Did liberal intervention work?

4:00 pm - October 1st 2009

by Conor Foley    

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Normblog picked up a good point by Jonathan Freedland talking to delegates at Labour party conference. He said that whatever their other differences on New Labour’s legacy there was

close to a consensus on the debacle of foreign policy. Voices of left and right agree that Blair’s doctrine of “liberal interventionism” is one part of the inheritance that should be dumped in the nearest skip. Even those who liked the idea in theory concede that its practice proved disastrous.

I think that is probably right. Those of us working in the humanitarian field were the first to realize how badly wrong the policy was going and it is one of the reasons why our critique of liberal interventionism came earlier and was much sharper than that of many others on the centre-left.

I would not change a word that I have written about Afghanistan in the last six years. I wonder how many of the liberal interventionists can say the same?

After three years of blogging at the Guardian’s CiF, though, I have run out of things to say on the subject. What we objected to was never the long-established principle that military interventions on humanitarian grounds could be justified, as a last resort, but the systematic perversion of the doctrine by Tony Blair.

There are a basic series of tests which any proposed intervention has to pass to classify as humanitarian (as opposed to a NeoConservative regime-change one).

These have been the subject of numerous scholarly reports but they basically boil down to: is there a genuine humanitarian crisis that is sufficiently serious to justify an intervention, is intervention a serious option, taking into account all the circumstances, and is it likely to make things better or worse for the people affected?

It was the failure of the liberal interventionists to engage with those points in real-life situations that discredited them (as well as a whole series of blatant falsehoods which they used to construct their case).

As I wrote here five years ago, it took a century and a half to construct the principles of international humanitarian law from which the doctrine was constructed, it would be ironic if their destruction should prove to be one of the more enduring legacies of Labour’s “ethical foreign policy”.

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About the author
Conor Foley is a regular contributor and humanitarian aid worker who has worked for a variety of organisations including Liberty, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He currently lives and works in Brazil and is a research fellow at the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. His books include Combating Torture: a manual for judges and prosecutors and A Guide to Property Law in Afghanistan. Also at: Guardian CIF
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Realpolitik ,Westminster

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Reader comments

1. Shatterface

‘… is there a genuine humanitarian crisis that is sufficiently serious to justify an intervention, is intervention a serious option, taking into account all the circumstances, and is it likely to make things better or worse for the people affected?’

I’d actually extend that to all government policies, domestic as well as international.

Shatterface, quite!

This amazingly straightforward and correct argument might as well be in sanskrit as far as certain politics professors are concerned.

You didn’t mention how Norm sums up Friedland’s argument –

“when genocides are in progress, the killers should just be allowed to get on with it”

It’s the kind of blatantly and wilfully dishonest misrepresentantation of someone’s argument which one associates with certain “liberal interventionist” blogs. I kind of expected better from Norm.

“I kind of expected better from Norm.”

I didn’t. He’s been saying stuff like this ever since his first blog post, when he asked why the left was marching to save Saddam.

Fair enough, I don’t read his blog that often. I just had the notion that he was the “respectable” face of Decency. Consider me disabused of that notion.

7. Conor Foley

One of the problems with the Liberal Interventionists is that they take their starting point as the debate about humanitarian intervention or R2P and then just add their own bits on to try and make the concept cover something else.

This is a general criticism rather than something specifically aimed at Norm, although that sentence does contain the same problem. The ‘right to intervene’ is an incredibly controversial and contested concept amongst aid workers, human rights practitoners, legal scholars, diplomats and military personnel, because it appears to contradict Article 2 of the UN Charter.

The argument in favour of it is that if you take the Charter’s references to human rights and then read the various human rights treaties that exist, the Geneva Conventions, the decisions of various international legal bodies, and state practice, you can come up with a justification for military interventions without UN Security Council authorisation in extreme humanitarian crises. But it has got to be a clear case and with all the conditions that I mentioned satisfied.

What Norm does in his sentence is say that an intervention might be justified ‘when genocides are in progress’ (ie a humanitarian intervenion), because ‘the killers should just be allowed to get on with it’ (ie his own invention). But there is nothing in international law that says the military invasion of another country would be justified in order to punish the perpetrators of a genocide.

It is true that the Genocide Convention says that the UN Security Council could authorise military action during one, but it can do that anyway using its Chapter VII powers. There is also lots of international criminal law which requires states to bring the perpetrators of a genocide to justice – using universal jurisdiction and the ICC. But none of that authorises the invasion of another country.

A ‘humanitarian intervention’ (ie one not authorised by the UN, but relying on some other criteria) might be justified in order to stop an ongoing genocide, subject to my qualifications above. It is a controversial argument, but I would come down in favour of it. However, if you are going to argue that case then you actually need to stick to it which requires a bit of discipline about when you use the word genocide, how realistic an intervention actually is, some kind of cost-benefit impact assessment, etc. Here is where I part company with the magical thinkers.

Presumably the reason why Norm wants to include punishing those responsible for a genocide as a justification for an invasion is so that this can be used to fit Iraq into his definition of a humanitarian intervention. Presumably that is also the reason why the Save Darfur crowd inflated the casualty figures there – and insist on keep describing as an ‘ongoing genocide’ what everyone else recognise to be a low-level conflict. Unfortunately the upshot of all this has been to discredit the concept itself, which is a real shame.

Excellent and succinct blog Conor.

Saying that though, attacking Afghanistan was never about humanitarian intervention was it? I was happy to see the back of the Taliban because, as I’ve said before, I thought sooner or later they’d spark more terrorism and war in South Asia.

9. Conor Foley

Sunny: no. Afghanistan was – legally speaking – an act of self-defence by the US Government and its allies after they came under an armed attack on 9/11 from a group that was based in Afghanistan. The US and UK both reported to the UN Security Council under Article 51 of the Charter on that basis. Blair was also very careful in all of the public statements that he made to stress that the objective of the intervention was to get Al Qaeda – overthrowing the Taliban was legally justified only to the extent to which they sheltered Bin Laden (although, in my view this was a welcome by-product of the invasion). Blair is a good lawyer and that is probably why he leaned so hard on the Attorney General to get that ludicrous opinion about the legality of the Iraq invasion.

Once the Taliban had been overthrown (or were on the run anyway) a UN convened conference in Bonn laid the basis for the interim governing arrangements, which paved the way for the transitional authority which then organised elections. There was also a UN mission (UNAMA) mandated to assist in the reconstruction process and a UN-mandated peace-keeping force (ISAF) mandated to assist with security. Unfortunately the US (ie Bush) insisted that both bodies be kept as small as possible and operate with a ‘light foot-print’ – which pretty much everyone agrees was a catastrophic mistake.


Supporters of the invasion of Iraq tend to skip over what a disaster it was not just for the Iraqis themselves but also for the people of Afghanistan (and indeed for Dafuris, the people of Eastern Congo, etc.). It took me a while to understand how the ‘liberal interventionists’ managed to convince themselves of their own moral superiority in ‘supporting intervention’ in a whole variety of places over the last few years even though it was actually this invasion which has made the prospects of such interventions practical impossibilities.

Among the curious features of the “liberal interventionism” doctrine was that in practice it applied more to “foreigners” in far off places than here at home, and then not consistently.

The doctrine at home was applied highly selectively in respect of ASBOS for the anti-social, half of which were disregarded by those on whom the orders were served, or the many searches and arrests for supposed terrorist activities, which didn’t result in actual trials.

There was the recurring Blairite obsession with creating intrusive national databases – of personal DNA and medical records and for ID cards. But Blair’s government was persistently reluctant to intervene in respect of economic issues in those particular circumstances where intervention could have proved beneficial – such as constraining the house-price bubble or reining in the bonus culture in the City, both of which were allowed to run unchecked and despite public warnings by commentators.

In the run up to the 1997 election, the Blairites expressed many concerns about the way the Tories in government had allowed manufacturing to shrink. Once in office, for all the rhetoric about the Third Way, the Blairites ran a very dry economic policy and celebrated what opportunities remained for privatizing state-owned assets.

I could never quite make up my mind as to whether Blair was just a plausible conman or constitutionally incapable of consistent thinking. In a keynote speech in Chicago in April 1999, he said:

“If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar.”
From: http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page1297.asp

But when UN Security Council sanction for the Iraq invasion wasn’t forthcoming in March 2003, Blair went ahead anyway on the trumped up claim that Britain’s security was under threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction:

When challenged, Blair made this lying denial when he knew the supporting evidence for WMD was verging on worthless?

“‘Frankly, the idea that we doctored intelligence reports in order to invent some notion about a 45-minute capability for delivering weapons of mass destruction is completely and totally false,’ he said.”

Good post, Conor. I don’t know if you’ve seen this?

It might be worth recalling the medical phrase, “first do no harm.” Among physicians, it has long been recognized that medical action has the potential to make patients worse off than before. The fact that a patient is suffering is, by itself, insufficient reason to operate, since operating runs the risk of increasing his or her suffering. Perhaps the same cautions should apply with regard to military interventions.

Personally, my general opposition to military interventionism – since supporting it, rather obnoxiously – isn’t particularly concerned with the right to intervene. It’s more the one-two blow that a) the nations that could do it effectively are far too corrupt to do it honestly, and b) even if one could be done honestly, they’re generally so difficult that the situation would have to be utterly catastrophic before an intervention could do more good than harm.

“…when genocides are in progress, the killers should just be allowed to get on with it…”

It’s almost if Geras has forgotten that Iraq ever happened.

The last paragraph of Misha Glenny’s book “The Balkans” points out that liberal intervention didn’t really work in 1999 in Kosovo either, because there was a failure to impose law and order in Kosovo after the bombing. Something similar happened in Iraq. Part of the magical thinking of liberal interventionists is a belief that removing Bad Person X will automatically make things better: they don’t seem to have realised that you also have to rebuild and maintain basic state functions and that this is a lot of work.

Professor Norm seems to be hinting that the invasion of Iraq was to punish Saddam for things he did 20 years previously. That really is irresponsible, and has nothing to do with the doctrine of R2P.

13. Conor Foley

Yes, I think that the liberal interventionists were also engaged in some displacement activity as well. ‘We can’t actually overthrow capitalism and usher in a socialist utopia in Britain – as we dreamed in our leftist youth – so we are going to pretend that this is what the Americans are doing it instead. . . . ‘

Ali Eteraz is very good on this, here:


14. Conor Foley

Ben: yes, David sent me the manuscript of his book – and I failed to read it – and then he sent me a copy of the book as well – which I have also still not managed to read (I am trying to blame recent fatherhood for my many omissions). It is on my to do list though as it looks very interesting.

Guano: yes Kosovo was a disaster. It was partly the experience of working there -and seeing all that close up – and then listening to the LibInts going on about what a success it had been that turned me into a sceptic.

The really bizarre thing is that Professor Norm knows full well that Freedland isn’t saying Hooray, mass murder! Let’s cheer and whack off. Further, I suspect he knows very well that few people, if any, suggest this policy and I imagine he also knows that his readers are intelligent enough to spot that he’s talking out of his hoop. He does this kind of thing a lot.

Not to mention the fact that there are a whole range of actions that lie between Let’s cheer and whack off and Exterminate all the brutes! So, why say all this in the first place?

Bonus Professorial fun – Norm has a post up at Dissent today about the lessons that can be drawn from the post-Soviet era. Readers of Norm’s regular gig will be astonished to learn that the chief lesson he draws from the post-Soviet era is that the left are bastards, largely because they have different politics from Norm himself.

Andrew on Norm: ” I just had the notion that he was the “respectable” face of Decency. Consider me disabused of that notion”.

So what, exactly, about opposing and denouncing the likes of Milosevic and Saddam for their genocides, do you object to, Andrew?
Or is it “My enemy’s enemy is my friend?”

17. Conor Foley

Jim: I really don’t get this argument.

I have just seen a link to a Trot website which seems to be arguing that we should all support the Chinese Communist Party. But, seriously, outside the really nutty fringe was anyone ever saying that Saddam and Slobbo were the type of guys that they wished their daughters were dating? (apart from Neil Clark, who I accept might well have been).

This is an argument about British foreign policy and how it should have been conducted over the last 12 (or 20) years. It is a real world discussion about when British troops should be sent into combat situations, how British aid money should be used, and what the consequences of not acting would be in situations like another Rwanda or Srebrenica or acting when that results in predictable fuck ups like Afghanistan and Iraq (or indeed Kosovo).

If the left can’t engage in those sorts of debates without resorting to the silly childishness that says ‘if you don’t support invading a country ruled by a dictator then that must be because you secretly support it’ or ‘oil is the only reason why you want to send troops to x country and all the other evidence about y atrocity has been faked by the CIA’ then it is hardly surprising that no one is paying much attention to what the left is saying.

Sorry to be harsh.

I’m not sure why ‘decents’ are still taken serious on foreign policy anyway. I wrote a blog post about this not long ago: ‘If the pro-war left is dead, what’s next?‘ – highlighting a brilliant critique of all this.

We really need to start ignoring them rather than giving them the air of legitimacy. Norm included.

“My enemy’s enemy is my friend?”

This kind of Love Saddam, do ya? thing is just an involuntary response, isn’t it? I’ve seen variations on it tossed out and brutally slapped down so many times now that I’m starting to think it’s time we stopped picking such arguments apart for their pisspoor logic and just started parroting back things like My wheenemy’s wheenemy is my fweend in high-pitched, childish tones. That response would be almost as logical and productive as the question itself.

As for Norm etc., it’s clear they really don’t regard themselves as having been implicated in the bloodbaths of the last decade at all. The rest of us are forever stained and shamed by every daft statement from cranky academics, opportunistic politicians or nutty journalists – whether we agreed with them or not – but the beautiful souls of Decency are never, ever tarnished by the gigantic piles of corpses that the policies they clamoured for have produced. It’s like bad satire, and I certainly know a thing or two about that..


So what, exactly, about opposing and denouncing the likes of Milosevic and Saddam for their genocides, do you object to, Andrew?

Conor and Flying Rodent have answered your question admirably so I have little to add. No one is questioning whether the likes of Milosevic and Saddam should be opposed, it’s the way that the likes of Norm try to portray those who question the wisdom of military intervention as objectively supporting them and try to dissasociate themselves from its unfortunate consequences which many of us object to.

I also object to the use of events in the early 1980s as rhetorical justifications for starting a war in 2003.

In my final year of university I studied a module that covered liberal interventionism, I paid particular focus to Kosovo. From my research on that I was startled by how much of a failure NATO intervention was. However, because it was being led by a fresh-faced social democratic Labour Government and a liberal Democratic Party in the States, much of the left in Britain (with the exception of Robert Fisk) were almost universally in favour of it because it was being carried out by ‘fellow travllers’, thus imperial ambition was not to be seen.

In fact, with much liberal intervention, other factors were at work, with the most cynical being that Blair favoured intervention in the Balkans in order to dictate defence in Europe and to keep Britain at the front of the European scene despite not signing up to the single-currency. For Clinton and the Americans this was strategically important because of the ‘special relationship’ it had with Britain was also one with Europe.

My own conclusion was that the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) was doing a good enough job at preventing ethnic cleansing in the region. It was only when NATO announced it’s bombing campaign that the OSCE had to withdraw and the Serb nationalists carried out a vigorous ethnic cleansing of the Albanian Kosovar population.

I remain a sceptic of liberal/humanitarian intervention.

23. Conor Foley

Luke: I agree with most of that – although supporters of the intervention were not quite so cynical as you suggest. Basically the KLA set out to provoke the Serbian security forces into a reaction in order to get an intervention – and the Serbs did not take much provoking. You also have to remember the atmosphere of the time with the full scale of what had happened at Srebrenica emerging.

The OSCE were in Kosovo from October – January 88/89 and there is some controversy about how they interpreted their mandate (several of my friends were on the mission). What happened at Rambouillet still also remains a bit of a mystery. However, I think the war was more a fuck-up then anything else. Blair and Clinton seem to have hoped that a few ‘surgical airstrikes’ would cause Milosovic to crumble and they did not really have a plan B for what to do next (apart from keep bombing).

I would classify Kosovo as a humanitarian intervention (as opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan which clearly were not) but one that went horribly wrong because it ended up killing far more people than it saved. I think that most people who work for the UN or humanitarian aid organisations would probably agree with that. What I found genuinely surprising when I started following the political discourse in Britain was how disconnected our view was from that of mainstream politicians, pundits, etc. who all seem to have bought the Blairite historical revisionism.

This is baffling. Always has been.

Because, Conor, you are a Liberal/Humanitarian Interventionist. As are others commenting here (mixed in with the various Isolationist Douglas Hurd’s masquerading as “liberals”).

After all, in the absence of Liberal/Humanitarian Interventionism, what’s left? Nothing but a strict adherence to the doctrine of Isolationism and/or pure self-interest Real Politik.


In which case, Norm Geras’ summary: “…when genocides are in progress, the killers should just be allowed to get on with it…” – is only lacking the proviso “Unless our self-interest is threatened”


Thing is – this very post confirms that you’re a Liberal/Humanitarian Interventionist. You just place a series of tests that need passing before you’ll agree it’s a bona fide Liberal/Humanitarian Intervention.

So we should redefine Geras’ summation thus: “…when genocides are in progress, the killers should just be allowed to get on with it… unless this particular genocide passes a basic series of tests as defined by various scholarly reports ensuring that everything will go right and there’s absolutely no chance that anyone will have to feel bad about anything except the bad guys (whoever they may be)


Sorry that was more caustic than I intended when I set out on this post – but, let’s face it, it’s true. It’s the crux of this stupid and bizarre slanging match that involves so many good people with good hearts and good intentions.

The Afghan and Iraq wars were NEVER liberal/humantiarian interventions. The question was, simply, could they and should they be supported by liberal/humanitarian Interventionists on lib/hum Interventionist principles.

That is where the split happened. This is where all the bile and vitriol stems from.


Conor (and Sunny, and Freedland) are way too optimistic about the ‘Decent Left’ being dead and buried, I fear. Every single Labour Cabinet minister who was in Parliament in 2003, bar John Denham, voted for the Iraq invasion. We are not going to see them admitting that they were wrong in voting for a policy which killed so many Iraqis, and British service personnel, for no good reason. Gordon Brown made it quite clear how interested he was in admitting the errors made in Iraq when he packed the Iraq inquiry with stooges.

This denial is quite literally lethal, as the same people who refuse to even admit that they made such bloody errors in Iraq are currently making British policy in Afghanistan.

This denial is quite literally lethal, as the same people who refuse to even admit that they made such bloody errors in Iraq are currently making British policy in Afghanistan.

Who would have thought that the ‘qualities’ that make a government minister might not be the same qualities that make someone competent at running a war – or, indeed, a country?

I agree with comment 25 that we still may hear more of liberal interventionism. I suspect that it might rear its ugly head at the Iraq Inquiry. As it will be difficult for Blair, Straw, Hoon and others to deny that they lied about the strength of the intelligence about WMD, I think that we may see some version of the line that they lied in a good cause.

28. Luis Enrique

Norm’s response looks reasonably persuasive to me, at first read. But I don’t expect anybody to be persuaded.


Interesting response from Professor Norm, to whit a) he doesn’t like being called “Professor Norm” one little bit and b) if those who disagree with him were just willing to grant him roughly twenty times the amount of intellectual charity he allows others, we’d understand and enthusiastically agree with his proposals.

Of course, we’re once more dealing with the Decent refusal to deal with reality and their knee-jerk tendency towards airy magical thinking. Yet again, Professor Emeritus of Government Norman Geras is presenting the clear-cut genocide-prevented-by-successful-military-whizzbang thesis that lives in his brain, while blowing us off for pointing at the actual, in-reality horrific bloodbaths that have ensued from previous campaigns that he urged us all to support and, in fact, castigated us in severe terms for opposing.

I think the fundamental point is that we can all agree that the conceptual in-theory succesful interventions that live in Professor Emeritus of Government Norman Geras’s brain are an excellent idea that should be put into practice whenever conceptual, in-theory preventable genocides occur in Professor Emeritus of Government Norman Geras’s brain.

In reality however, we’re faced with some unfortunate truths – namely, that

a) the recent track record of military whizzbang for preventing bloodbaths is very poor indeed, bordering on catastrophic in some cases, and that

b) in light of recent events, the doctrine of liberal intervention does not look anything like a concrete and fully-functional framework providing for the workable implementation of successful genocide prevention. It looks far more like a windy, highly theoretical list of justifications for poorly-planned and badly-implimented military clusterfucks that people like Professor Emeritus of Government Norman Geras can enthusiastically advocate while severely castigating their opponents, before utterly disowning the disastrous outcome and severely castigating their opponents. Again.

As for his closing gambit, well, hats off…

The main reasons those who want to dump the doctrine have and give for dumping it may be summed up in a word: Iraq. And yet most of them don’t actually think the Iraq war was a liberal intervention. They think it was fraudulent or misjudged or wrong-headed, or all of these and possibly more. So why dump the doctrine?

IIRC, Professor Emeritus of Government Norman Geras assured us that Iraq was a liberal intervention, since it met his test of a sufficiently appalling government with a proven record of butchery. When asked Why dump the doctrine? I have to respond Because people like Professor etc. etc. will use it to support future catastrophic bloodbaths, then spend the next six years typing excupatory blog posts refusing to accept any responsibility for it while castigating the people who opposed it.

Or, if that’s too blunt – I’ll be in favour of liberal intervention when it ceases to be a phantasmagorical, windy bag of whatever the fuck the Professor Norms of the world say it means today, and starts looking more like something that will actually work in the real world.

I’ll also be willing to ditch the tones of rich sarcasm the Professor complains of, right at the second that the he stops waving the waggy finger at us all like we were naughty children who just don’t want to listen to what he’s saying rather than people who have paid close attention to his schtick and found it gravely lacking.

Or even shorter – I’ll consider Norm’s case proven when our countries-saved-to-countries-destroyed ratio rises from its current, shambolic state to something more like 1:1.

I will put a reply to Norm up now. Liberal interventionism has never been the same thing as humanitarian interventionism. The concepts are completely different – as Norm surely knows – and that was one of the main arguments that took place at the time of the invasion of Iraq. Read all the press statements that the human rights and humanitarian organisations put out at the time – or, indeed, Blair’s post-facto justifications for the invasion.

I am not sure what Patrick does not get about this argument, but I find being told that if I did not support the invasion of Iraq I must be in favour of doing nothing in the face of another Rwandan genocide deeply offensive and childishly stupid.

31. Luis Enrique

There’s a deal of talking at cross-purposes going on here. Isn’t Norm make a narrow point, that if you define liberal intervention as per his usage, and combine that with the restrictive conditions as defined by Conor, a form conditionality Norm shares even if he may differ when evaluating those conditions, then you haven’t dumped the doctrine of liberal interventionism (in Norm’s usage) and if you had dumped it in this sense (Freedland?), then that would amount to having to let genocidaires get on with it (having ruled out intervention even if Conor’s conditions are met). That looks coherent to me. Separately, Conor argues Norm’s usage is wrong, and that liberal interventionism shouldn’t be confused with humanitarian. And FR’s points a) and b) look both true and important to me – the Decents, much as I sympathise with them on some points, did a woefully bad job of taking Conor’s restrictive conditions seriously, to their enternal shame, and as FR’s last para says, a tendency to take a too blithely optimisitc view combined with an endorsement of liberal intervention is a very dangerous thing (I’d like to see Norm engage with that point). Conor, I haven’t kept up with all of this but, I’m not sure who is telling you “that if I did not support the invasion of Iraq I must be in favour of doing nothing in the face of another Rwandan genocide” but there are two possibilities there – either somebody is telling you something self-evidently absurd, or you have taken them to mean something they do not.

This is the latest in a series of Luis Enrique “why can’t we all just get along posts”. Not, I admit, a very popular series.

32. Bloganarchist

I think you’re missing an obvious point here.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were not liberal interventions – discussing them as such only lends credence to the perpertartors.

The US and its client states invaded to bolster their own dominance in the ME with its natural resources (yes the oil), geographical importance and undeveloped (as far as western capitalists are concerned) markets.

These wars are Armed Robbery – no Armed murdering, pillaging and taking over – on a massive scale.

Forget liberal interventionism and stop supporting a corrupt regime.


Are you referring to me? If so, I never suggested such a thing and never would. It is precisely that which makes you ultimately a liberal/humanitarian interventionist.

OK Bloganarchist: you are obviously the person who Norm was referring to when he said that there are people who denounce liberal interventionism, but don´t think that it is what happened in Iraq. Perhaps there are others like you out there who think the same thing (in fact I know there are because they show up on my Cif threads denoucning me as a CIA agent and going on about Pipelinistan). If that is the debate Norm wants to have he is welcome to it.

Luis: Agreed. But it is not me that has put these restrictive conditions on the concept of humanitarian interventions it is international law, state practice, authortiative judgments of international courts and tribunals, important treaties and countless books and articles of scholarly importance. Norm, however, blithely ignores them all and just comes up with own defintion. Fine, but I take up those arguments on the more recent thread.

Phomsey: there is a basic law of actions and consequences. Norm wrote an article critiquing my views on humanitarian intervention. If you wish to – approvingly – summarize this as being

“…when genocides are in progress, the killers should just be allowed to get on with it… unless this particular genocide passes a basic series of tests as defined by various scholarly reports ensuring that everything will go right and there’s absolutely no chance that anyone will have to feel bad about anything except the bad guys (whoever they may be)”

that is fair enough – if you think that is a clever put-down to someone whose work involves both being in such situations and understanding the legal context of them. You would not be the first – and won´t be the last – regular at Harry´s Place to say similar.

If, on reflection, you think that might be a rather stupid and insulting thing to say, then don´t press the ´submit comment´ button. If you do decide to submit the comment then expect me to think that you are a bit of a w@nker. Similarly, telling me that I hold views, which I clearly do not, or that I come down on one or other side of political squabble involving the 57 varieties of British Trotskyism is not going to make me hold you in very high esteem.

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