Packer and Iraq

by Henry on September 7, 2005

Highly recommended: David Glenn has a new article in the Columbia Journalism Review on George Packer’s vexed relationship with the Iraq war (public health warning: David is a friend of mine, but when I say that it’s a great piece, I’m speaking truth).

In Iraq, he found plenty of occasions for curiosity and ambivalence, and some of those occasions cut close to the bone. Packer is not only a narrative journalist; he is also sometimes a pundit and a polemicist. He is among the small band of left-liberal intellectuals who strongly supported the Clinton-era military interventions in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. After the September 11 attacks, he assembled and edited The Fight Is for Democracy, in which he and nine other liberal writers tried to define a foreign policy that would transcend (as they saw it) Republicans’ arrogance and leftists’ facile dovishness. The book was not well received on the Left. Last year in The Nation, the foreign-policy analyst Anatol Lieven denounced Packer and his allies, accusing them of helping to build the climate that led to the Iraq invasion. Their “encouragement of a messianic vision of the United States and its role in the world,” Lieven wrote, “fuels self-righteous nationalist extremism in America itself.”

Packer was never a vocal proponent of the Iraq war; he often describes himself as having been “barely for the war” at its outset. Still, he was supportive enough that he has felt personally stung by American crimes and follies there. (At the same time, he believes that a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops now would probably do more harm than good.) The Assassins’ Gate, in any case, contains relatively little explicit punditry, and one wonders whether Lieven and other skeptics will view the book’s muted argumentative style as a virtue — as a space in which readers can draw their own conclusions — or if they will view it as a fudge. Packer’s characteristic restlessness has led him, not for the first time, to tear up his habits and assumptions. The question is whether his book — a dense stew of storytelling, history, and personal reflections — will find an audience at a time when Iraq’s condition is still bloody and deeply unsettled.

I haven’t read Packer’s new book (although I want to). There’s something honorable about Packer’s willingness to admit that he was wrong where so many of his comrades have not, but his reluctance to deal with the perspective of those who thought that the war was a bad idea from the start, on its own terms, is quite problematic.

Given how concerned Packer is with such arguments, it is startling that the only antiwar figure who appears even briefly in The Assassins’ Gate is Eli Pariser, a MoveOn organizer. Early in the book, Packer provides a long and reasonably sympathetic sketch of neoconservative foreign-policy intellectuals (several of whom are skewered in later chapters). But he does not give analogous treatment to people who argued and campaigned against the war. They are a sort of ghost at the banquet here. Packer’s frustration with such people — his dislike of having conversations with them — apparently extends from his private life to the book itself.

That said, there’s something valuable about Packer’s position that’s in danger of being lost. The specific beef that I (and some others on CT, but probably not all of us) had with the Iraq war wasn’t that military interventions to unseat dictators or support democracy are inherently wicked or impossible, but rather that they should only be attempted when there’s a very good chance that they might succeed. At a minimum, this requires that the government undertaking the war should be competent, should explain truthfully to the general public and to the men and women who are in danger of losing their lives, why this war is justified and the commitments it will involve over the longer term, and should back down when the public isn’t prepared to support it. We were members of the anti this war now left. But this implies that there were and will be occasions on which military intervention to remove dictators, prevent genocide or mass human rights abuses will be justified, and where the government should make the case for intervention to the electorate. Kosovo is an example where the US should have intervened and did; Rwanda is an example where the US (and France) should have intervened and didn’t, with quite appalling consequences. There’s a temptation for the left to repudiate international intervention altogether, and to make nice with traditional realists; recent poll data says that more Democrats are against international democracy promotion than are for it. This is understandable given recent history, but it’s still, in my view, a mistake. Left-liberals and realists are not natural allies. The former, if they’re not hypocrites should have real ethical commitments to those outside their borders as well as those within them. The latter, because they’re committed to a narrow reading of US national interests, have been responsible for some pretty sordid and cynical exercises of force that sit very badly with these leftwing ethical commitments. The problem with many of the pro-democracy interventionists who supported the war wasn’t their commitment to spreading democracy (although the sincerity of this commitment was doubtful in some cases). It was their wilful blindness to reality, their repeated attempts to smear those whom they didn’t agree with, their manifest inability to ensure that the policies that they advocated were carried through competently, and their refusal to admit that they were wrong when their plans came a cropper. A commitment, like Packer’s, to the international spread of democracy and human rights, seems to me to be a good thing, as long as it’s tempered with a sense of what is and is not possible and appropriate.

(I realise that many CT readers will disagree with my claims here; comments are open).
(via Laura Rozen).

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{ 59 comments }

1

David Moles 09.07.05 at 6:56 pm

The former, if they’re not hypocrites should have real ethical commitments to those outside their borders as well as those within them.

They do, but many of them also have real ethical commitments to nonviolence. And/or an absolute distrust that your minimum requirements will ever be met.

2

Louis Proyect 09.07.05 at 7:06 pm

Actually, the intervention in Kosovo paved the way for this disastrous war in Iraq. Isn’t it obvious that people like Packer, Hitchens, Berman, Geras and the rest of the pro-war “left” saw Yugoslavia as a dress rehearsal for future Wilsonian adventures? Even the causa belli were fabricated in both cases, Rambouillet and WMD’s. I would also say that if the Serbs had been capable of the kind of intransigent resistance that the Iraqis are mustering and causing casualties in the thousands, then liberals like Packer might also have had second thoughts about the wisdom of intervention there. Alas, these liberals are only capable of reversing course after some impudent natives give their governments a bloody nose.

3

david 09.07.05 at 7:10 pm

It’s not clear what Packer does to support your interventionist point. Packer’s inability to credit the people who were right about Iraq – interventionists who didn’t think the situation rose to the level necessary for war; and people opposed to war altogether — suggests that he’s not really willing to think seriously about intervention in theory. He’s having his doubts, but he’s not confronting the key questions about when, where, and why, from this account. He can’t, unless he confronts the anti-this-war for whatever reason people that he and his type liked to insult way back in the codpiece days.

4

Slocum 09.07.05 at 7:35 pm

Kosovo is an example where the US should have intervened and did; Rwanda is an example where the US (and France) should have intervened and didn’t

And what about Afghanistan? Should have intervened and did? Or shouldn’t it have?

Bonus question #1 — if you think the US should have intervened in Afghanistan, would intervention have been justified solely on the basis of the knuckle-dragging brutality of the Taliban police state even if it had not hosted Al Queda?

Bonus question #2 — do you believe the Afghanistan war has been so incompetently bungled that it destroys the case for intervention there, too?

#3 — if the answer to #2 is no, then why should supporters of the war in Iraq have anticipated that the same administration in charge of Afghanistan would (in your view) hopelessly bungle Iraq?

#4 — if the US were not in Iraq, wouldn’t Al Queda now be focusing all its resources on destabilizing Afghanistan?

#5 — wouldn’t a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq inevitably result in Al Queda safe havens (such as they used to enjoy in Afghanistan) which would be used to plan attacks on US targets worldwide?

#6 — wouldn’t a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq be (quite reasonably) claimed as a great victory for Al Queda? Wouldn’t this give Al Queda a great deal of momentum and aid in its recruiting?

5

harry b 09.07.05 at 8:10 pm

Good questions slocum. Myself, I have a hard time answering them from #2 onwards, which is one of the reasons I steer clear of posting on these topics, and why I watch the certainty with which people support or oppose the war with dismay (I add: I was opposed to the war when it started, and still am pretty confident that my judgment then was right — but now it is in such a shambles, I have no confidence that withdrawal will not make a bad situation worse). What makes the questions harder (for me) is that #s 4,5, and 6 make it impossible to stop at #2 even if one’s answer is “yes”. Do you have answers?

6

John Quiggin 09.07.05 at 9:33 pm

One reason I opposed the Iraq war was the expectation that it would fail and thereby discredit internationalist intervention more generally.

A partial response to slocum #2 and #3. The bungles in Afghanistan came as a surprise to most supporters of intervention, but are explicable in retrospect now that we know that the Administration viewed the whole thing as a diversion from the main game (Iraq).

Having been surprised by how badly Afghanistan was handled, conditional supporters of intervention should have (and, as far as the left is concerned, mostly did) opposed the Iraq intervention.

7

Dan Kervick 09.07.05 at 11:02 pm

There was, once upon a time, a fairly effective international taboo in place about direct military intervention in other countries. That is the taboo that enabled the first President Bush to assemble a large coalition against Saddam when he invaded Kuwait. Because most of the peoples of the civilized world adhered to the principle that military action was only permissible in cases of strict self-defense, the US was able to attract their support, and the support of their governments, to enforce that principle under the aegis of the UN – despite tremendous worry and suspicion about ulterior great power motives in the Gulf, on the part of the US and others.

During the Cold War, the political exigencies of that taboo, the struggle for global hearts and minds that generally demanded formal adherence to the principle, required the contending powers to avoid direct military intervention in other countries. They most often had to fight their perpetual battles by stealth and by proxy. Many people paid the price of this stealth war, but the diplomatic cost of direct intervention kept the two superpowers from engaging each other directly, and helped spare us all from total destruction.

It was recognized by the progressive diplomats and peoples of the international community – that is, the people who at least aspired to be such a community – that besides cases of individual or collective self-defense, there were also cases of more general threats to the peace that could justify military intervention in sovereign countries from the outside. But it was generally accepted by progressive thinkers that these latter interventions were illegitimate unless duly authorized by the international community. These principles are, indeed, still widely accepted around the world. The United States is rather peculiar in the intense degree of derision it displays toward these principles.

It will be at least a generation before the United States can again appeal to the principle of non-intervention to garner support for its initiatives.

Now, of course, this system of rules, for which many people had struggled and even died over many decades, was a very fragile system. The santions that upheld it were not strong, and were inconsistently enforced. Indeed, those sanctions consisted in large part merely of the sanction of conscience and political commitment, and the subtle effect these attitudes have on the internal politics of countries where those attitudes are broad-based. The system was also supported by the rational, mutual recognition of mutual benefit. But the aspiration to work to continue to build such a system – to preserve what had already been built, and to create gradually and painstakingly those institutions and structures that still needed to be built – was an aspiration that provided hope to billions of people, particularly those whose countries had suffered routine, and increasingly horrible devastation in the wars of the past several centuries, wars that grew out of an international system based primarilly on the calculus of hard power.

So the UN system was real, but fragile. Following the 9/11 attacks there was a tremendous window of opportunity to strengthen international institutions, to build stronger self-standing systems for global policing, humanitarian relief and pacification. The US could have chosen to lead a push toward stronger, more efficacious organs of international law and order, and could have lead the way in sacrificing some measure of sovereignty for the sake of the common good. The moment was pregnant with the same potential for progressive action that was present during the energetic build-up of global institutions following the Second World War. And the US would have found many allies in this effort. But it instead chose another path.

Maintaining a system based on the restriction of military action to cases of strict self-defense requires tremendous discipline. It means that one must sometimes allow some rotten state of affairs to continue, in order to uphold international rules and solidify support for the principle of non-intervention. It is that same disciplined outlook that has usually lead liberals in the past to support the rule of law over vigilante justice. Sometimes bad actors will escape justice because of the complex and imperfect machinary of law and procedural rules. But in the long run we all benefit from living under a system of rules, and not trusting to the private enforcement of justice, and the inevitable vendettas, self-seeking, and disorder that vigilantism brings. Civilized people recognize that the vigilante is in some cases in the right; but are disposed even so to forbid and punish vigilantism, in order to preserve and enhance the rule of law.

Now I understand very well that the vision of efficacious international law and governing institutions I have just described is just that – a vision that was only imperfectly realized. But it wasn’t only a vision – international law is relied on every day, all over the world, in the practical resolution of disputes and in the conduct of diplomacy. And the desire to make international law stronger over time is not an idle or unrealistic one. It is no more unrealistic than was the desire of the settlers of the American West to establish a rule of law in place of the lawless free agency that sometimes reigned.

What I find separates me from so many contemporary liberal interventionists is not simply disagreements about this or that near or long term effect of the Iraq war in particular, a mere disagreement about the wisdom of certain means – although there are serious disagreements of that kind. It is that they often seem simply not to be animated by the same long-term vision of the global future. It is thus a deep disagreement about ideology and distant ends, not merely a temporary disagreement about which actions are prudent and which reckless.

It would be one thing if I often heard liberal interventionists say that in order to bring about the system of international law and peace I want, it is necessary to fight this war in Iraq. But I rarely hear that. Many of the liberal interventionists I know just seem turned off by the classic liberal internationalist vision of strong global institutions and deliberative bodies enforcing an international rule of law among nations with very different internal politics, countries who are constrained to limit their efforts at influencing the internal politics of other nations to peaceful ones. They are more attracted to the vision of an “organic” neoliberal world order, in which countries achieve peace, stability, prosperity and cooperation through trade and the invisible hand of economic interdependence, and in which there is only one right kind of government, and that government is spread throughout the world by a sort of political osmosis, helped along now and then by virtuous military nudges.

This is not what I have always understood to be the vision of the world characteristic of the “left”. It is a liberal vision all right, but a right-liberal vision rather than a left-liberal vision. Left-liberals believe that progress requires governance, coordination and rational planning – not just organic growth through laissez fair economic development.

Left-liberalism also inclines toward a certain global, internationalist or universalist perspective that pulls hard against nationalism, ethnocentricism and other sorts of localism and particularity. But many liberal interventionists seem also to be ardent nationalists, and the future they seek is a nationally narcissistic one in which the United States is the permanent hub around which the global wheel revolves; the model, focal point and fulcrum of world power; a perpetual motion dynamo of hegemonic dominance; and the never-aging “glass of fashion and mould of form, the observed of all observers!”

There is to my mind a dangerous strain of moral fanaticism in contemporary liberal interventionism. To say that we should only intervene militarily “when we have a strong chance of succeeding” is to be far too vague. There are many cases in which we could intervene and succeed eventually. The question, as in all moral calculations, is one of balancing the value of ends against the costs of the means. What I have found lacking in the discussions of the liberal interventionists was a frank willingness to discuss exactly what costs they were willing to impose upon American service men and women, and upon the people, land and infrastructure in Iraq in order to accomplish their desired end. They are also reluctant to discuss the cost in might exact through damage to the international law of armed conflict. The impression I was often left with is that they were so transfixed by their brilliantly radiating image of post-Saddam Iraqi perfection that they were willing to endure practically any cost. This is the attitude that I have found so frightening in the interventionists – whether of the liberal or neoconservative variety.

The liberal interventionists have, in my opinion, thrown in their lot with those who are bent on destroying what remains of the international system. Where the neoconservatives actively seek the destruction of that system as an end, the liberals seem willing to permit the destruction of that system as an acceptable cost in the moral crusade for democratic purification. But in the end it comes to the same thing. I believe the Bush administration is determined even now to subvert, weaken and subordinate the UN-based global system, sometimes openly and sometimes through stealth. But what ideological and rhetorical tools have the interventionists left themselves with to resist this effort?

US deception and roguishness are doing tremendous damage to what still exists of international order and cooperation. I worry that our children and grandchildren will live in a world of violence unleashed, where a weary, cynical acceptance of the guiltless rule of hard power has replaced the internalized compunctions of international standards and rules.

It is perhaps because I grew up during the Cold War, and lived my first 30 years under the depressing daily shadow of nuclear annihilation – which always seemed like a very real possibility to me – that I am so skeptical of the crusading spirit. The triumphalism that has followed the end of the Cold War has lead, in my view, to some very romantic and simple-minded views of that period. From my perspective, the great triumph of the Cold war was not that “communism was defeated” – it was that two extremely powerful countries managed to navigate their way through the period without destroying each other.

8

roger 09.07.05 at 11:50 pm

Here are some other questions, a la Slocum

1. Should the U.S have intervened on Saddam Hussein’s side in the Iraq-Iran war? Having done so, are the Americans like Rumsfeld who directed that alliance not so culpable as to disqualify themselves from speaking of the ‘moral” reasons for overthrowing Saddam’s regime?
2. Should the U.S. have supported jihadists in Afghanistan in the 80s? Should they have encouraged Saudi Arabia to export wahabi fundamentalism, and even paid to spread islamicist propaganda in the Soviet Union’s Central Asian republic? Should we learn any lesson about our interventions in the name of something higher (defeating communism then, defeating terrorism now) in cultures about which we seem to know jack?
3. Should the U.S., after justly responding to an attack by Osama bin Laden, have outsourced the ‘getting” of Bin Laden to the nation that, after Afghanistan, cooperated most closely with Al Qaeda, Pakistan?
4. if the US were not in Iraq, wouldn’t it be possible to focus resources on Al Queda and the Taliban, which are now in the process of destabilizing Afghanistan?
5. Should the U.S. soldiers be dying to ensure that Southern Iraq turn into a theocracy on the Khomenei model? Should we be concerned that in Basra, a city that we “liberated” three years ago, the city council has changed the weekend off days to Wednesday and Thursday because Jews and Christians use Saturday and Sunday?

You can come up with leading questions of your own, too.

9

dsquared 09.08.05 at 1:36 am

I have come round to the view that promoting democracies abroad using guns and napalm is a bit like “picking winners” in national industrial policy. In that, in principle it can be a good idea, it’s a policy that’s had its success in the past and if executed properly it can be a real force for development. But …

but, it has had far more failures than success, a lot of its most prominent success stories don’t actually stand up to close scrutiny all that well and that there are plenty of perverse incentives in the direction of encouraging politicians to over-use it. In general as a policy, it’s lousy.

So I end up with a rather more knee-jerk anti-intervention stance than one might ideally like to have, simply because bad policies have to be opposed as policies as well as in their specifics. And also because there is never a shortage of loud obnoxious pro-war voices, so the marginal benefit of adding my loud obnoxious voice is greater on the anti-war side.

Which would mean a policy of “Go on, convince me”, with the bar set really at a quite high level. As I’ve repeatedly said before, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that it ought to be more difficult to start a $100bn war than to float a $1bn company on the New York Stock Exchange; at present it is less, in terms of both requirements for disclosure up front and penalties for getting it wrong. Fighting a war of aggression ought to be more like getting a Hollywood movie made; you should need to really sell it as something that needs to be done.

If we were considering and turning down maybe twenty wars for every one we fought, I would probably say we were getting the balance right.

10

Chris Bertram 09.08.05 at 2:10 am

It is probably a mistake to respond to Louis P on this topic, but I feel some record-setting-straight is called for re the points he makes on Yugoslavia. So I’ll just make them briefly and then won’t comment again in this thread (whatever anyone says henceforth).

I won’t speak for the people he lists, but personally I neither saw the Kosovo intervention as a rehearsal for anything else, nor did I attach any importance to the casus belli as such. Rather, having followed the Yugoslav break-up closely since the beginning, having watched the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the shameful abandonment of the Bosnian republic by the West, the hand-wringing of Douglas Hurd, Cyrus Vance etc., and finally the massacres at Srbrenica, I felt that we knew how this next episode was going to go, and that it needed to be stopped, and only armed force would do so. I was pleased and relieved when this happened.

The attempts by Pilger, Chomsky et al to paint the Kosovo intervention as some kind of imperialist market-expanding anti-socialist venture struck me then and now as ludicrous. Haig, Vance, Owen etc had pursued precisely the opposite policy. No doubt if _that_ had prevailed you’d be cranking out the speak-your-weight machine to explain how that too served the long-term interest of imperialism.

As I said. My last comment on this topic in this thread.

11

Brendan 09.08.05 at 3:26 am

‘Kosovo is an example where the US should have intervened and did; Rwanda is an example where the US (and France) should have intervened and didn’t’

I’m sorry but ‘framing’ (apologies to G. Lakoff) the debate this way predisposes you to looking at it in one particular way.

The debate is NOT betweeen ‘intervene or don’t intervene’.

The debate is: do states intervene UNDER THE AEGIS OF THE UNITED NATIONS OR DO THEY DO SO OUTWITH THE FRAMEWORK OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.

For example, you wouldn’t know it from listening to those who justified Iraq (or Kosova for that matter) but there already is an international framework for the punishment of states who commit genocide: The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

BUT ‘triggering’ of this convention

a: only works within states that have signed up to it and
b: can only work through the framework of the UN.

The key problem with Iraq was that with the absence of the famous ‘second resolution’ military action was not authorised by the security council, and was, therefore, illegal.

There is nothing wrong with military action BY INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCES. But international law is very clear: with the exception of self-defence, this is the only military action that is legal.

Afghanistan, Kosova, and Iraq were all illegal by definition. You can justify them if you want, but then you should have a clear understanding that you are justifiying vigilanteism.

(I might add that all calls for US intervention are all invariably hypocritical, in that they always assume that only the US or the UK can take such action. Where were the calls for Nigeria to liberate Kosova? Or Brazil? Where were the pro-war hawks asking for Lebanon to invade Iraq and depose Saddam? Or India? Or Israel, for that matter?).

12

yabonn 09.08.05 at 3:30 am

Republicans’ arrogance and leftists’ facile dovishness

I don’t find it reasonable to put in balance here the arrogance (“let’s rain death on some people”) and the facility (“let’s not rain death on some people”).

The two cases where not created equals, really. Dovishness is not facile, and war should really have to prove his case. What we don’t have here is two parties with equally honorable beliefs yelling at each other about the best option.

13

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 3:41 am

Brendan: when you write

I’m sorry but ‘framing’ (apologies to G. Lakoff) the debate this way predisposes you to looking at it in one particular way.

and then write

You can justify them if you want, but then you should have a clear understanding that you are justifiying vigilanteism.

it is hard to resist pointing out that you are doing some framing of your own! When you use the term “vigilanteism” you are trading on a set of reactions that come from people taking the law into their own hands in the domestic situation where there are clear law enforcement agencies available and recognised principles of adjudication. Sure, we do have international laws, and some legal bodies, and some means of enforcement, but they fall way short of what is available in the domestic case. If international law fails to give effective protection to minorities faced with being driven from their homes or massacred then so much the worse for international law.

14

abb1 09.08.05 at 3:43 am

What Dan Kervick said.

I would add, though, that aside from the fact that all these deranged ‘death-wish’ vigilante fantasies of liberal intellectuals are obviously a form of mental disease, in reality these fantasies have, of course, absolutely nothing to do with motives and goals of those who actually run the show.

And so, the democracy promoting pundits and college professors are merely useful idiots. Oh well, this isn’t the first time, is it.

15

Dan Kervick 09.08.05 at 6:55 am

The debate is: do states intervene UNDER THE AEGIS OF THE UNITED NATIONS OR DO THEY DO SO OUTWITH THE FRAMEWORK OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.

Yes, that’s right. And the option exists of working to strengthen the capacity of the UN to deal with genocide, state collapse and other humanitarian crises. The United States, always jealous of its precious sovereignty, has resisted this path of UN reform in favor of an its agenda of subordinating the UN even further to the will of US policy makers. These same policy makers then use the charge of UN weakness and ineffectiveness as a justification for working unilaterally, outside the international framework.

16

gr 09.08.05 at 6:59 am

I would like to thank Dan Kervick for his post. I have been waiting for someone to make this point on this blog for a long time.

17

Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 7:52 am

I can understand why Chris Bertram is reluctant to discuss Kosovo. Arguments for intervention were built on thin ice. Subsequent events have confirmed the wisdom of the anti-intervention side. Consider the following:

1. Now in power, the Albanian nationality has unleashed pogroms against the Serb remnants in Kosovo that have vindicated Milosevic’s speech about the need to protect them. This speech was widely characterized as fascist, in a fashion that Freudians call ‘projection’.

2. The overthrow of Milosevic has been accompanied by brutal neoliberal ‘reforms’ that have plunged the country into poverty. This too was a dress rehearsal for the economic ‘reforms’ instituted in Iraq and subjected to criticism from Naomi Klein.

3. The unilateral intervention of the USA and NATO helped to smash resistance to the idea that such powers have the right to topple governments that displease them. By apologizing for the blitzkreig into Yugoslavia, Liberals and ex-Marxists like Chris Bertram and Norm Geras helped to pave the way for the current disaster in Iraq.

18

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 8:44 am

2. The overthrow of Milosevic has been accompanied by brutal neoliberal ‘reforms’ that have plunged the country into poverty.

Of course the Yugoslav economy was, as Louis P says, one of the most successful in the world prior to NATO meddling. So successful, in fact, that they were able to export lots of workers as Gastarbeiter to Germany and elsewhere. Veritably, a land flowing with milk and honey suddenly “plunged” into poverty by the evil imperialists!

19

Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 8:52 am

Actually, imperialist economic intervention paved the way for military intervention.

===

During the post-war years, Western aid — amounting to several hundred billions of dollars, most of which came from the U.S. — helped to create a boom in Yugoslavia. And, although Yugoslavia remained poorer than most of the countries of the industrialized West, the relatively equitable distribution of the fruits of industrialization carried much of the country out of poverty. By the end of the 1980s, Yugoslavs were better off than most people in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and parts of Greece. That economic success was crucial in diminishing regional and ethnic tensions.

Thus, the Yugoslav socialist experiment was generally viewed as successful, even in the West, both for its economic progress and for the unity which Marshall Tito brought to an ethnically diverse state.

Yugoslav planners, however, strove to combine structural change with rapid economic growth. And that policy was costly; it created a large trade deficit and weakened the country’s currency. The oil crises of 1973-74 and 1979 exacerbated Yugoslavia’s problems. By the early 1980s, the country faced serious balance of payments problems and rising inflation. As usual, the IMF, in the name of financial rectitude, stepped in and prodded theYugoslav authorities to slow growth, restrict credit, cut social expenditures, and devalue the dinar. Although the trade deficit was reduced and the balance of payments showed a record surplus by 1970, the IMF “reforms” wreaked economic and political havoc. Slower growth, the accumulation of foreign debt — and especially the cost of servicing it — as well as devaluation, led to a fall in the standard of living of the average Yugoslav.

The economic crisis threatened political stability. Not only did the declining standard of living undermine the authority of the country’s leaders, it also threatened to aggravate simmering ethnic tensions.

full: http://www.geocities.com/cpa_blacktown_02/19990520seangervasi.htm

20

Donald Johnson 09.08.05 at 9:37 am

I’ve never made up my mind about Kosovo (haven’t read anywhere near enough about it), but it is my distinct impression that Louis P is right about the post-intervention pogroms directed against Serbs. This doesn’t seem like a minor little point if you’re trying to decide whether the Kosovo intervention was a success story.

21

Cranky Observer 09.08.05 at 9:50 am

Some organizations heavily reward people who make decisions that turn out to be right (in hindsight), and heavily punish people who make decisions that turn out to be wrong (“keep the winners; cull out the losers”). Other organizations moderately reward people who make decisions that turn out to be right, and treat people who make decisions that turn out to be wrong neutrally or supportively (“if we fired everyone who made a mistake no one would take a risk or learn from anything”). Both strategies have their strong points and weak points, and you can find successful (and unsuccessful) organizations that use either one.

But neither logically nor based on experience have a I ever heard of an organization that heavily punishes people who turn out to be RIGHT, and heavily rewards people who turn out to be WRONG that survives for very long. And usually the failure is very messy and unpleasant.

This is the problem with not only the Bush Administration but also the “left wing hawks”. They were WRONG on Iraq. WRONG. 100.1% WRONG. If we had a type 2 organization thesee people could be sent back to the farm leagues for some more seasoning and another chance.

But what they (you) are demanding is that you be /left in charge/ and that you be /allowed to punish (continue punishing) the people who were RIGHT/.

Do you really expect your organization, or our nation, to survive with that strategy?

Cranky

22

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 9:51 am

Attacks on Serbs by ethnic Albanians are to be deplored, of course, but my distinct impression is that the level of ethnic cleansing and massacre in the region as a whole has declined massively since (and thanks to) the Kosovo intervention. (I’m sure Amnesty or HRW would bear this out.) The fact that many of those responsible — Croats and Bosniaks too — have also been brought to justice and that Serbian society is starting to face up to what happened in Bosnia is a big gain.

23

abb1 09.08.05 at 9:59 am

I don’t think the debate is limited by what you said, Dan. The debate is that plus the question of legitimacy of the UN and international law. Because if one day we find out that the UN charter says ‘Comrade Napoleon is always right’ instead of ‘all animals are equal’, then the international law won’t do you any good.

24

Baal_Shem_ra 09.08.05 at 9:59 am

Kervick,

« The impression I was often left with is that they were so transfixed by their brilliantly radiating image of post-Saddam Iraqi perfection that they were willing to endure practically any cost. “
Like that bastard Hitchens? Yeah, completely agree there and he isn’t the only one. I agree with the moral calculations part of what you say. However, I have a few reservations about some other aspects and am wondering what you think:

« There was, once upon a time, a fairly effective international taboo in place about direct military intervention in other countries. “
When? Fear of nukes and being a satellite/client of countries that didn’t want to escalate a conflict into direction confrontation, yes. Taboo, no.

« but the diplomatic cost of direct intervention kept the two superpowers from engaging each other directly,
The diplomatic costs? I thought it was the possibility of escalation to the nuclear option that kept the US and the USSR from fighting a direct hot war.

“But it was generally accepted by progressive thinkers that these latter interventions were illegitimate unless duly authorized by the international community.”
What if China invaded Taiwan and then used its veto against a US intervention? Or does the principle that one must not intervene save for self-defence and duly authorised intervention only apply when opponents act in good faith (which would leave few cases)? Protecting Taiwan is not self-defence on the part of the US.

« in order to uphold international rules and solidify support for the principle of non-intervention. It is that same disciplined outlook that has usually lead liberals in the past to support the rule of law over vigilante justice.”
The two cases are significantly different. In the latter case, prohibiting vigilante justice makes sense because the rule of law is enforced through both persuasion *and* overwhelming strength by police forces which makes for effective application of laws. This is not the case for non-economic international laws. If it were the case, international vigilantism would be an inferior alternative but it just isn’t there and wishing it were there won’t make it so. The only way you could have efficacious international law is to give the UN its very own overwhelmingly powerful army. Russia and China would then have power over that army.

Today, which Wilsonian principle or UN resolution is actually preventing China from Tibetising Taiwan? None, of course. It is the military forces of Taiwan and the US that actually assure that. You can talk to Hu all you want about Kant and international law, it won’t change much. Same goes for a lot of countries.

« deliberative bodies enforcing an international rule of law “
Deliberative bodies do not enforce anything. Deliberation is a legislative branch function. Enforcement is an executive branch function. A resolution does not enforce anything.

“Left-liberals believe that progress requires governance, coordination and rational planning “
A five year plan of peace?

« was an aspiration that provided hope to billions of people”
Provided hope. A lot like communism. It provides hope but in non-ideal conditions and with non-ideal agents relying on that ideal is counter-productive.

25

Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 10:34 am

Yes, I am sure that HRW would have a no problem minimizing Albanian violence today. They, after all, were on board the liberal intervention boat from the beginning.

===

Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia is the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18, 1997, that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that the Serbian elections to be held three days later “will be neither free nor fair.” This astonishing intervention was followed by a long list of measures that Serbia and Yugoslavia must carry out “or else,” and that the international community must take to discipline Serbia and Yugoslavia. These demands indicated an extremely broad interpretation of obligatory standards of “human rights” as applied to Serbia, although not, obviously, to everybody else, since they included new media laws drafted “in full consultation with the independent media in Yugoslavia” as well as permission meanwhile to all “unlicensed but currently operating radio and television stations to broadcast without interference.” (20)

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded by calling on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to “deny Yugoslavia readmission to the OSCE until there are concrete improvements in the country’s human rights record, including respect for freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary, and minority rights, as well as cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.”

As for the demand to “respect freedom of the press,” one may wonder what measures would satisfy HRW, in light of the fact that press freedom already exists in Serbia to an extent well beyond that in many countries not being served with such an ultimatum. There exists in Serbia quite a range of media devoted to attacking the government, not only in Serbo-Croatian but also in Albanian. As of June 1998, there were 2,319 print publications and 101 radio and television stations in Yugoslavia, over twice the number that existed in 1992. Belgrade alone has 14 daily newspapers. Six state-supported national dailies have a joint circulation of 180,000, compared to around 350,000 for seven leading opposition dailies. (21)

Moreover, the judiciary in Serbia is certainly no less independent than in Croatia or Muslim Bosnia, and almost certainly much more so. As for “minority rights,” it would be hard to find a country anywhere in the world where they are better protected both in theory and practice than in Yugoslavia. (22)

For those who remember history, the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki ultimatum instantly brings to mind the ultimatum issued by Vienna to Belgrade after the Sarajevo assassination in 1914 as a pretext for the Austrian invasion which touched off World War I. The Serbian government gave in to all but one of the Habsburg demands, but was invaded anyway. (23)

The hostility of this new Vienna power, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, toward Serbia, is evident in all its statements, and in those of its executive director, Aaron Rhodes. In a March 18, 1998, column for the International Herald Tribune, he wrote that Albanians in Kosovo “have lived for years under conditions similar to those suffered by Jews in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe just before World War II. They have been ghettoized. They are not free, but politically disenfranchised and deprived of basic civil liberties.”

The comparison could hardly be more incendiary, but the specific facts to back it up are absent. They are necessarily absent, since the accusation is totally false. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have never been “politically disenfranchised,” and even Western diplomats have at times urged them to use their right to vote in order to deprive Milosevic of his electoral majority. But nationalist leaders have called for a boycott of Serbian elections since 1981 – well before Milosevic came on the scene – and ethnic Albanians who dare take part in legal political life are subject to intimidation and even murder by nationalist Albanian gunmen. (24)

In order to gain international support, inflammatory terms such as “ghetto” and “apartheid” are used by the very Albanian nationalist leaders who have created the separation between populations by leading their community to boycott all institutions of the Serbian State in order to create a de fact secession. Not only elections and schools, but even the public health service has been boycotted, to the detriment of the health of Kosovo Albanians, especially the children. (25)

Human Rights Watch’s blanket condemnation of a government which, like it or not, was elected, in a country whose existence is threatened by foreign-backed secessionist movements, contrasts sharply with the traditional approach of the senior international human rights organization, Amnesty International.

full: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/grattan_healy/johnston.htm

26

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 10:43 am

I think I’ll content myself with just quoting one of the remarks in the long and dreary piece by pro-Serbian ideologue Diana Johnstone that you’ve inflicted on us Louis:

bq. As for “minority rights,” it would be hard to find a country anywhere in the world where they are better protected both in theory and practice than in Yugoslavia.

And the workers toil happily in the sunshine under the radiant smile of the Great Leader ….

27

abb1 09.08.05 at 10:53 am

Baal, what’s with all those Taiwan/China hypotheticals? Taiwan is technically a part of China, so, technically it can’t be ‘invaded’ or ‘tibetized’; it’s an internal Chinese matter, much like Russian federation vs. Chechnya or the US of A vs. a bunch of separatist kooks in Texas.

The only way you could have efficacious international law is to give the UN its very own overwhelmingly powerful army.

It’s not the only way; there’s another way: it’s when the judge deputizes a group of private citizens to enforce the law when it’s necessary.

28

jet 09.08.05 at 11:11 am

abb1,
“technically” Tibet was part of China in the past also. Tibet and Taiwan both were independent for many/several generations and the citizens of both countries had/have no interest in rejoining China and violently opposed/oppose the idea.

29

Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 11:22 am

I am not sure what point non-libertarian is trying to make. Under Tito, national minorities were treated far better than they are in the USA today. Things began to unravel when the economy fell apart. There is nothing controversial about this. When Germany was prosperous, Jews were treated fairly. When the economy collapsed after WWI, Jews were made scapegoats. In any case, the first instance of ethnic cleansing was directed by Albanians against Serbs as this item from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting should make clear:

Origins of “ethnic cleansing”?

New York Times correspondent David Binder filed a report in 1982 (11/28/82): “In violence growing out of the Pristina University riots of March 1981, a score of people have been killed and hundreds injured. There have been almost weekly incidents of rape, arson, pillage and industrial sabotage, most seemingly designed to drive Kosovo’s remaining indigenous Slavs–Serbs and Montenegrins–out of the province.”

Describing an attempt to set fire to a 12-year-old Serbian boy, Binder reported (11/9/82): “Such incidents have prompted many of Kosovo’s Slavic inhabitants to flee the province, thereby helping to fulfill a nationalist demand for an ethnically ‘pure’ Albanian Kosovo. The latest Belgrade estimate is that 20,000 Serbs and Montenegrins have left Kosovo for good since the 1981 riots.”

“Ethnically pure,” of course, is another way to translate the phrase “ethnically clean”–as in “ethnic cleansing.” The first use of this concept to appear in Nexis was in relation to the Albanian nationalists’ program for Kosovo: “The nationalists have a two-point platform,” the Times’ Marvine Howe quotes a Communist (and ethnically Albanian) official in Kosovo (7/12/82), “first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater Albania.” All of the half-dozen references in Nexis to “ethnically clean” or “ethnic cleansing” over the next seven years attribute the phrase to Albanian nationalists.

The New York Times returned to the Kosovo issue in 1986, when the paper’s Henry Kamm (4/28/86) reported that Slavic Yugoslavians “blame ethnic Albanians…for continuing assaults, rape and vandalism. They believe their aim is to drive non-Albanians out of the province.” He reported suspicions by Slavs that the autonomous Communist authorities in Kosovo were covering up anti-Slavic crimes, including arson at a nunnery and the brutal mutilation of a Serbian farmer. Kamm quoted a prescient “Western diplomat” who described Kosovo as “Yugoslavia’s single greatest problem.”

By 1987, the Times was portraying a dire situation in Kosovo. David Binder reported (11/1/87):

Ethnic Albanians in the Government have manipulated public funds and regulations to take over land belonging to Serbs…. Slavic Orthodox churches have been attacked, and flags have been torn down. Wells have been poisoned and crops burned. Slavic boys have been knifed, and some young ethnic Albanians have been told by their elders to rape Serbian girls….

As Slavs flee the protracted violence, Kosovo is becoming what ethnic Albanian nationalists have been demanding for years, and especially strongly since the bloody rioting by ethnic Albanians in Pristina in 1981–an ”ethnically pure” Albanian region, a ”Republic of Kosovo” in all but name.

This is the situation–at least as perceived by Serbs–that led to Milosevic’s infamous 1987 speech promising protection of Serbs, and later resulted in the revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy. Despite being easily available on Nexis, virtually none of this material has found its way into contemporary coverage of Kosovo, in the New York Times or anywhere else.

full: http://www.fair.org/extra/9905/kosovo.html

30

abb1 09.08.05 at 11:40 am

No, Jet, it’s not correct. A lot of people in the ROC do want reunification.

Read this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_status_of_Taiwan

The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan recognize that there is one China and that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China.

ROC is not a UN member, it has no official embassies, technically it’s simply not a country.

There are other places like that, republic of Abkhazia, for example: http://www.abkhazia.org/

31

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.08.05 at 11:48 am

“The debate is: do states intervene UNDER THE AEGIS OF THE UNITED NATIONS OR DO THEY DO SO OUTWITH THE FRAMEWORK OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.

For example, you wouldn’t know it from listening to those who justified Iraq (or Kosova for that matter) but there already is an international framework for the punishment of states who commit genocide: The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

And you wouldn’t know it from listening to those who cheerlead so-called international law, but like the NPT, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is merely a piece of paper that countries are not actually interested in using force to carry out. The UN does not act because it is incapable of action or because it is too weak to act, but rather because most countries just don’t care to act.

32

abb1 09.08.05 at 12:04 pm

Sebastian,
but the same is true about private citizens – most of them wouldn’t care to act against some guy on the other side of town who beats his wife. The sheriff, however, mounts his horse and goes to do his job; lynching is not allowed.

There has to be some independent impartial apolitical entity judging these matters and triggering appropriate actions. Yet most of these institutions, like the ICJ for example, are completely powerless.

33

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.08.05 at 12:26 pm

“There has to be some independent impartial apolitical entity judging these matters and triggering appropriate actions.”

In international politics why do you think such a thing is likely to be capable of existing–especially when the United States is one of the only countries willing to fund (much less staff and build) up a serious military force?

It sounds like you want the US to be cast in the role of the sheriff while the EU is cast in the role of the law-makers. Is this correct? Normally the sheriff has his expenses paid for by the state. Are you willing to have Europe fully fund the US military? Would Europe be willing to commit say 10% of their GDP to do so? Europe can sometimes be convinced to contribute money to ongoing conflicts. But will they pay for all the military infrastructure that goes behind that? No.

The analogy breaks down dramatically because Europe wants much more ‘say’ than is backed up by what they want to ‘do’.

34

jet 09.08.05 at 12:37 pm

Abb1,
“A lot of people in the ROC do want reunification.” Heh, after reading the wikipedia article I agree with that. But apparently when the people of Taiwan say “reunification” they mean under the ROC government.

35

abb1 09.08.05 at 12:38 pm

Well, the law-makers obviously have to represent all countries, not just Europe. As far as being paid for the military force, I think I read somewhere that Japan pretty much financed the whole Gulf-1 campaign. Is it true?

36

Matt McGrattan 09.08.05 at 1:05 pm

“It sounds like you want the US to be cast in the role of the sheriff while the EU is cast in the role of the law-makers. Is this correct? Normally the sheriff has his expenses paid for by the state. Are you willing to have Europe fully fund the US military?”

This is just tired bullshit. The US is very far from the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world. The US isn’t even in the top 20.

It is true that the US bears a considerable burden when it comes to large full-scale wars such as the first Gulf War — primarily because the US has the transport infrastructure to enable the projection of force overseas, rather than because of troop numbers — but the majority of the peacekeeping missions being taken on by the UN throughout the world involve almost no US contribution. Additionally, the US’s financial share of the UN budget is proportionally smaller, relative to GDP, than a great many other countries.

It’s just a tired myth that the US acts as ‘world-cop’ while the EU and other places twiddle their thumbs. All of the major European nations contribute more troops to UN peacekeeping activities than the US –and significantly more when considered as a percentage of their population — and *their*, not particularly impressive, contribution pales into insignificance when compared to the contribution of some African and Asian nations.

37

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.08.05 at 1:31 pm

“As far as being paid for the military force, I think I read somewhere that Japan pretty much financed the whole Gulf-1 campaign. Is it true?”

I think you are missing the crucial distinction between funding a campaign and funding the military infrastructure which makes the campaign possible. (And purely from memory I believe the Japanese contribution to the campaign was quite large–about half).

Matt, you are laboring on side issues.

“It is true that the US bears a considerable burden when it comes to large full-scale wars such as the first Gulf War—primarily because the US has the transport infrastructure to enable the projection of force overseas, rather than because of troop numbers—but the majority of the peacekeeping missions being taken on by the UN throughout the world involve almost no US contribution. “

“Has the infrastructure?” That didn’t just come down off the trees. That was paid for, and not by anyone in Europe.

As for ‘the majority of peacekeeping missions’ and ‘almost no US contribution’ I think you might want to revisit who the single largest contributor to the UN’s budget is. Anything that spends money from the UN by definition has huge US involvement. Furthermore number of UN missions speaks to nothing about the missions’ scope. Counting the number of people who own a computer is not the same as defining the people who do the most computing. On any large-scale activity, the UN simply does not act without the US taking the lead and providing the military force. You can pretend otherwise, but you are fooling yourself.

38

Matt McGrattan 09.08.05 at 2:55 pm

The US is the single largest contributor to the UN budget because it has the single largest GDP. However, the US produces 37% of the world’s GDP but contributes only 22% to the main UN budget.

There’s nothing disproportianate about the US contribution.

“Furthermore number of UN missions speaks to nothing about the missions’ scope. Counting the number of people who own a computer is not the same as defining the people who do the most computing. On any large-scale activity, the UN simply does not act without the US taking the lead and providing the military force.”

And that is frankly false. Most of the large scale UN missions currently in operation are in sub-Saharan Africa and the vast bulk of the operations take place without any US involvement (and, to be fair, without much EU involvement either).

The US currently has 10, yes, you read that right, 10 troops involved with UN peacekeeping.

I’m not denying that there are periods when the US contributes a great deal, Gulf War I is a particular case in point. I’m not engaged in some knee-jerk criticism of the US. I am simply disputing the view that the US does ‘all the military work’ when that is untrue. It’s a myth that suits a certain side of the US political scene that would like to denigrate the role of international law and of institutional consensus based conflict resolution.

It is simply false to believe that the bulk of the UN’s peacekeeping work takes place with ANY major logistical involvement from the US.

39

abb1 09.08.05 at 3:01 pm

You have a point here; I’ll concede that a trully imparial international force has to be financed equitably, according to some formula; that is: the average citizen of Luxemburg should be paying about the same as the average US citizen.

In which case, of course, using the US military to advance unilateral interests of the US should be unacceptable.

Well, maybe it could happen. On some other planet.

40

Sebastian holsclaw 09.08.05 at 3:07 pm

I think we are arguing past each other because you want to focus on the extremely limited peacekeeping that the UN does, while I am focusing on the fact that things like the Protocol against genocide don’t get enforced because A) most countries don’t want to bother with it and B) the UN couldn’t do it without the US (which is really a subset of a).

As for “The US is the single largest contributor to the UN budget because it has the single largest GDP. However, the US produces 37% of the world’s GDP but contributes only 22% to the main UN budget.

There’s nothing disproportianate about the US contribution.”

Disproportiante isn’t the question. I was rebutting your “No US involvement” concept. Everything the UN does has at a very minimum 1/5 monetary involvement. I also think ‘proportion’ is the wrong question. The question ought to be whether or not the UN is doing a good enough job to deserve the massive US prop-up it gets. I think not. I suspect giving all that money to the Red Cross would do much more good in the world.

41

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 3:08 pm

You really are a piece of work aren’t you Louis?

You cite a piece by David Binder as evidence for the Serbian version of events, yet neglect to inform the readers that same Binder is notorious as sympathiser with Serb extremists including such figures as General Mladic. Here’s “Binder in his own words”:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1676 :

bq. Allow me to say also that, having spent much more time around Mladic and his colleagues than Mr. Block, I strongly wish to disassociate myself from his assessment of the general as a crazed killer. Until compelling evidence to the contrary surfaces, I will continue to view Mladic as a superb professional, an opinion voiced by senior American, British, French and Canadian military officers who have met him or followed his career ….

What are you going to serve us up with next Louis?

Perhaps Arkan’s Tigers were just the Serb branch of the Boy Scouts and you have a cutting from this or that newspaper to prove it?

42

Brendan 09.08.05 at 3:14 pm

Non-libertarian

My understanding of Lakoff’s position is that to speak of a non-framed statement is a contradiction in terms. All arguments/positions/sentences are framed: the question is: who does the framing and for what purpose?

My position on international law was nicely summed up Dan Kervick above, more eloquently than I could put it.

The question is: if you don’t like international law (not some international laws specifically, but the whole concept of a supra-national legalit framework) what do you plan to put in its place?

I might add that almost invariably those who rail against ‘international law’ and ‘the UN’ in the context of the invasion are almost all hypocrites. Where was their condemnation of international law in ’91, when it was working in their favour? I didn’t hear them condemning the various security council resolutions that eventually forced Saddam out of Kuwait.

But the whole concept of the law is that you obey it whether it goes ‘your way’ or not. If i went out and killed ten people you bet your ass i would rail against ‘the law’ as i was sentenced. But i would have to go to jail anyway.

Those who rail against international law are perfectly happy to do so because they know that without law, the only real law becomes ‘might makes right’ and because they know that the United States has the most might, that things will tend to go their way, and they are probably right. But I bet that if China or India, or, for that matter, Iraq, were the major military forces in the world, they would pretty quickly come round to the idea. The law is supposed to defend the weak. It is presupposed that the strong can defend themselves.

43

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 3:24 pm

Brendan, I think your ad hominem attack on those who “rail against international” law is unwarranted. I’m very much in favour both of improving international law and of improving its enforcement, but there’s no denying that, with its current emphasis on state sovereignty at the expense of human rights it very often favors the strong over the weak.

The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979 was illegal under international law and this illegality was held against the Vietnamese by the US and others for years. But it was a damn good thing they did getting rid of Pol Pot, don’t you agree?

44

Brendan 09.08.05 at 3:26 pm

‘And you wouldn’t know it from listening to those who cheerlead so-called international law, but like the NPT, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is merely a piece of paper that countries are not actually interested in using force to carry out. The UN does not act because it is incapable of action or because it is too weak to act, but rather because most countries just don’t care to act’

Way hay! What a great paragraph.

First: what exactly do you mean ‘so called international law ‘.

Are you questioning the reality of the international legal framework, painstakingly created over five decades?

Or are you against its existence? If against its existence what do you plan to put in its place?

‘The UN does not act because it is incapable of action or because it is too weak to act, but rather because most countries just don’t care to act’

Countries like the United States for example: in the Sudan, in the Congo, in Cambodia, in Pakistan/Bangladesh, in the Congo, in Indoesia/East Timor?

In actual fact the United States has not acted against any of the major post-war genocides, and when it did it was invariably on the side of the murderers (Pakistan/Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor and Indonesia, arguably Rwanda).

Or is that not what you meant?

45

abb1 09.08.05 at 3:28 pm

This is silly: why are you all addressing Chris Bertram as ‘non-libertarian’?

46

Sebastian holsclaw 09.08.05 at 3:29 pm

My problem with the anti-genocide convention for instance is that it claims to protect, but it is just a useless piece of paper that no one really cares about. Like the NPT, if you don’t enforce it, it can actually make things worse because the ‘process’ provides everyone an excuse not to act.

47

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 3:36 pm

WTF are you talking about abb1?

48

jet 09.08.05 at 3:47 pm

If the US pays for 22% of the UN, but only gets 1 vote out of 15 on the security council (the non-security council members get a free ride?) and probably gets fewer benefits from the UN than most countries, I’d say the US is vastly over paying its portion.

49

Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 4:00 pm

I suppose that anybody that fails to adhere to the Cruise Missile humanitarian intervention line that ‘non-libertarian’ puts forward must be biased, including the highly respected Chris Hedges whose
“War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning” was universally acclaimed when it came out last year.

The Guardian (London), November 13, 1997

Sarajevo savagery exposed;
The hidden atrocities of Muslim militias defending the city are revealed in secret court papers, writes Chris Hedges

BYLINE: CHRIS HEDGES

IN THE chaotic first days of the Bosnian war, when hastily organised Muslim militias scrambled to defend Sarajevo against heavily armed Serbs, men like Musan Topalovic rose from the shadows to become warlords and folk heroes.

Topalovic, nicknamed Caco, was one of the most admired and, so the legend goes, most capable. The ragtag troops of his 10th Mountain Brigade held the front line repulsing repeated assaults.

Two years after the war, it is increasingly clear that he and other paramilitary leaders played a far darker role in the war, murdering scores of Bosnian Serb civilians who remained in Sarajevo…

Interviewed Muslim militiamen, the former commander and deputy commander of the Bosnian army, and families of the victims described the killings and abductions. Some of the killings are also detailed in the secret court documents.

Behireta Sljivic, aged 47, whose ethnic Serb husband Boeidar fought with the Bosnian government forces, was burned alive by Caco’s unit and tossed into no man’s land, said: “Caco was a butcher. My husband was fighting against these criminals who were shelling Sarajevo, and Caco murdered him simply because he was not a Muslim. When we asked Caco what happened to Boeidar, he told us he had killed him. In those days he and his soldiers terrified the city, kidnapping, beating and killing who they liked with total impunity.”

===

The New York Times, September 2, 1996

Bosnian Leader Hails Islam at Election Rallies

BYLINE: By CHRIS HEDGES

DATELINE: GREBAK, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sept. 1

Campaign rallies by Bosnia’s President, Alijia Izetbegovic, are not intended to alleviate the fears of those who believe he wants to set up a Muslim state.

Before a rally on Saturday at this remote mountain pass about 40 miles south of Sarajevo, a crowd of some 10,000 people was treated to lilting religious music filled with Koranic verses. The event opened with prayers by an Imam. The white-clad soldiers of the Bosnian Army’s 7th Brigade, many wearing green headbands with Koranic slogans that signaled their readiness to die for their faith, chanted “God is Great!” — drowning out the speeches by military commanders.

And Mr. Izetbegovic himself issued a call to arms filled with promises never to forget the sacrifice of the “martyrs” who died here or to forgive “the criminals who tried to wipe our country off the map.”

“Many of our homes are still in the hands of the enemy,” the President, dressed in a green military jacket, told the crowd at the event, held on a patch of scrub land that was fiercely fought over during the war…

Mr. Izetbegovic’s governing Party of Democratic Action, or S.D.A., has exhibited little tolerance toward dissenters during the campaign. Bosnia’s former Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic, says the party has threatened, harassed and beaten his supporters, making it impossible for him to compete. A few weeks ago, Mr. Silajdzic was assaulted by a mob of Democratic Action supporters who he believes “wanted to kill me.”

When asked if he thought the attacks were sanctioned by the 71-year-old President, for whom he once worked, Mr. Silajdzic paused.

“These attacks are known to him,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “These are his party members who are carrying these attacks out.”

Critics say Mr. Izetbegovic’s Serbian and Croatian opponents can expect even less cordial treatment.

50

Brendan 09.08.05 at 4:04 pm

One thing I really can’t stand is when people criticise, for example, the Genocide convention as just being ‘a piece of paper’ (as opposed to what?), when they would oppose any possible attempts to give it some teeth.

Incidentally it is highly debatable whether ‘The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia’ was illegal. The Vietnamese claimed that the Khmer Rouge were engaging in border skirmishes against Vietnam (and they may well have been right). In other words they were acting in self-defence: perfectly legal.

What WAS illegal and immoral was for the Vietnamese to hang around for the better part of a decade and impose a Cambodian government that suited them.

We are all agreed upon that, yeah? That when an invading force refuses to leave but instead puts pressure on the new government to have a domestic/foreign policy that suits the invaders that is wrong? Yeah?

51

Non-libertarian 09.08.05 at 4:17 pm

including the highly respected Chris Hedges whose
“War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning” was universally acclaimed when it came out last year.

“Highly respected” – not by everyone.
“universally acclaimed” – not.

A short session with google came up with a good deal of negative commentary on Hedges including this:

http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0112&L=justwatch-l&D=1&O=D&F=&S=&P=376

bq.Hedges is a master
apologist for the Serbs, and makes it a point to demonize both Croats and
Albanians. For previous discussions on Hedges pro-Serb bias, please refer to
my post on JWATCH from 28 March 1999, or Michael Sells’ more thorough
dismantling of Hedges, posted to JWATCH on 30 June 1999. I have no proof of
this, but I suspect that Chris Hedges is closely aligned with a more
notorious New York Times Serb apologist, David Binder. It is probably
Hedges/Binder that pushed Harper’s into the 600,000 figure.

Hedges linked to Binder eh? Small world.

52

Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 4:42 pm

Hedges is a master apologist for the Serbs? Really?

The New York Times, March 11, 1998
Serbs Force a Crude Burial For 51 Left Dead in Kosovo

BYLINE: By CHRIS HEDGES

DATELINE: SRBICA, Serbia, March 10

The Serbian police today seized the bodies of 51 ethnic Albanians killed in a sweep of separatists in Kosovo province, loaded them onto trucks, dumped them into graves and bulldozed the earth, witnesses said.

The forced burials today denied families a chance to have autopsies performed and to hold funerals, something the Serbs have sought to avoid in a province now seething with frustration and anger.

“About 300 police arrived at the garage where the bodies were being held tonight and loaded them on a truck,” said one witness in Srbica, 25 miles west of Pristina, who insisted on not being identified. “There were 12 Albanians and a Muslim cleric allowed to go with the police to Prekaz. The bodies were put in the graves. The graves, dug this afternoon, were filled in by a bulldozer.”

===

I guess one is a “Serb apologist” if one doesn’t agree 100 percent with Attila Hoare, Norm Geras, Paul Berman, David Rieff, Michael Ignatieff and Christopher Hitchens.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.08.05 at 4:46 pm

“One thing I really can’t stand is when people criticise, for example, the Genocide convention as just being ‘a piece of paper’ (as opposed to what?), when they would oppose any possible attempts to give it some teeth.”

Oppose any possible attempt? Hardly. I would oppose attempts to administer it EXCLUSIVELY through the UN because the UN is so ridiculously corrupt. I would not oppose all sorts of other methods to give it teeth. What do you think of saying that an ongoing genocide provides a justification to invade similar to “self-defense”. In crimminal law it would qualify as “defense of others”–which in many jurisdictions (though not all) allows for the use of force. I strongly suspect I know what your answer will be, but just for the sake of argument…

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Brendan 09.08.05 at 5:23 pm

‘I would not oppose all sorts of other methods to give it teeth. ‘

Like what?

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Louis Proyect 09.08.05 at 9:47 pm

Bosnia was certainly not the first time that liberals looked to a benighted regime abroad in order to compensate for the stalled pace of domestic advance. In 1792 France’s Girondins sensed that their revolution was in peril. Beholding long-suffering peoples to the east, they decided to export progress and promptly declared war on… Austria. And it was Robespierre, so often denounced as a utopian scourge, who issued this prescient warning to his distracted comrades: “No one loves armed missionaries.”

full: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050926/robin

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abb1 09.09.05 at 2:03 am

Sorry, non-libertarian, I guess I was wrong. Between your recent ‘I am becoming a libertarian’ post and your pledge ‘this is my last comment on this topic in this thread’ I thought it was clear that you’re Chris Bertram. Whatever; if I was wrong, I apologize; who cares anyway.

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Chris Bertram 09.09.05 at 2:33 am

Not only am I not “non-libertarian” but the “I’m becoming a libertarian” post was not by me but by Kieran!

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abb1 09.09.05 at 5:18 am

I am stupid. Sorry.

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Antoni Jaume 09.09.05 at 11:41 am

“If the US pays for 22% of the UN, but only gets 1 vote out of 15 […]gets fewer benefits from the UN than most countries, I’d say the US is vastly over paying its portion.”

A splendid description of what happens in NO.

DSW

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