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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

liberal interventionism « Previous | |Next »
July 31, 2007

George (ooops Gordon) Brown, the British PM, goes to America and talks to the child-President about their rspecial relationship. Does that mean the UK will no longer be the poodle of the Republican administration that has only 18 months to run?

Peter Brookes

What about liberal interventionism and Iraq? Isn't Iraq a key factor in global oil supplies? Isn't Britain in the process of withdrawing from Iraq? What is the US going to do?

Does the conflict shaping up around Iraq--civil war and ethnic cleansing -- indicate that the US no longer has the ability to mould events in the region? John Gray, the British political philosopher, argues aginst liberal interventionism in The Guardian. He says that:

The era of liberal interventionism in international affairs is over. Invading Iraq was always in part an oil grab. A strategic objective of the Bush administration was control of Iraqi oil, which forms a key portion of the Gulf reserves that are the lifeblood of global capitalism. Yet success in this exercise in geopolitics depended on stability after Saddam was gone, and here American thinking was befogged by illusions. Both the neoconservatives who launched the war and the many liberals who endorsed it in the US and Britain took it for granted that Iraq would remain intact.

Gray adds that as could be foreseen by anyone with a smattering of history, things have not turned out that way. The dissolution of Iraq is an unalterable fact, all too clear to those who have to cope on the ground, that is denied only in the White House and the fantasy world of the Green Zone.

What then of liberal internventionism? He says that whilst neoconservatives spurned stability in international relations and preached the virtues of creative destruction. Liberal internationalists declared history had entered a new stage in which pre-emptive war would be used to construct a new world order where democracy and peace thrived. He adds:

Many will caution against throwing out the baby of humanitarian military intervention together with the neocon bathwater. No doubt the idea that western states can project their values by force of arms gives a sense of importance to those who believe it. It tells them they are still the chief actors on the world stage, the vanguard of human progress that embodies the meaning of history. But this liberal creed is a dangerous conceit if applied to today's intractable conflicts, where resource wars are entwined with wars of religion and western power is in retreat

He says that the liberal interventionism that took root in the aftermath of the cold war was never much more than a combination of post-imperial nostalgia with crackpot geopolitics. It was an absurd and repugnant mixture, and one whose passing there is no reason to regret. What the world needs from western governments is not another nonsensical crusade. It is a dose of realism and a little humility.

Gray seems to have spoken too quickly as we have liberal interventionism in Darfur. Or is this a case of the US and the UK's case for foreign intervention in Darfur being based on the fighting Arabs in the war on terrorism?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:09 PM | | Comments (8)


Sadly it appears as if the Blair sycophancy continues. Britain, like Australia, also must've been promised a cut of the oil.

The billions in arms that America is pushing into the region as part of its 'moulding' will ensure conflict for decades.

america can continue to 'influence' events in the middle east. perhaps they will need to do it directly. an army stationed in the capital, american advisors to the puppet.

it won't be nearly as cheap as the covert methods they have employed for the last 60 years. there will need to be more active control of the american public as well, as many of them still imagine america is the 'good guy' in foreign affairs.

they will have to be re-programmed to glory in being 'the strong man' instead. the process is well underway.

Freudian Slip Gary? Gordon Brown

We Scots have to stick up for each other.

So what is the answer?

It seems to me the left is split between the Euston Manifesto types who like their 60's forebears actually believed that the west had a moral obligation to stop genocide and the culturally "sensitive" left whose solution is to let them all die while we invite Hans Blix and co to a group talkfest about multilateral efforts (i.e - do nothing).

The culturally "sensitive" left needs to come up with some answers instead of carping on about evil neocons, grassyknolls and poodles. It's all very undergrad...

John Gray is not a member of the "sensitive" left by any means.

Are you saying that Gray, the high-profile LSE-based British political theorist, is a fake who needs to be exposed? If so you need provide some sort of argument as to why, since it is not obvious that he is.

well spotted. Gordon Brown looks to be a more solid politician than Tony Blair, and he speaks more honestly about Iraq. This was no love in as the discussions were "full and frank" (tough) according to Brown, who avoids using the phrase "war on terrorism".

You mayfind this More bulldog than poodle op-ed in the 'Comment is free' section of the Guardian interesting. Jonathan Freedland talks in terms of the wide cracks of daylight the prime minister opened up between himself and the president.

Yes, there were multiple avowals of shared purpose and common values. But while the president said the west confronted "an ideology of darkness", Brown declared that "terrorism is not a cause; it is a crime". That immediately denies the terrorist the dignity of an enemy and casts him instead as a mere criminal, to be hunted down chiefly by policework and intelligence. Noticeable too was Brown's desire to be specific: the conflict was not with "terror" - an abstract noun - but "al-Qaida-inspired terrorism".

Freedland says that put simply, Brown sees the struggle against radical Islamism entirely differently from Bush, and therefore Blair. While their focus was on rogue regimes that posed a threat to the west, and the use of force to remove them, Brown sees a battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. While the favoured comparison of the Bush-Blair era was the second world war against Hitler and fascism, Brown looks to the cold war with Soviet communism.

yes it sure looks like it, given that US officials portray Iran as a growing spectre engaged in aggressive expansion and destabilising the region; and the Bush administration's huge arms sales package to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state allies aimed at creating a bulwark against Iran.

it was only 25 months ago that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denounced the 60 years of US support for authoritarian governments in Arab world. Rice declared in June 2005 at the American University in Cairo, in a widely noted speech, that:

For 60 years, my country - the United States - pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East.And we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

Now she and Pentagon chief Robert Gates are on their way to the Middle East bearing arms to the same regimes--- Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Arab states on the Persian Gulf to "bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. "

Washington has abandoned its democracy-promotion rhetoric insofar as it applied to its regional allies and is returning to its 60-year-old preference for stability over democracy in the form of building an anti-Iranian alliance.