She shall save the world

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 July, 2004, 12:00am

The world is spinning crazily out of control. The abundance of diseases, poverty, dictators, terrorists, lethal weapons, religious zealots and downright evil, nasty people is evidence enough that 6,000 or so years of civilisation has not taught humankind very much.

Peace and understanding are apparently words not of Planet Earth. Despite the best diplomatic efforts that can be mustered, North Korea still has nuclear bombs, Israelis and Palestinians do not know when to stop, and genocide could well be taking place in Sudan. Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Haiti and a host of other nations are gripped by fear and loathing.

Even among people in countries known for having it all - the United States, Australia, Britain and France, among others - there is a plaintive cry: 'Where is the love?'

There is a way out of the mess, but not as we have known it. This is not a time for dark-suited men with briefcases on a mission of mercy. Something far more persuasive is necessary.

With that in mind I turned to the local video store. The screen flickered and an athletically built woman flashed from one side to the other amid a sea of explosions. With a backdrop of jungle-draped ancient temples, she stopped, her long, brown hair falling over her shoulders. Panting gently, she cupped her pistol and struck a pose of defiance.

Light-bulbs popped in my head. If ever there was a person to put the suited envoy of bygone eras out of business and bring diplomacy into the present, she was the one.

When the credits rolled, the person so fetchingly poised to head my global rescue mission turned out to be Angelina Jolie, an American actress of some repute. The movie was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, mostly shot in Cambodia, a country she has apparently adopted as a second home, and is itself renowned for decades of uncertainty. A scan of Jolie's biography revealed she is amply endowed for a diplomatic life. She already knows the basics, having in 2001 been appointed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In that role, she has visited refugee camps around the world to encourage and support the victims of wars, disease and famine. She has taken to fighting for environmental issues and recently adopted a Cambodian child.

Just 29, she has won an Oscar and several Golden Globes. She has gone through two broken marriages, and most intriguingly, has a large dagger collection and a tattoo on her shoulder of the Japanese word for death.

To my mind, Jolie has the characteristics that make up the perfect diplomat - an imposing presence, a way with words and good use of body language, wisdom gained through personal experience and a love of sharp implements. On top of that, people who have met her say that she is really nice.

As if to confirm my assessment, earlier this week Jolie put those skills to the test when she met Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Apparently, her home in the pristine Samlot district forests of Cambodia's Battambang province was threatened by a planned hydroelectric project and she wanted to test Mr Hun Sen's previous promises on conservation.

After a few hours, the prime minister emerged from the meeting in Phnom Penh and said: 'We have decided not to continue with plans for hydroelectricity, but to keep the Samlot area for her to work on environmental protection.'

Mr Hun Sen is renowned for ruling Cambodia with an iron fist. For him to crumble so easily in the face of Cambodia's electricity shortage is testimony to Jolie's diplomatic skills.

With a little persuasion - perhaps a samurai sword or two, a Nepalese kukri or an Incan bronze knife - Jolie could be convinced to embark on a world tour of salvation. First stop: afternoon tea with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

Peter Kammerer is the Post's foreign editor