Sunday 4 March 2012

Moral Intervention: The New Just War Theory

Moral intervention is the new Just War Theory that's all about liberating the people good and hard. National sovereignty is sacrificed to the moral violence of a United Nations dominated by the usual suspects vying for power around the world. Meanwhile both the cost and causes of war are forgotten. 

Tony Blair and the Moral Military Imperative
For nearly three years, from 1992 to 1995, a horrific international conflict took place in what was Yugoslavia. In interviews, before and after the reoccupation of Iraq, Tony Blair called UN intervention in Kosovo a "moral crusade" borrowing the language of the centuries earlier slaughters in the name of western 'Christian powers'. Intervention into selective regimes has become the new catch all for Just War Theories and we seem to love it.

Blair then used this conflict as an example of the value of international intervention in domestic conflicts. Comparing the Yugoslav war to the present and continuing reoccupation of Iraq. New documents released by wikileaks, pointing to the IMF as at fault, remind us that Tony Blair's remedy and Blair's disease are not far removed one from the other: violence begets violence. 

We will never know what else could have been done sooner or instead of UN military intervention but we can know that those who wage war always seem to have the most to gain and the least to lose and that social unrest doesn't come out of nowhere – the violence begins with the way empire exploits and frustrates poor communities around the world.

The moral argument for 'pre-emptive humanitarian intervention', or 'just war theory' as we used to call it, has levered open the case for war against the governments of Libya and Iraq and will soon be used against the government of Iran. It hasn't been used against the DRC, Zimbabwe or Israel despite each having among the worst human rights records in modern history. But there are reasons in each case for western moralisers like Blair to look away. 

Finding the real Causes and Cures for Conflict
In order to truly understand a humanitarian response to conflict one must first understand the causes of a conflict. A fire is not always put out with water, for example, an oil fire would only be exacerbated by water and needs smothering instead. Or, if we are in a boat that is filling with water we may choose to bail out but first we should find out where the water is coming in. If someone is using a pick axe to bail out the boat you can be pretty sure that's the cause of the problem and not the solution.

Previously secret documents from the private intelligence agency 'Stratfor' have been released by Anonymous and Wikileaks relating to the Bosnian conflict. They reveal one of the most important causes of the war: the IMF. Blair, then British Prime Minister, did more than any other British premier - even more than Margaret Thatcher - to push the sort of global neo-liberal economics that crippled countries like Bosnia. 

In the document from 2009, titled 'Europe Analytical Guidance', Stratfor speculate as the possible violence that may result from IMF austerity measure imposed on countries like Greece. They write: “Don’t forget, the IMF austerity measures imposed on Yugoslavia was in part to blame for the start of the war there. We need to be aware of any economically motivated social discontentment.”

The document only pins part of the blame on the IMF, and that's fair enough, any conflict is complex and it wouldn't honour anyone to boil it all down to one despotic supra-national and monstrous institution. 

But we know there is a link between economic injustice and social unrest. If the 1930s depression taught us anything it's that mass feelings of powerlessness lead masses to hand over authority the strong-arm powers and find scapegoats for their abstracted problems.

What Bosnia needed was not more intervention from the UN it was less intervention from world banks and transnational corporations that were allowed to roam free across the lands for Serb and Croat alike, atomising households, alienating neighbours and creating an insatiable restlessness for whatever privileges 'the other' seems to have.

Colonial powers never stop claiming to be a force for good in the world. It's what Alexander the Great, the Caesars, and The British Raj did and it's what Tony Blair never tired from doing and continues with to this day with his 'Faith Foundation' that continues his programme of lining the pockets of the few at the expense of the many.

Tribute to the Powers but Peace from God
The early church knew of this propagandising of war first hand. St Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Church, 'They say “peace and security” but sudden destruction will come upon them' (1 Thess. 5: 3). “Peace and Security” was the Roman Peace promised through brutal Roman conquest of land and expropriation of resources. But the peace of Jesus was not the peace of pacification; it was the peace of self-sacrificial compassion and reconciliation.

Tertullian , the theologian who most carefully articulated the doctrine of the Trinity of God, called idolatry. This remains obvious in its inversion in the Churches these days. The Archbishop of York, writingin 'The Sun' newspaper recently, called on the people of Britain to “pay tribute” to armed forces – borrowing directly from Roman Imperial language: a tribute is a tax exacted by a conquered and humiliated people to show submission to the powers-that-be. 

Recently the Syrian government has been killing Syrian people in unprecedented numbers. Russia and China vetoed any UN resolution that threatened 'humanitiarian intervention'. There reasons may be as immoral as US/UK reasons for firing up the drones of war but their case was solid - intervention is never moral, it is always political.