Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Desperately seeking a peace movement


Unlike the United States, the Brits still have a functioning legislature -- and consequently there was an actual debate on Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to commit British bombers to attacking ISIS in Syria in the wake of the Paris massacres. The result was never really in doubt, though some Labour MPs including their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, pointed out that it was unlikely the bombing would accomplish anything the U.S. wasn't already doing better.

At the London Review of Books, James Meek, who has reported from Afghanistan and Iraq, brought to the fore what has gotten completely lost in the debate and in the metastasizing wars we are encouraged to consider a normal state.

Critics of Western intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya lament the deaths of civilians, the eruption of previously contained sectarian or tribal conflicts, and the provocation of terrorist attacks on the interveners’ home countries. Less talked about is a fourth unpleasant consequence – more interventions. For all the concern at the spread of Salafist ideology around the world, there is surprisingly little concern at the spread of interventionist ideology – the creed that country A is entitled to take military action against, or within, country B, without the consent of the government of country B (if it has one) or any evidence that it poses a threat to country A.

Such overt interventions – that is, not through proxies – happened many times between the United Nations being set up and the end of the Cold War. Britain and France intervened in Egypt, the USSR intervened in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, the US intervened in Grenada. But the pivotal intervention was Iraq. What we are beginning to see is how the US and Britain’s invasion of that country not only seemed to other countries to legitimise their own interventions, but has inspired a set of newly prosperous countries to acquire and use the interveners’ tools.

Since 2003, we have seen Russian military intervention in Georgia and Ukraine; we have seen Saudi intervention in Yemen, with airstrikes galore. In August last year, the United Arab Emirates seemed to surprise the United States by using the fancy fighters and airborne refuelling aircraft it had bought from Western countries to fly thousands of miles and, with Egypt’s help, bomb Libya. As Cameron was mustering support for his Syria bombing vote, China announced it was setting up its first overseas military base, in Djibouti, close to the American base that flies drones to Somalia and Yemen.

In the long term, heavily armed, interventionist-minded states rubbing up against one another are a greater danger than scattered bands of intolerant dreamers performing sporadic acts of terror. In the short term, strong states are the answer to IS. Not states that demonstrate their strength by bombing Syria, but states that demonstrate their strength by guiding their clients within Syria towards a suspension of fighting as a prelude to peace.

Yes, the world still needs a peace movement.

1 comment:

Susan Leone Starr said...

This should be required reading for every adult in the usa

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