Saturday, August 23, 2003
Supping with the Devil - 23rd August 2003, 22.36

David Clark produces a strong article in the Grauniad on the current fissures in the Left over foreign policy. His assertion that this is the strongest division yet seen on the Left with mainstream figures lining up in the antiwar lobby is an arguable reading of recent political history.

However, his analysis that the Left has split between the Blairites who support a doctrine of humanitarian intervention versus the fetishists who idealise international law is spot on.

Before Sept. 11, there was substantial agreement between them about the principles that ought to underpin a progressive foreign policy. There was consensus on the need to move beyond narrow realism by accepting wider humanitarian obligations as part of a responsible global citizenship. There was a belief that it was time to act on the promises contained in the universal declaration of human rights. And there was a willingness to use military force, in extremis, to achieve these objectives.

The rights and wrongs of this
[intervention in Kosovo] have been hotly debated, but the interventionists were at one in maintaining that the values of the UN charter should be upheld even if it meant bypassing its institutions, and they were right to do so. Those who opposed them indulged in a form of procedural fetishism by which the sanctity of a discredited veto system was considered more important than the prevention of crimes against humanity. They also relied on a narrow and static interpretation of international law that ignored its tendency to evolve in accordance with custom and practice.

Clark stated that the opposition to Blair arose from his alliance with the neoconservatives. Howver, the neoconservatives are painted as geopolitical sculptors who wish to remodel other states with the face of the United States. This places great emphasis upon their ideology at the expense of the strands of realism that suffuse their political responses to events. That is why Bush can outflank opponents on the Left and support the establishment of a Palestinian state. The neoconservatives surprise their critics because they are more flexible than their ideology would suggest.

Opponents of the war did not attack Blair because of his alliance with the Americans. They attacked the war as it did not meet their perception of what international law demanded and the Coalition was willing to attack Iraq without gathering a necessary consensus to justify bypassing the UN.

Of course, with the Hutton inquiry and the 'nation building' in Iraq, neoconservatism and its wartime allies are foundering, both here and abroad. It can only triumph if its original aims in the war on terror are pursued: the 'regime change' in states that support terror - Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and their replacement by US sponsored democracies. That is unlikely to be the case now.


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