Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Humanitarian War?

Ever since the Kosovo war in 1999, anyone who opposes armed interventions by Western powers and NATO has to confront what may be called an anti-antiwar Left. The anti-antiwar left does not come out openly in favor of Western military interventions. It may even criticize them at times  for their tactics or alleged motivations – the West is supporting a just cause, but clumsily and for oil or for geo-strategic reasons).  But most of its energy is spent disputing with those who remains firmly opposed to such interventions. They call upon us to show solidarity with the “victims” against “dictators who kill their own people”, and not to give in to knee-jerk anti-imperialism or anti-Americanism. After the Kosovo Albanians in 1999, we have been told that “we” must protect Afghan women, Iraqi Kurds and more recently the people of Libya and of Syria.

 Unlike the Iraq war, which was sold to the public as “humanitarian” by the likes of Ann Clwyd, there has been relatively little opposition to interventions presented as “humanitarian”, such as the bombing of Serbia to detach the province of Kosovo, the bombing of Libya to get rid of Gaddafi, or the current support and arming of the Syrian Free Army in Syria. We are tol it is the West's (and it is always the West's) responsibility and right and  duty to come to the aid of a people in danger.  Human rights is entrusted to the good will of the U.S. government and its allies in NATO.

It is important to realize that that is the concrete meaning of all those appeals for “solidarity” and “support” to rebel or secessionist movements involved in armed struggle. Intervening means intervening militarily.  It is perfectly obvious that the Western left does not possess those means.  One might ask those liberal humanitarian human rights organizations the same question Stalin addressed to the Vatican, “How many divisions do you have?”  The demand amounts to nothing other than asking the U.S.A to go bomb countries where human rights violations are reported to be taking place. In fact, the saviour of the populations “massacred by their dictators” is the same one that waged the Vietnam war, that imposed sanctions and wars on Iraq, that imposes arbitrary sanctions on Cuba, Iran and any other country that meets with their disfavor, that provides massive unquestioning support to Israel, which uses every means including coups d’état to oppose social reformers in Latin America, from Arbenz to Chavez by way of Allende, Goulart and others, and which shamelessly exploits workers and resources the world over.  One must be quite starry-eyed to see in that political and military class as the instrument of salvation of “victims”, but that is in practice exactly what the anti-antiwar Left is advocating, because, given the relationship of forces in the world, there is no other military force able to impose its will.

Of course, the U.S. government is scarcely aware of the existence of the anti-antiwar Left.  The United States decides whether or not to wage war according to the chances of succeeding and to their own assessment of their strategic, political and economic interests. And once a war is begun, they want to win at all costs. It makes no sense to ask them to carry out only good interventions, against genuine villains, using gentle methods that spare civilians and innocent bystanders.  It makes no sense to ask them to protect but not to bomb, because armies function by shooting and bombing. The anti-antiwar Left has no influence on American policy, but that doesn’t mean that it has no effect.  It has served to neutralize any peace or anti-war movement. Opposition is attacked as “support to dictators”, another “Munich appeasement”, or “the crime of indifference”.

The problem is that every war is justified by a massive propaganda effort which is based on demonizing the enemy. When the media announce that a massacre is imminent, we hear at times that action is “urgent” to save the alleged future victims, and time cannot be lost making sure of the facts. This may be true when a house is on fire, but such urgency regarding other countries ignores the manipulation of information and just plain error and confusion that dominate foreign news coverage. The slightest mistake by the anti-war movement will be endlessly used against us, whereas all the lies of the pro-war propaganda are soon forgotten. The “we must do something” brushes aside any serious reflection as to what might be done instead of military intervention.

If we are to draw lessons from the past it is that interventions from outside power or even violent revolutions from within are not necessarily the best or the only ways to achieve social change.

Taken and adapted from here

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