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Re: Ultra-right US politician on sanctions and Iraq

M wrote:

> > The sad fact is John, that many people (including members of CASI) basically
> > beleive "we have the right to intervene" and "the right to violate national
> > sovereignty".

Surely international opinion is quite rightly developing in that
direction.  International law is being given ever greater prominence
nowadays as people look for a post-cold war way of regulating world
affairs and controlling rogue states.  Indeed, many of the postings to the
list from people with a very anti-American stance rely on international
law rather than purely moral objections to sanctions.  Since 1945, a
semblance of such order was provided by the two superpowers keeping a
degree of control over their respective spheres of influence.  We are now
faced with a situation in which there is really only one superpower.  This
is not, however, a good reason for saying that no control should be
exercised at all the control rogue states.  If Iraq does possess chemical
and biological weapons which it had intentions to use on its neighbours,
which includes Israel (yes, even Jewish people have human rights too, even
if not everyone seems to care much about them), it must be restrained from
doing so.  This should prompt us to seek greater internationalisation and
democratisation of the world security order.  We will always need the
military resources of NATO to preserve international peace.  This may not
be ideal, but the UN has no troops of its own and even if it had, would
never be able to organise a credible force (just see what happened in
Bosnia).  To an extent this is evidenced in sanctions and US military
action against Iraq being, at least to a degree, made lawful by the
passage of Security Council measures.  Those who would even go so far as
to disagree with the actions by the West to expel Iraq from Kuwait must
remember that this was done to uphold international law.  Of course, one
can argue that other motives played a part.  Nevertheless, it was a
clearly authorised military intervention under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter
under the principle of collective security.  Even now, the US has to pay
at least lipservice to a need to have the support of international law
and/or the authority of the UN Security Council.  So its superpower
abilities are being restrained by international democracy, albeit
insufficiently and in a very embryonic form.

The current airstrikes on Iraq, for example, have been seen by many
commentators as a product of the confusion from the inherent conflict
between national sovereignty, an essentially self-interested concept, and
internationalisation and international law.  They at leat represent a
degree of support to the principle that international law and the will of
the Security Council needs to be backed up in some way.  The fact that the
consequence of this imperative may be wrongful or unpalatable is because
of the ideal being at such an infant stage of development.  But that
shouldn't blind us to the need to see every aspect of the whole picture.

M says that we are wrong to believe that the West has the right to
intervene.  I believe that there is a general right to intervene to uphold
international law in certain circumstances, and that this idea of
collective responsibility for ensuring good conduct of countries is
gaining credence in international law.  The globalisation of the economy
and information will inevitably have to be matched by a globalisation of
democracy in some form.  What we need to ensure is that it is genuine
democracy, not a hegemony of vested interests.  But that is a separate
issue from the notion of collective responsibility.  If we accept that on
the streets of New York, anyone has the right to make a citizens arrest on
a criminal, then in a global village, should the situation be any
different for intervening to stop suspected chemical weapons production or
"aggressive" military capability?  Thus, there is an emergence of a global
principle of a right to intervene in certain circumstances.  It is what
lay behind the arrest of General Pinochet, the Statute for an
International Criminal Court agreed in Rome in 1998, and the US change of
goals in Somalia to try to arrest the supporters of General Aideed.  It is
what prompted the Kosovo intervention and eventual intervention in

I am not necessarily disagreeing with M about the effects or the
wrongfulness of certain interventions.  What I am suggesting is that he is
way behind the times to adopt nineteenth century notions of the
international order by denying that we have a right to intervene.
Furthermore, his view that we are wrong to violate national sovereignty is
also outdated.  As a internationalist, as I hope many of the people on
this list are, I do not support the continued emphasis on "national
sovereignty".  It is a defunct anachronism in a globalised world.  The
European Union, the UN, the WEU, etc, may all sometimes do things or work
in ways which we find morally objectionable.  Nevertheless, they are
symptomatic of the withering away of the ideas of the nation state and of
national sovereignty.  The idea that national sovereignty is sacred is
simply not a sensible proposition anymore, and such ancient ideas of
international law have been replaced by new international law principles.
Ultimately this is in line with many of our own values of democracy and
internationalism.  Just because we do not always like the style of
intervention or its uneven application to apparently similar situations
does not mean that we should cling on the the defunct ideas of
non-intervention and national sovereignty which have done so much harm in
the past.

At the conference on the holocaust a few days ago, many Jews, gypsies,
gays and Jehovah's Witnesses wondered why the allied forces did not bomb
the railway lines to the death camps.  They wished that this had been
done, not only once the war had started, but before it had started.
Others might similarly wonder why, when Hitler began rearmament contrary
to the Versailles treaty, the allies did not take firm action by bombing
his production facilities.  I suspect that these past misjudgments do not
look any more justified or morally pure by rightly noting that they were
simply applications of M's principles of non-intervention and national

Alan Bates

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