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.