The Importance of Saying Sorry

Sep 9, 2009

Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy asks whether North Korea’s release of a dam, whose water ended up killing 6 South Koreans Sunday, constituted a “water attack” on the South.

I see this as another example of apologies – or lack thereof – making a crucial difference in diplomatic constructions of what an incident “is.” Who knows whether this was intentional or what the motivation. North Korea’s refusal to apologize will send a message of cruel indifference and result in it being seen as an attack whether it was or not.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.