16 August 2003

Guardian Unlimited Politics | David Clark: Iraq has wrecked our case for humanitarian wars:
The gap here could scarcely be wider. Humanitarian interventionists aspire to a world order based on the universal and disinterested pursuit of justice. Neo-conservatives are motivated by the selective and self-interested pursuit of their own geopolitical goals. This rapaciously ideological project starts from the proposition that the American social and economic mode represents the ideal form to which all other forms must ultimately comply. In what the neo-cons call this 'distinctly American internationalism', US national interests and the interests of humanity are indivisible. It remains to be seen what happens when this assumption collides with the reality of an Iraq determined to make choices that conflict with the White House.

As long as US power remains in the hands of the Republican right, it will be impossible to build a consensus on the left behind the idea that it can be a power for good. Those who continue to insist that it can, risk discrediting the concept of humanitarian intervention and thereby render impossible the task of mobilising the international community to act in the future. Indeed, the backlash has already started. At last month's conference on progressive governance, the assembled leaders rejected the section of Blair's draft communique supporting the principle that the responsibility to protect trumps state sovereignty.

The problem is this: the interventionists who supported the Iraq war want those of us who didn't to believe that George Bush is a 'useful idiot' in the realisation of Blair's humanitarian global vision. We can only see truth in the opposite conclusion.

I supported East Timor. I supported Afghanistan. I support the Solomons. I think The responsibility to protect has the balance right. Iraq does not meet the threshold conditions laid out in that report. No last resort. No right authority. No reasonable prospects. What we end up with is a failing occupation built on half-truths and whole lies executed by a bungling cabal who believe the facts on the ground do not matter as long as the spin in Washington falls in their favour.

And the international consensus for the responsibility to protect that was built in Kosovo has been shattered in Iraq. We cannot blame Bush, Howard or the neocons for the shattered consensus. It was all Blair's doing and will almost certainly prove his undoing.

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