We all know about threats, boycotts, sanctions and invasions. But not enough attention has been paid to the snub, which is also a useful and sometimes enormously effective diplomatic tool. Thanks to its royal family -- yes, there are some advantages to retaining the monarchy -- the British had the opportunity to deploy a well-timed snub on Thursday: They disinvited the Syrian ambassador to the royal nuptials.
Given that the Syrian government is currently murdering hundreds of its own citizens, this seems a fine gesture. The ambassador admitted that he found the disinvitation “embarrassing,” as well he should have done: Representatives of tyrannical governments should find it difficult to enter polite society, and should encounter cold shoulders when they do. It was precisely because he feared similar “embarrassment” that the Crown Prince of Bahrain also removed himself from the guest list a few weeks ago, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, the British foreign office failed to apply this principle across the board, and as a result the list of wedding attendees is rather weird. For arcane reasons of protocol, the entire diplomatic corps is automatically invited, including the North Korean ambassador; for equally opaque reasons, “royalty” from around the world - the King of Swaziland, for example - are also invited, whereas democratic heads of state, including President Barack Obama, are not. Most bizarrely of all, former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are excluded, while former Prime Minister John Major is on the list (on the grounds that he is a Knight of the Garter, if you really want to know). And Sir Elton John? He is attending because he is a personal friend of the family - so that explains it.