This article on mine appears in today's Morning Star.
The French anarchist group the Situationists made doing nothing a philosophy. As a lifestyle, doing nothing might be considered a trifle extreme. But on the evidence of Tony Blair's period of office, it's difficult to think of a better basis for our foreign policy.
Liberal imperialists like Blair routinely claim that their policy- of intervention before breakfast, lunch and dinner, from Kosovo, to Afghanistan and Iraq is the ethical one.
A closer inspection will show that the very opposite is true.
Consider the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia. In the great liberal imperialist rewrite of history, atrocities such as Srebrenica occurred because the West sat back and watched the evil Serbs try to ethnically cleanse their way to a Greater Serbia. The truth was that without Western interference, there would have been no Balkan civil wars in the first place.
In what the author Diana Johnstone has described as an ‘extraordinary intervention contrary to all customary diplomatic usage’ Warren Zimmerman, the U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade made it clear Washington would not accept any use of force by the Yugoslav Federal Army to keep the federation together. The Germans in their sponsorship of separatists in Slovenia and Croatia went further- not only promising diplomatic support to the republics if they broke away, - but also equipping them with weapons and air force stocks. In Bosnia, the U.S. did all they could to prevent the separatist Bosnian leadership signing up to any deal which would have kept the republic in Yugoslavia, and also sabotaged the 1992 Lisbon agreement which would have provided for a peaceful division of an independent Bosnia. ‘If you don’t like it, why sign it ?’ Zimmerman asked Alija Izetbegovic- thus lighting the touch paper for the three year civil war.
Four years after Bosnia, the liberal imperialists were at it again, this time bellowing for military intervention against the Serbs for alleged atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. But once again, the trouble in Kosovo was not that the West had been doing nothing, but that it had been doing plenty.
Since 1997, western governments- determined to break up what was left of Yugoslavia, had been hard at work transforming the rag-bag cut-throats of the Kosovan Liberation Army into a viable fighting force.
Eight years on from the ‘humanitarian’ intervention which followed, Kosovo, under the auspices of the ‘international community’, can accurately be described as Europe’s first Mafia-run state. The province, previously so multiracial, has been ethnically cleansed of over 200,000 Serbs and Roma. Thousands are still without regular electricity. And the dropping of over 10,000 tons of depleted uranium in the 1999 NATO bombing campaign has led to a sharp rise in cancers, not just in Kosovo but across the rest of Serbia too.
In 2001, it was the Afghans turn to sip from the poisoned chalice of Western intervention. A multi-million dollar military campaign was launched by Washington to topple the Taliban- the group of Islamic fundamentalists who but for foreign meddling in Afghan affairs would never have come to power in the first place. To date ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ has claimed the lives of over 5000 civilians, including the 40 guests, mainly women and children, killed during a B52 raid on a wedding party. ‘Afghanistan is an utterly lawless country’ was the verdict of the veteran war reporter Robert Fisk, returning to the country after its ‘liberation’. ‘Schools have been burnt down, there have been rapes in the north. You cannot travel the roads by night’.
Unabashed by the chaos they unleashed in Afghanistan, the liberal imperialists then moved on to Iraq. In the media brainwashing that preceded the war, it was taken as a given that ‘something had to be done’ about Saddam- even by those in the anti-war movement. When The Guardian asked twenty prominent anti-war campaigners the question ‘what would you do about HIM’, only two came up with the proper response- to do nothing. Had the U.S. and Britain done exactly that four years ago, save lift the genocidal sanctions that were killing 5,000 Iraqi children a month and halt the illegal twice weekly bombing raids on the ‘no-fly’ zones, over 600,000 people now dead would still be alive. And the world would be a much safer place.
Liberal imperialism is not only unethical in its consequences- but also in the basic assumption that underlies it- namely the arrogance that ‘we’ ...i.e. the most powerful nations on earth have a god-given right to interfere in the internal affairs of other 'less enlightened’ nations- to dictate who should be their leaders and under what system of government they should operate.
Doing nothing as a foreign policy is, by contrast, based on humility- in acknowledging that we have no moral authority to interfere in matters which are clearly not our concern.
Doing nothing not only means not getting involved in disputes that are not our business, but also not helping to ignite those disputes in the first place. That means reining in the military/industrial complex in whose interest it is that humanitarian ‘crises’ come along every two or three years. It also means respect for both the spirit and letter of international law- and the overriding importance it places on the principle of national sovereignty -a concept as despised by today’s liberal imperialists as much as it was by their jack-booted predecessors.
As we survey the physical and human debris caused throughout the world, by those told us that ‘something must be done’- the adoption of a truly ethical foreign policy is surely the most urgent priority of our times.