensus is a good way. However, consensus should be a true consensus, which built on honest, true, and comprehensive communication.If it not happened, disensus is a way to go. In these situations, disensus is a way to achieve justice. We should not be fascinated by the lofty slogans, such as diplomacy to reach consensus, and forget, that behind it often occurs injustice. ***

Writer is Lecturer in Faculty of Philosophy

Widya Mandala Catholic University, Surabaya

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Diterbitkan oleh

Reza A.A Wattimena

Dosen Hubungan Internasional, Universitas Presiden, Cikarang. Peneliti di President Center for International Studies (PRECIS). Pendiri Program Pengembangan Diri dan Pengembangan Organisasi "Sudut Pandang". Penceramah, Peneliti dan Penulis di bidang Filsafat Politik, Pengembangan Diri dan Organisasi, Metode Berpikir Ilmiah dan Kebijaksanaan Timur. Doktor Filsafat dari Hochschule für Philosophie München, Philosophische Fakultät SJ München, Jerman. Beberapa karyanya: Menjadi Pemimpin Sejati (2012), Filsafat Anti Korupsi (2012), Tentang Manusia (2016), Filsafat dan Sains (2008), Kebijaksanaan Timur dan Jalan Pembebasan (akan terbit- 2016), Melampaui Negara Hukum Klasik (2007), Demokrasi: Dasar dan Tantangannya (2016), Bahagia, Kenapa Tidak? (2015), dan berbagai karya lainnya.

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