International relations is a very interesting discipline because it grapples to explain states behaviour and relations throughout the world. International relations is therefore about government relations and cannot be explained clearly without delving into each country's culture, domestic policy, economics and its historic influences.
It is indeed true that debate on the Zimbabwean draft constitution must be done without any fear or favour. Professor Jonathan Moyo raised a very important issue of a clause in the Copac final draft constitution, Clause 2.5 (1) (b) which says that "The foreign policy of Zimbabwe must be based on 'among other things': respect for international law."
The purpose of this article is to ignite debate on Clause 2.5 (1) (b) of the Copac final draft constitution. Our argument is that a country's constitution must be based on the citizens of that country's wishes. Our foreign policy as Zimbabweans must therefore be a reflection of the people's wishes and not necessarily a respect of international law that is not beneficial to our own national interests.
Arguably every country's respect of international law is seen in various conventions or treaties the state leaders have ratified or appended their signatures to. A country's foreign policy is therefore a reflection of its national interests, interests that it seeks to achieve at whatever cost.
It is therefore erroneous to argue or even suggest that Zimbabwe's foreign policy must be based on respect for international law.
Our foreign policy as a country must be rooted in our own historical experiences as a people. It is public knowledge to every serious student of political science or international relations that foreign policy is determined by the government of the day.
It is in this light that our point of departure is to define what foreign policy is followed by foreign policy objectives and then some of the factors that have a bearing or shape the foreign policy process.
It must be understood that "the study of foreign policy is about how countries define their national interests, establish their goals, decide on specific issues and attempt to implement those policies which help them to realise their goals.
According to B Russett foreign policy is "a guide to state actions taken beyond its territorial boundaries to help further its goals by influencing the behaviour of other states." It is therefore the behaviour of one state towards other states. Different countries therefore embark on various strategies to guide their actions in the international system.
For instance why the United States, Britain or members of the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe? Or why Americans and the Coalition of the Willing (COW) which we can arguably term a coalition of the weak invaded Iraq in 2003? Or why NATO forces bombarded Libya resulting in the cold blooded murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011?
It must be pointed out that the United States embarked on an aggressive foreign policy because of its strategic national interests in the Middle East, what Stevenson termed the "oil factor." Any government that tries to impede America's interest in that region will arguably be caught in the cross fire and regimes will arguably be changed one after the other to ensure that the US will continue to benefit.
It does not need a rocket scientist to explain why NATO besieged Libya as it did and through out of the window ideas of morality.
When it comes to national interest then the powerful will always do what they want and the weak will always be subjected to the wishes of the powerful for "might is regarded as right".
Zimbabwe was again slapped with illegal sanctions for embarking on the land reform exercise. Strategically Zimbabwe had to embark on the "Look East Policy" to survive. Zimbabwe as a country had to survive or sink hence our foreign policy was not to be determined by respect of international law, but national interest.
Law includes norms of permissible and impermissible behaviour. It provides order. It serves ethical and moral functions aiming in most instances to be fair and yet international law is flouted time and again by powerful countries.
International law is a body of legal rules and norms that control activities that are carried out outside the legal boundaries of states. It must be noted that Public international law deals primarily with the rights and duties of states and intergovernmental organisations as between themselves and this involve the law of war, a state's responsibility to foreigners, dispute settlement etc.
If these big powers who strongly contend that mighty is right had any respect for international law then the world would have been a safe place to live. As a matter of fact this would entail that a country's sovereignty would be respected and there would be minimal interference in the affairs of independent states.
This is not to say that there should be no intervention where genocidal activities are embarked on like what happened in the case of Rwanda. Realists contend that the most important actors in international relations are states. The state government answers to no higher authority, guards its position jealously. The government makes and enforces laws in the territorial entity under its jurisdiction.
To put it crudely, but accurately each country's foreign policy is premised on power, on how each country can continuously try to influence or control other actors so that they behave in ways that are beneficial to it, ways that promote its national self-interest.
It must be pointed out that the notion of national interest is embedded in the principle of national security and survival. Interests in foreign policy are therefore issues that are very significant to the well-being of the state such that they cannot be compromised.
Secondly, foreign policy objectives are things that governments pursue in the international system for example status, political and economic power. Foreign policy objectives may be concrete or less concrete, while others may be constant over long periods of time whilst others may be transitory.
Leaders of various states may embark on a wide range of public and sometimes private individual and conflicting objectives all under the guise of national interest. Arguably, George W. Bush had a score to settle with Saddam Hussein of Iraq that was diabolically insulated in the American quest to destroy the so called Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Theorists differ on what states and statesmen want to achieve in their foreign policy formulation. Realists contend that security objectives are paramount in foreign policy formulation. Notably after the September 11 (9/11) terrorist attacks, America's foreign policy was rooted in fighting terrorism and all else was dividend to security.
Liberal theorists on the other hand opine that the objectives of any country's foreign policy are on long term economic and social welfare of the whole society like American interests in the Middle East and Britain's interest in Zimbabwe.
Radical theorists posit that in any country's foreign policy, economic objectives are tailored to promote the interests of particular classes and individuals in society and not the society as a whole.
The political culture of a country has got a tremendous bearing on a country's foreign policy formulation. Political culture refers to a county's long held fundamental traditions, attitudes and beliefs that are premised on two things.
One, a country's national historical experience that is events and experiences that have shaped the perceptions of the country's citizens must have a bearing on foreign policy formulation.
Zimbabwe's colonial experiences must help shape our foreign policy.
Secondly, national belief system, that is ideas and ideologies that the people hold (especially the leadership) such as nationalism, Marxist-Leninist ideas, sovereignty, etc also have an influence on foreign policy formulation.
This is why we strongly contend that Prof Moyo has raised very important issues that must not be swept under the carpet. He has correctly pointed out that, "there would be no Zimbabwe without the liberation struggle. Excluding it as a founding value and guiding principle of any new constitution or of the state is an indescribable and most shameful betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe and their historical current and future aspirations."
We opine that this is tantamount to breaking a covenant. A covenant that all who fought for the liberation of this country made to see to it that this country would be liberated through sweat, tears and blood.
A covenant to fulfil Mbuya Nehanda's prophecy that her bones would one day rise, a covenant that all the brave sons and daughters who did not return are symbolically in the tomb of the unknown soldier at the national heroes acre.
Zimbabwe's foreign policy must therefore be a reflection of the Zimbabweans national interest.
The writers are lecturers in International Relations, and Peace and Governance with Bindura University of Science Education