The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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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 Bosnia. 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 sovereignty. Alan Bates -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi