Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Doves for War in Darfur

Marching yesterday for American military action in Darfur, Sudan, were many people who have previously marched (and voted) against American military action in Iraq including George Clooney, Al Sharpton and three members of the US Congress who voted against the liberation of Iraq.

Hypocrisy? Well, the New York Sun editorial writer is one who thinks so:

They want military action now to oppose a genocidal regime in Sudan and to protect its victims. Yet they opposed military action in Iraq to oust a regime, in that of Saddam Hussein, that had engaged in ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Kurds and Shiites and had rained scud missiles on Israeli cities.

Why for instance does a march opposing intervention in Iraq attract hundreds of thousands, one in support of intervention in Darfur tens of thousands, while as The Sun notes “a rally against the Iranian president’s vow to wipe Israel off the map attracted but a few hundred participants.”

As the Sun editorial says, “We do not mean to suggest that this hypocrisy poisons the cause of Darfur.” And it certainly doesn’t. But it does raise the genuine issue of when military action is justified, and when it isn’t – and why some people are violently opposed to it in one instance, and virulently for it the next

Kosovo, Kuwait, Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, the Solomons … taken together in recent years these military campaigns togther pose the question of when exactly military intervention is justified, and different people have appeared on different sides of the question for different campaigns. Keith Locke for instance was strongly, even aggressively supportive of military intervention in Timor and recently in Aceh, but violently opposed to intervention elsewhere. On Darfur at present he is silent, although as expected the ‘Just Peace’ newsletter co-produced by Locke and fellow Greens called last April, for both the US and UN to ‘Intervene to Save Darfur,’ saying “The U.S., for its part, has invested nowhere near the efforts that its acknowledgment of genocide last September should dictate.”

‘Give Peace a Chance’ then? Or ‘Give War a Chance’? Sometimes people are singing John Lennon’s song, and sometimes PJ O’Rourke’s – and sometimes oddly enough these are the very same people. There’s a mystery here, isn’t there?

So when then is military intervention in another country justified? Frankly, as Ayn Rand said, any free country has the right to liberate a slave pen, but that doesn’t mean every country has the duty to do so. Writing in 1964 she argued:

“Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the non-existent ‘rights’ of gang rulers. It is not a free nation’s duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.

A country’s military is properly constituted only to defend and protect the lives, liberties and rights of its own citizens, not to take humanitarian action in defence of everyone in every other country in every corner of the globe. If that weren’t so, one would have an endless check to keep picking up, and be engaged in constant intervention, and almost always “at the price of self-sacrifice.”

No, action by one country’s military in defence of another country’s citizens can only be justified if carried out in defence of the lives and freedoms of its own citizens, in other words as “a matter of its own self-interest.”

On this basis then, military action in WWII against both Nazis and Japanese for example was entirely justified by all who took part, since the threat posed by both regimes was potentially destructive of the freedom of the entire planet. Equally, and on this same basis, military action against those who support, harbour or offer succour to terrorists is justified by all those whom the terrorists target -- which means the entire Western world.

But would any military intervention in Darfur be justified on this basis, in a place marked by twenty-two years of uninterrupted conflict? Was intervention in either the Solomons or Timor justified on this basis? Sadly, it probably wouldn’t be – but that shouldn’t stop those who wish to intervene regardless heading off as private mercenaries to do what they can – and I’d be happy to pay for airline tickets for both George Clooney and Keith Locke, just as long as they were one-way.

But the question posed at the outset still remains. Why do you think that those on the left side of the aisle generally support military intervention when it’s not in the selfish interests of the intervenees, but are usually opposed to it when it is? Is it perhaps because they value sacrifice as an end in itself?

And if so, why do they call themselves peace lovers?

LINKS: Darfur Double StandardNew York Sun
Crisis in Darfur – Human Rights Watch
Just Peace #78 – NZ Greens
Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-Free Beer – PJ O’Rourke, Amazon
The Roots of War (excerpt) – Ayn Rand
War. What is it good for? – Peter Cresswell, Solo Passion

TAGS: War, History, History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism, Politics-World


  1. As I see it, the left (with very few exceptions) is for intervention when it is done by left/communist governments.

    I.e. there shouldn't ever be the chance that a free market economy will be erected, but the intervened state gets closer to socialism/UN rule (Kosovo), it's ok.

    So basically you have to answer the question if it advances socialism, slavery and UN world rule.

  2. It's not only a question of when war is justifiable in the eyes of the peace lovers, it's their complete switch on who should be going in. How can the protestors justify demanding the US take the lead? If this is such a noble cause, why aren't all the nations taking up arms to show the big US bully the proper way to be humanitarians?

    How one instance can be warmongering & imperialist, and the other be humanitarian leaves me dumbstruck.

  3. It's the same war. Sudan is Osama's old stamping ground and his latest tape called for Muslim fighters to go to Darfur to fight the "crusader thieves" (ie UN peacekeepers, should they be sent).
    If soldiers are sent to Darfur it should not be their goal simply to keep the two sides apart - it should be with the express aim of dismembering the janjaweed. (However, I doubt that's what George Clooney and the rest of the Film Actors Guild want.)
    That this enemy needs to be defeated is certain. Where the battles are fought should be based on where the greatest harm can be done to the enemy, not where the greatest sacrifice can be made.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. How much oil is there is Darfur?

    Greenwald has a most excellent post up today on war. Also my stomping ground has a view on Darfur.


    A great place for views from all over the NZ political spectrum BTW.


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