Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Carry on Invading

I said earlier this week that I very rarely post entire articles from other writers on this blog. But this has been a special week. On Tuesday, I posted a quite excellent article from Peter Wilby on the media and the war with Iraq. And from today's Guardian, here's another gem- from Seumas Milne (above). It beggars belief that after the bloodshed their policies have caused, the advocates of 'liberal intervention' still have the nerve to call for even more military adventures. But they'll continue to do so- until we- the ordinary people who end up paying for their wretched wars- and whose children end up dying in them- say 'enough is enough'.
I'm currently working on the formation of a new group, which will campaign for an end to such illegal military adventures and for Britain to jettison the doctrine of 'liberal intervention' once and for all. Such interventions- whether they be in the Balkans, the Middle East or anywhere else, have nothing to do with 'spreading democracy' or 'human rights', but are merely a smokescreen for extending The Empire and opening up new markets for global finance and western multinationals.

Carry on invading
The government is happily airbrushing our role in foreign interventions: it will lead to worldwide aggression and lawlessness

You might have thought that the catastrophe of Iraq and the bloody failure of Afghanistan would have at least dampened western enthusiasm for invading and occupying other people's countries in the name of humanitarianism. But if the past week or so is anything to go by, such chastening has proved short-lived, at least in Britain. First there was Gordon Brown's reassertion, in his speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet, of the west's right to intervene behind state borders, followed within a couple of days by his foreign secretary David Miliband's declaration in Bruges that the European Union must be prepared to deploy hard military power beyond its own borders.

Then came what was described as an "impassioned defence of liberal interventionism" by Jonathan Powell, who until a few months ago was Tony Blair's chief of staff. Sounding like an apologist for a defeated regime who has learned nothing from its worst excesses - perhaps understandably - Powell restated the case for what another former Blair adviser, Robert Cooper, praised as "a new kind of imperialism" as if the last six years had never happened. Or, rather, happened differently.
The problem with the Iraq war, Powell seems to have convinced himself, is simply that "we were not successful on the ground". Nobody would have bothered about the lack of UN resolutions or the absence of weapons of mass destruction, he seems to believe, if the occupation had somehow worked or been accepted by Iraqis - though perhaps some international support would have been useful as well.

He draws this conclusion from the fact that none of the other three of what he calls "our four wars" - Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Afghanistan - was fought in self-defence or directly sanctioned by the UN. Yet "no one" in the west questioned them or complained, he claims, because they were a success or at least a short-term success. This is nonsense. Every single intervention was widely challenged and it would be hard to chalk up the reverse ethnic cleansing of the half-frozen conflict in Kosovo, the thousands killed in Afghanistan this year or even the misery and corruption of semi-colonial Sierra Leone as western achievements.

Like Blair, Powell clearly itches to invade Zimbabwe and Burma and claims "we" would tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran if only it were democratic. Like Pakistan, presumably. And after praising a string of unilateral interventions, the former Downing Street chief of staff only ends up favouring some kind of "rules-based system" of international relations because "other big countries" may too become superpowers and want to throw their military weight about as well.

This mentality is a recipe for global aggression and lawlessness. The experience of the past decade has driven home the incendiary dangers when the global powers arrogate to themselves the right to attack or invade other countries under the banner of human rights, acting as judge and jury in their own cause and in the certain knowledge that they will never be subject to the same violent sanction for their own violations of humanitarian and international law.
"We should have been clear we were removing Saddam because he was a ruthless dictator suppressing his people," Powell now declares. He should have added: "who defied western power, unlike other ruthless dictators we support in his region and around the world."

Any rules-based system of international relations has to apply to the powerful as well as the weak, allies as well as enemies, or it isn't a system of rules at all: it's a system of imperial power enforcement. By invading Iraq on a false pretext and bathing the country in blood with complete international impunity, the US and Britain have made the chances of a genuinely universal, rules-based system for humanitarian intervention even less likely. And of course Jonathan Powell has played his part in that to the full.


Anonymous said...

The new group sounds interesting. Any more info?

Anonymous said...

Seumas Milne is an over privileged little twat.

Neil Clark said...

Andrew K's comment translated:
"I can't engage with Seumas Milne's arguments because he's right, so I'll indulge in personal abuse".
Typical neo-con fare: always play the man and not the ball.

Neil Clark said...

A very public sociologist: thanks for your interest. More on the new group soon.