Yes, this is a humanitarian war — that is what makes it so deadly
No more terrible fate can befall nations like Libya than to become objects of Western liberal pity.
(Spiked) -- by Brendan O’Neill --
They’re back. Having spent the past 10 years pretending to be anti-war – describing the attack on Iraq as ‘criminal’ and the war in Afghanistan as ‘a trifle ill-judged’ – the liberal and left-wing set that originally invented the idea of ‘humanitarian warfare’ in the 1990s are once more at the forefront of public debate. They’ve cast off the anti-imperialist garb that they temporarily donned to make their disappointment with Blair and their snobbish disdain for Bush appear principled, to reveal that, underneath, there lurk the same old laptop bombardiers keen to visit their moralistic fury upon some wayward nation. This time they have Libya in their sights.
The speed with which observers who attacked Blair and Bush over Iraq have lined up behind Cameron and Obama over Libya is remarkable. Deputy British prime minister Nick Clegg says his war on Libya is a ‘different scenario from Iraq’; where Iraq was a product of the ‘trigger-happy policies’ of Blair’s ‘vigilantism’, the bombing of Libya is ‘[UN] sanctioned and driven by humanitarian concerns’. More akin to Kosovo 1999 than Iraq 2003, ‘it is liberal interventionism’, says Clegg. This sentiment is echoed across the serious press that was so critical of the ‘cowboy’ Iraq venture. ‘In the case of Libya, the principle [of humanitarianism] stands as clear as ever’, says one columnist. It will no doubt be of great comfort to Libyans to know that their deaths are occurring in the name of ‘humanitarian principles’ rather than ‘vigilantism’.
These anti-war critics turned pro-war cheerleaders might have no shame and few principles. But they do have a point. The bombing of Libya is a ‘humanitarian war’ – and that is what makes it so terrifying. For ‘humanitarian warfare’ is, if anything, even worse than yesteryear’s Western invasions of the Third World in the name of territory, stuff or realpolitik. Driven more by moralism than by political calculations, underpinned by childlike assumptions about good and evil, utterly disconnected from the realm of geopolitical interests or gain, ‘humanitarian intervention’ is extraordinarily unpredictable and destabilising. It makes even the crimes of colonialism look rational in comparison.
The first thing that should be shot down is the nonsense notion that there’s a world of difference between the wars cheered by liberals (Kosovo in 1999, Libya today) and the wars led by the Bush administration (Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003). Reading recent commentary, you could be forgiven for thinking that there are two, implacably divergent camps of foreign interventionists, one of which is good and pure (the ‘humanitarians’) and one of which is wicked and self-interested (the ‘neoconservatives’). This is one of the most fantastic fallacies in modern political discourse. In reality, the humanitarians and neocons share precisely the same urge: to escape the drab domestic sphere by acting out battles between good and evil in the international sphere. And they share precisely the same assumption: that they have the right to interfere in other states’ affairs.
Indeed, the ‘neocon’ ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq were underpinned by what was known as the ‘Chicago doctrine’ – a speech given by then ‘humanitarian’ Tony Blair in Chicago in 1999 in which, to the whooping and high-fiving of liberal hacks everywhere, he outlined the circumstances in which the West might launch military ventures. He called for a shift away from the Cold War era emphasis on the sanctity of state sovereignty and towards a new willingness to intervene in ‘regimes that are undemocratic and engaged in barbarous acts’. His call for a rethinking of the overly legalistic postwar set-up – which was championed in an Observer editorial that said ‘the UN’s imprimatur cannot be the sole trigger for international action to right an obvious wrong’ – is known to have influenced Bush and his cronies, then waiting in the wings. It’s just that where Blair’s demand that we move beyond the obsession with sovereign integrity was widely described as ‘brave’, when the Bush administration suggested likewise they were denounced as ‘law-breakers’...MORE...LINK
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