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Internationalism and intervention

July 19th, 2003

Jason Soon links to this Telegraph report in which Blair and other centre-left leaders give an in-principle endorsement to internationalist military intervention, saying

Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect

Jason gives his own qualified support and says

I’d be interested to see how the usual suspects will react to it

. Like Jason, I have no love for national sovereignty arguments, and would welcome the emergence of the kind of international order that would permit intervention in cases of state failure or to overthrow repressive regimes. The danger is, of course, that without a clear framework of international law, the principle of intervention could be used to justify wars of revenge, conquest and so on.

Unfortunately, by his acquiescence in the Iraq war, Blair has discredited himself as an advocate of this kind of policy, and greatly eroded potential support for such a policy.

To get Blair on board, the US Administration went through UN processes in the expectation that they would produce an ultimatum that Saddam Hussein would defy. When, instead, Saddam acquiesced, Blair and Bush embarked on a campaign of lies and spin that included vigorous abuse of the UN Security Council. Even now, when it is clear that, on all the factual issues, the UNSC majority was right and Bush and Blair were wrong, there has been nothing resembling an admission of error.

In retrospect, there were two options available to Blair and consistent with his stated principles. One would have been to focus the attention on human rights issues from the start, and seek an international consensus for the overthrow of Saddam on the basis that he was an evil dictator. The problem here is that this would have required Saddam to be charged in the International Criminal Court, and the Americans would not allow this. The alternative would have been, having gone with the weapons inspections process, to stick with it to the end and accept the half a loaf of ensuring that Saddam’s weapons had been destroyed.

Until Blair recognises that the US determination to run the world without interfence is a greater obstacle to internationalist intervention than is residual support for national sovereignty, he’ll continue to flounder on issues of this kind.

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  1. July 19th, 2003 at 15:07 | #1

    Even now, when it is clear that, on all the factual issues, the UNSC majority was right and Bush and Blair were wrong, there has been nothing resembling an admission of error.

    Well I suppose that because Blair et al do not spell it out that that “Saudi Arabia is the hub of the terrorist axis” of evil disqualifies that statement from the status of fact.

    Still Pr Q is right to throw stones at the US/UK Right, although his missiles are hitting the wrong part of the target. The Right’s corrupt alliances with Gulf dictatorships are the source of the problem.

    I blame the USA Right for creating the Gulf security problem and the RoW Left for trying to thwart the Gulf security solution.

    911 was essentially blowback from the US/SA alliance which extends back 50 years and accross numerous sections of the US ruling class.

    GWII was, and is, the only way for the US to disengage from SA and attempt to build a more stable S Eurasian security system based on a key Gulf oil state that will make the region less vulnerable to Baathist fascist militarists and Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

    The real fact that remains to be explained is why the democratic Left/UNSC failed to go into bat for the sake of Enlightened values when the bell tolled for them.

    Fighters for Enlightened values must use whatever weapons are available to strike at the fascist beast and not be too fussy about the bureacratic process.
    Remember the War against Fascism: 1933-45?
    We were not to fussy about processes/allies then.

    In GWII the US has acted in the interests of the Greater Good and it is the democratic Left that has let the side down.
    Moreover, the democratic Left opposes the only viable alternative to USA global warfare state executives – a beefed up USE warfare state.
    This is becaue the USE is hooked on welfare.
    If internationalist Leftists do not will the means then it is vain to seek the end.

    That is the “greater obstacle to internationalist intervention” and the democratic Left will continue “to flounder on issues of this kind”.

  2. Homer Paxton
    July 19th, 2003 at 16:53 | #2

    let us assume away the problem of which regimes need to be changed by force.
    Surely Afghanistan and now Iraq show the problems of what to do after the war is over.

    We all know who is going to win a war with the US in it but we need some real thinking on what to do after it stops unless of course one doesn’t care!

  3. July 19th, 2003 at 17:21 | #3

    I am not at all sure Blair is going to get what he wants. The right to protect has been around for a number of years. Canada convened a commission on the issue.

    The report The Responsibility to Protect sets out condition for the exercise of the right to protect and the Iraq misadventure does not meet them. The Solomons does and it’s notable that New Zealand demanded and got assurances that the Solomons would not be cited by the Howard government as part of the War on Terror.

    The conditions (Chapter 4) are:

    just cause

    right intention

    last resort

    proportional means

    right authority

    I would be astonished if people like Gerhard Schroeder and Thabo Mbeki signed off on Blair’s attempt to shelter his military adventurism under the right to protect.

    International humanitarian intervention under the right to protect is a good idea. Iraq is not. If Blair had made his case on human rights and gained UN authority it would have been supportable. Running around with a recycled version of Trotsky’s line that history will absolve us is not going to help his case. Blair said there were WMDs. He needs to find some.

  4. July 19th, 2003 at 19:18 | #4

    One would have been to focus the attention on human rights issues from the start, and seek an international consensus for the overthrow of Saddam on the basis that he was an evil dictator. The problem here is that this would have required Saddam to be charged in the International Criminal Court, and the Americans would not allow this.

    Pr Q’s argument asserting that US unilateralism is inconsistent with humanitarian interventionism and war crimes prosecutions is false. It is refuted by recent empirical evidence of Kosovo where the US acted unilaterally to seek regime change within a state.

    The US unilaterally repelled the Serbs from Kosovo, without UN sanction. This also directly led to regime change in Serbia and an international criminal trial of an evil dictator.

    Also the INTERFET intervention in Timor, whilst receiving the fig leaf of UN approval, was very much a form of US unilateralism. The initial economic pressure came from the US Treasury onto the IMF and Suharto to quit Timor.
    The ultimate military resolution was effected by the provision of a nuclear powered Marine aircraft carrier the USS Pelieu, which ensured that no rogue TNI general would take matters into his own hands.

    The democratic Left recognises any continuity betweeen US policy in Kosovo, Timor and Iraq.

    You would have to be blind Freddie to miss it.

  5. July 19th, 2003 at 19:39 | #5

    Jack, the US did not act unilaterally in Kosovo. Kosovo was a NATO operation fought under coalition command. US General Wesley Clark, who commanded that operation, has spoken specifically of the advantages, at the command level, of coalition warfare.

    The advantage of coalition decision-making is that it works. If you have to build a water-tight case that attracts an international consensus you are much less likely to get involved in follies like the invasion of Iraq. That is what makes Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and the Solomons different from Iraq.

    If Bush had held back from invading Iraq without UNSC sanction he would not be having the difficulties he is getting troops from nations such as France, Germany ad India. And he has to have those troops according to a unanimous vote of the US Senate.

  6. July 20th, 2003 at 02:17 | #6

    Alan, you are wrong.
    The US acted both unilaterally and premeptively in regime changing the political authority presiding over Kosovo.
    It acted unilaterally because it owns NATO and it did not have UNSC support.
    It acted pre-emptively because Serbia owns Kosovo and Serbia was not agressing a foreign state.
    All your theories about the difficulties of coaltion building are speculative. In fact there are heaps of foreign troops in Iraq. The French and sucking up to the US now.
    Of course your are correct that the reconstruction and reformation of Iraq would be easier if more international authority were used to legitimise the US military intervention. Blame for this lies with partian EU Lefties and insular US Righties.
    But US unilateralism is a preferable alternative to US appeasement and UN wishy-washy paralysis.
    The Left have a fetish for process and fine sounding declarations, but the people demand action and results.
    Shifty rogue states will see reason once they know that the US will not hesitate to have them whacked if they are perceived as terrorist-enablers.
    The UNSC, Left, RoW need to realise that the good old days of live and let live with fundamentalist terrorists and fascist militarists are over.
    There cann be no tolerance for the intolerant.
    The day approaches when Amorosi will realise that his gesture was futile and that no-one will remember him in 20 years time.

  7. July 20th, 2003 at 02:37 | #7

    Sorry, Jack, your facts are wrong. 9200 troops have been promised at the end of September by yet another coalition most of whose members remain anonymous. The only nations with actual troops on the ground are the US, Britain, Australia and Poland.

    If the US owns NATO why then has Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary-General disavowed any NATO involvement beyond technical assistance to the Polish deployment?

    Why has the US Senate called unanimously for UN and NATO troops?

    Name your ‘heaps of foreign troops’. They do not exist. India, Russia and Germany have all stated that they will provide troops only under a UN mandate. And while you are checking your facts do try not to describe Chirac, a lifelong lion of the French Right, as a ‘partisan EU lefty’.

    There were always multilateral alternatives to invasion. Even Chirac was demanding time rather than opposing the invasion itself. When a plan fails utterly, as the neocon plan for Iraq is doing, more of the same is not a good idea.

  8. July 20th, 2003 at 08:58 | #8

    Sorry Alan, your response includes factual errors, a blatant self contradiction and you have completely evaded my main point.

    You cite Kosovo as an example of US multilateralism. Grant your shaky tacit premise that non-US/UK forces were useful in this exercise. My point was that the UN is the body that confers the purported legitimacy to international military interventions. NATO is an mulitlateral military alliance, not an international legal agency.

    You ask me to name the heaps of non-US troops in Iraq and then admit that there are at least four other nations with troops on the ground in Iraq. I believe the term for “more than one nation” is “multilateral”.

    Whilst it is true that NATO’s formal apparatus is leery of involvement in Iraq it is also true that the US/UK provide the substance of NATO’s effective battle strength > 50% of the total. And the core EU nations are not much military chop: Italians don’t like fighting, French can’t fight and the Germans aren’t allowed to fight. Germany had to borrow Ukrainian transports to provide logisitical support. That sounds like US/UK ownership of NATO-effectives to me.

    Chirac may “run with the domestic Right wing hares” in French domestic policy but he “hunts with the partisan EU Leftie hounds” in European foreign policy. French Lefties adored him for his Iraq pitch-queering efforts.

    Of course there were “multilateral alternatives to [unilateralist-style] invasion”. For instance, the UNSC/EU and Lefties could have fallen into line with US plans to regime change Iraq as they did in Kosovo. The US sought to to regime change Kosovo without multilateral UNSC approval. The UNSC did not resist and NATO played along. The regime change still worked, militarily and politically.

    I would agree that NATO troops would make the US’s job of nation building in Iraq easier. And UNSC authorisation would have made the US’s goal of regime change politically easier. But why blame the US/UK for the multilateral no-show?
    Why not blame the RoW, which, after all, has a lousy record when it comes to building workable global institutions, still less providing effective military force and political support in defence of Enlightened values.

    My question to the Left et al is: why did you guys, then and now, continue to pike this good cause?

  9. July 20th, 2003 at 11:44 | #9

    The weakness of your case is shown by the ridiculous numerical errors you have fallen into. I mentioned 4 nations with troops on the ground. You’ve promoted it to 5.

    You’ve conflated NATO with the US and UK in order to try and abolish the opposition of Germany, France and Belgium and then quoted Chirac’s opposition. Evidently French opposition exists for you when you want it to and does not when you do not want it to. Then you conflate the multilateral interventions into a US unilateral intervention.

    If there is no difference between a multilateral intervention and a unilateral intervention (the only way your conflation of Kosovo and Iraq works) then why is the US encountering some difficulty acquiring allied troops.

    There is an easy way for you to prove your point. Just list numbers and sources for ‘heaps of foreign troops’ in Iraq. Your rant about who can fight and can’t is not worth comment.

    Like the Washington neocons you’re the prisoner of an idea and mere facts will not interfere. The Iraq adventure is not a good cause. Invading a country without reasonable prospects of improving conditions there is not a just cause. And do not start carrying on about Saddam’s evils. Those happened while your intellectual allies were supporting Saddam.

  10. July 20th, 2003 at 12:42 | #10

    Alan, you are confused about the meaning of
    “multilateral” in the context of this debate.

    You are also confused about the US ruling class’s liability as the source of the Gulf political crisis. It was the US’s client state alliance with the Saudis, not the Iraqis, that caused 911.

    And you are sparring with phantoms if think I am part of any “vast right wing conspiracy”. I do not have any “intellectual allies” in this debate. I am a free thinker.
    Contrary to your slur, my closest “ally”, for want if a better word, was Wolfowitz. He has been a consistent opponent of SH’s fascism in Iraq and the House of Saud’s fundamentalism in Arabia, which over the years, made him many enemies in and around the US ruling class. Check out the comments of Scowcroft, Bush I, Baker etc

    Your, and Pr Q’s, argument was that a UN multialteral endorsement of any given US-inspired military intervention was a necessary condition for political success. This is at not proven in Iraq and was false in Kosovo.

    NATO in Kosovo was not a multilateral apparatus in the sense indicated by Pr Q and implied by you, in that NATO’s:
    Continental forces were not necessary for US military success against Serbian Army
    formal administrative apparatus lacked the political authority to legitimise the Kosovo regime change

    I affirm that non-US/UK military forces in NATO are militarily ineffective and hence it is reasonable to conflate the US/UK as “owning” NATO as an effective military force.
    For evidence of this, I draw your attention to the sorry case of the Dutch Army in Bosnia.

    The case of Kosovo therefore empirically refutes your theory that UN political multilateralism or NATO Continental military contributions were necessary condition for a successful US/UK-enabled regime change.
    End of argument. Case closed. QED.

    Subsequently the UN did move in to Kosovo, which was a good thing.

    But although multilateralism, either UNSC political or NATO military, is not necessary for US success in Iraq, it would be sufficient, or at least helpful.

    UN multilateralism was desired to ease the US’s political legitimacy in Iraq. The UNSC (Chirac et al) withheld this legitimacy to impede US executive security in their traditional sphere of influence.

    NATO multilateralism is desired to ease the US’s administrative convenience in Iraq. NATO’s formal apparatus is witholding this, again because the minnows wish to hamper the whale.

    But NATO and UN forces would be useful as peace keepers in Iraq, to free US forces which are not trained for this sort of thing, need a rest and may be required for further action elsewhere in this crazy mixed up world.

    How do you know that there are not “reasonable prospects of improving conditions” in Iraq?
    Do you have some sort of crystal ball?
    The same kind of crystal ball that Scottish shop stewards consult when they predict that class struggle will hamper capitalism?

    One would have hoped that the Cultural Left, EU/UNSC etc would support the multilateral process in Iraq and to ease the passage of that country to civic modernity. Equally one would hope that anti-UN unilateralists in the US admin would swallow their reservations about that insitution for the greater good. They appear to be doing so.

    But many in the Cultural Left (not Pr Q) and multilateral organiations are happy to see the sabotage of nation builiding of Iraq, and the Enlightenment project in general, in order to score cheap partisan points against conservative politicans or pursue petty national advantage. They want the US to fail there so they can say “I told you so”.
    For shame.

  11. July 20th, 2003 at 14:00 | #11

    There comes a point in these debates where there’s no point going on. I am confused by your post because you shift your definitions whenever it suits you. Your facts are wrong and redefining them every paragraph to suit your argument makes it impossible to engage with you in any serious way.

  12. gordon
    July 20th, 2003 at 14:20 | #12

    Let’s not get too excited about even the possibility of disinterested intervention along the lines of Responsibility to Protect. Such disinterested interventions are extremely rare historically, and entirely swamped by the numerous examples of highly interested (profitable to the intervenor/s) examples. Let us also not fall into the belief that “it can’t happen to us”. To my mind, either interventionism is just neocolonialism with readjusted rhetoric or it is a prelude to another Czechoslovakia and Poland, 1939 vintage. I am genuinely concerned about the latter. Third, there is no way of determining who “needs” intervention most. You could make an argument that the USA is pretty high on the list – maybe a mixed Canadian/Mexican intervention force is needed there! Finally, I support the nation state more than apparently most contributors do, not on nationalistic but on democratic grounds. With the dubious exception of the European Parliament modern democracy, imperfect as it is, is only found within the nation-state framework. Blair’s involvement with interventionism seems clearly to be a post hoc attempt to plug the aching gap in his war rationale left by the absence of WMDs, and as such is scarcely to be taken seriously except as a political manoeuvre.

  13. July 20th, 2003 at 18:37 | #13

    The Iraq adventure is not a good cause…And do not start carrying on about Saddam’s evils.

    Pointing out the unpleasant fact that a mass-murdering tyrant would be the main beneficiary sans a US-enabled regime change in Iraq is an unforgivably tactless rhetorical move.

    Cultural Leftists, such as yourself, claim to support the Enlightenment but have calumnied those who were prepared wage war against fascist and fundamentalist enemies of Enlightenment.
    Howard in Timor, Bush in Iraq.

    The cognitive dissonance must be ear-splitting.

    There were prudential grounds for opposing GW II,
    but the moral case was never in doubt.

    The evidence indicates that Iraqis are grateful that SH has been deposed and want the US to at least stay while the country gets back on it’s feet.
    Iraqis begin warming to US presence


    nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents want US forces to stay until Iraq is stable and secure, and only 17 percent want US troops to go home immediately.

    I thought Leftists were in favour of democracy?

    From Bush’s statements I believe that he aims to keep the US nation building in Iraq and stay the course through the bad times ahead, despite the adverse opinion polls. If he does then his place as a statesman will be cemented in History. The Cultural Left’s self-consignment to the Dustbin of History is already well under way.

  14. July 20th, 2003 at 18:57 | #14

    Don’t rely on that poll, Jack. YouGov interviewed 798 people out of a population of 26 million, and have given no details about their methodology other than to admit it was unscientific and give assurances that they tried to ask people of different ages, genders and from different areas (although all of them were in Baghdad). Hardly something you want to wave around when your opponents are accusing you of playing fast and loose with the numbers.

  15. July 20th, 2003 at 19:53 | #15

    One could nitpick about polling methods, but the general thrust of events is clear. The vast majority of Iraqis are glad to be rid of SH. The US is not going to steal Iraq’s oil, that is a wilful lie spread by intellectuals who should know better. Most Iraqi’s are happy to have the US around for a fair while longer whilst services are restored and civic insitutions built. The main opposition is coming from fascist die-hards, many of whom were implicated in SH’s democide.

    Alan needs to have his comments about the number of nations participating in IRaq fact-checked. None better than the man on the ground.
    Lt. Smash reports:

    it seems like thereâs a new nationality here every week or so. Aside from Americans, British, and Poles, Iâve seen Australians, Spanish, Czechs, Romanians, Ukranians, and most recently, Norwegians. I ran into one Canadian, but he was an advance element for a deployment that was ultimately cancelled. Iâve also heard reports of Danish and Italian troops, but I havenât yet seen them with my own eyes. There have been a few others that I havenât yet been able to identify.
    In military jargon, we call this a ãmultilateral operationä.

    [emphasis added]
    In fact I underestimated the number of nations pitching in to rebuild Iraq – which only strengthens my case.

  16. July 20th, 2003 at 23:02 | #16

    I made a factual error. There are small deployments, none greater than brigade level, by the nations you list. I don’t propose to say anything more because your tone is fast reducing this thread to another pointless pissing contest.

  17. July 21st, 2003 at 09:33 | #17

    There are small deployments, none greater than brigade level

    So now size matters.
    To quote an expert on the subject of self-serving equivocations and shifty constructions:
    “I am confused by your post because you shift your definitions whenever it suits you.”

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