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They say the situation is… May 24, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Uncategorized.
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…’not position-threatening’ for the Minister. Probably not, but serious – and to be honest – self-inflicted damage incurred.

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1. eamonncork - May 24, 2013

He won’t resign because, as a member of Fine Gael, he is incapable of having done anything seriously wrong. The spirit of Paddy Donegan lives on.
But when one notes that;
(A) The gardai wanted to test him for drink-driving so they must have formed a suspiction about him.
(B) That he’s using an unconvincing excuse to explain why he didn’t take the breathalyser test. If you’ve enough puff to make long speeches in the Dail you can blow into a tube.
(C) He obviously invoked Dail privilege, there was no reason for him to mention where he was coming from otherwise.
I’d say on the balance of probabilities it looks like Shatter was in breach of the law on that day and weaselled out of it. Though we can’t know this for certain.
I’d hope that those who pounced on the ‘hypocrisy’ of Ming and Wallace will be as zealous about exposing the contradictions of Shatter’s stance.
For one thing his humbuggery about being so keen to stick the boot into political opponents because he wants to protect the good name of the Gardai rings a bit hollow given that (A) he dropped the Commissioner into the shit to save his own face and (B) his love obviously isn’t requited given that they’ve just dropped him into it.
He’s a petty little bully who wouldn’t be tolerated in office anywhere else. But let’s watch Gilmore and the Labour Party suck it up as they show their unlimited capacity to endure humiliation.

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Dr. X - May 24, 2013

“I’d hope that those who pounced on the ‘hypocrisy’ of Ming and Wallace will be as zealous about exposing the contradictions of Shatter’s stance”

Some hope!

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

You’re right of course. Even the Times’ insistence that it’s ‘not position threatening’ indicates a circling of the wagons.

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ejh - May 24, 2013

I am more than vaguely reminded of yesterday’s stories that nobody in the French political establishment wants Lagarde charged with anything. Because, you know, we don’t want any more of that kind of thing.

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Alpha - May 29, 2013

This is how we thank the Serbs who were our allies in both world wars by sucking up to the Mafia Fascist Molestor Habib-Huggers because Choochtown had Clinton’s crotch codes? 9/11 was Yugo-Crimean Blow-Back.

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2013

I’ve a lot of time for the Serbs, and Croat culpability has been far too often downplayed in the overall context (as well in truth as some precipitate political actions by the Bosniaks), but your contribution adds nothing to what is actually an interesting discussion between people with sincerely held if differing views.

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eamonncork - May 30, 2013

I’m moving house at the moment and don’t have internet access which is why I’ve pulled out of this one. But it was interesting even if I do think it kind of became circular. Nobody’s really trying to persuade anyone else, we all know what we think on this one. Which is fair enough and no hard feelings.
Though obviously the SP’s failure to agree with me on everything explains their failure to take power in Ireland.

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RosencrantzisDead - May 24, 2013

(A) The gardai wanted to test him for drink-driving so they must have formed a suspiction about him.

My understanding is that this was a MAT checkpoint. The Gardai need not and most likely would not have formed a suspicion. At such checkpoints, everyone is breathalysed. If alcohol is detected in a sample of breath, the Garda may use this to form a reasonable suspicion and arrest this person for drunken driving.

They are then taken to a Garda Station where their identity is ascertained and, if involved in national politics, leaked to the press.

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Joe - May 24, 2013

Yep. The one and only time I was breathalysed (I swear!) was one of those checkpoints where everyone was pulled in and asked to blow into the bag. Of all the nights, I was coming back that night from my late aunt’s wake. But I was due to fly to Poland the next morning for the Euros so I was on the tea.
I found you need a lot of puff to blow into the yoke enough. There has been some talk about this, so what is the legal position anyone?
If you don’t want to blow, can you say so and then can they take you to the Garda station for a blood test instead?
If you can’t blow for some medical reason, same thing?

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RosencrantzisDead - May 24, 2013

No. I believe you have committed an offence if you fail to comply or fail to comply immediately with a request to breathalyse. They can arrest you and bring you to the station and test you there, but you have still committed an offence of failing to comply with a request to breathalyse (or provide a sample of breath if you want to be technical).

I have found that if someone fails to give a sample and cites a breathing problem, the Gardai tend to charge them with failing to provide a sample anyway. The rationale seems to be that they can always bring their medical evidence to court and the judge can decide. Also it disincentivises people from chancing their arm and claiming they have a breathing problem when they do not.

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Joe - May 24, 2013

Thanks RiD.

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2. Roger Cole - May 24, 2013

It is an indication of how deeply rooted the culture of war an imperialism is within Irish society today that at a time when Minister Shatter and his Fine Gael/Labour government supports the continuing participation of Irish troops in the Afghan War, has sent Irish troops to take part in the Mali war and plans to send another 400 Irish troops to take part in a war described by Cameron as a “generational”war, supported NATO’s conquest of Libya, provides money to Al-Queda terrorists in Syria and imposes horrific sanctions on Iran, agrees a new aviation policy to call for additional military flights through Shannon Airport; that the only thing the IT and the rest of the corporate media are concerned about is the discretion of gardai on giving out penalty points. Another indication of how deeply rooted the culture of war and imperialism is in Ireland has become is the fact that broad elements of “the left” has clearly decided not to actively oppose imperialist war either. For those that might want to reconsider I recommend they make some effort to go at least once a year to the Shannonwatch vigil at Shannon Airport at 2.00pm held on the second Sunday of every month. All that is on offer by the US/EU/NATO axis into which the Kenny/Gilmore has integrated this state is perpetual austerity at home and perpetual war abroad.

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

With respect you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of war and imperialism to think that the issues of Garda corruption and accountability raised by the penalty points scandal are important.
For one thing it may have the consequence of removing from office a Minister for Defence who is notably enthusiastic about those military links you so rightly disparage.

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3. D_D - May 24, 2013

“supported NATO’s conquest of Libya, provides money to Al-Queda terrorists in Syria”

Is Roger implying support for Gaddafi and Assad?

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

He wouldn’t be the first one to pop up here doing it.

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

It takes a small bit of neck to suggest that someone who is interested in the penalty points scandal is complicit in ‘the culture of war and imperialism,’ while someone who supports the mass slaughter of civilians by a dictator is morally superior to the extent that they can condemn such ethical blindness. But it takes all sorts I suppose.

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Gearóid - May 24, 2013

Opposing NATO actions in Libya and Syria, and having a jaundiced view of Islamist (and racist, in the Libyan case) elements of the ‘opposition’ in both counties, doesn’t necessarily imply support for Gaddafi and Assad. Though unfortunately some leftists will fall into that trap, just as some leftists stupidly supported Milosevic.

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Mark P - May 24, 2013

I can only presume that D_D’s comment is a viciously witty parody of the kind of people who responded to opposition to the Western assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq by demanding to know if the critic supported the Taliban or Saddam. It would be too unkind to think otherwise.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

I think he’s being a bit sarcastic given that the comment from Roger is wildly off topic in the context of the thread – no?

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Mark P - May 24, 2013

I’m not sure that there’s any textual evidence for that WbS.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

Well mischievous then… rather than sarcastic.

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Mark P - May 24, 2013

I’ve always thought that you possess a generous soul, WbS.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

I am kindness personified. 🙂

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4. Baku 26 - May 24, 2013

Roger Cole’s point is well made. There have always been “useful fools” on the so-called Left who have been prepared to support imperialism on the pretext of humanitarian intervention. We have seen the result most recently in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. They are falling for it again in Syria.

What is happening in Syria is that imperialist forces, liberals and ultra-left groups have united in a global media offensive against Syria. This has nothing to do with the rights of the Syrian people. This campaign is designed to conceal the nature and programme of a coalition of ultra-reactionary and obscurantist religious forces; anti-democratic, tyrannical and despotic states in the region; Israel and the imperialist powers and to prepare the way for intervention and occupation with a view to destabilising and neutralising Syria and its strategic importance in the region, altering the balance of power in the area and creating a region of weak but compliant, loyal client states. This would serve the aggressive and expansionist designs of Israel which continues to occupy the Golan Heights and the Sheba Farms in Lebanon, and guarantee unlimited access by the monopolies to the valuable natural resources of those states.

Socialists should, of course, express solidarity to the genuine, peaceful, social protests and just demands for economic, social and political and democratic changes in Syria but unequivocally reject foreign political or military intervention in Syria by the USA, the EU, Israel and NATO in active collaboration with Turkey and a number of reactionary, anti-democratic monarchies in the Gulf region.

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

What a heap of unmitigated shit.

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CMK - May 24, 2013

Have you been following events in Syria? ‘Peaceful’ protest won’t, and didn’t, get Syrian opposition very far with Assad; I think that’s kinda why it escalated into bloody sectarian conflict so far. Indeed, engaging in ‘peaceful’ opposition in any Baathist state is the preserve of those with a death wish and/or extreme masochists who fancy spending their last few days on earth being brutally tortured (the US did render Al-Qaeda suspects to Syria for nothing). But, no bother, Assad is today’s great anti-imperialist hero and the ten year old boys who are being executed by his troops are the dupes of imperialism?

There is no ‘anti-imperialist’ narrative to what’s happening in Syria only a population hemmed in on all sides by vicious bastards whether the ‘West’, Assad, ‘Al-Qaeda’ or the Gulf States. We’re staggeringly unlikely to get military intervention in Syria from the West because: a) Syria can actually defend itself from air-attacks and may well have the latest Russian anti-aircraft missile system, of which the US is scared shitless; and, b) Russia and China will not abandon Syria.

The likely outcome will be Assad stepping down and his murderous lieutenants taking over and some ‘peace’ deal being cobbled together.

But, ‘imperialism’, give me a break!

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5. D_D - May 24, 2013

“Socialists should, of course, express solidarity to the genuine, peaceful, social protests and just demands for economic, social and political and democratic changes in Syria but unequivocally reject foreign political or military intervention in Syria by the USA, the EU, Israel and NATO in active collaboration with Turkey and a number of reactionary, anti-democratic monarchies in the Gulf region.”

Therefore socialist should be on the side of the Lybian and Syrian revolutions?

As regards intervention, it depends. Remember ‘The Aud’?

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6. Baku 26 - May 24, 2013

Of course Assad is a bastard. But is the lot of the Syrian people likely to be improved by a victory for his opponents? I think not. The evidence is to the contrary. Those who seem to believe that the “imperialist narrative” doesn’t apply need to open their eyes.

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CMK - May 24, 2013

But for the ‘anti-imperialist’ narrative to have traction with socialists there should, surely, be an anti-imperialist political force of substance? In Syria, alas, that is not the case and it’s all Devil’s facing the Syrian people. We’re yet again in the realm of the long term consequences of the deliberate destruction of communist and Left forces in the Arab world; something orchestrated and demanded by the West. Into the vacuum created by the annihilation of those forces has stepped the nihilism of Islamist war. Solidarity with the people may best be expressed by supporting those NGO’s trying to alleviate things; not, as some on the ‘Left’ will surely do, by calling for no-fly zones and other pie-in-the-sky type measures which will, inexorably as in Iraq, compound the oppression and near genocide that Assad is perpetrating.

Assad Syria has been a lynchpin of Western Middle East policy over the past 40 years and the West will likely be happy to see him victorious on condition that he doesn’t make too much of a mess with the post-war killings. A stable, oppressive and autocratic, Syria is priceless for Western interests.

It’s a pity that, at a global level, a transcendent, secular, vision is not available to organize, such as communism, and that people are caught between forces each as vicious as the other.

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7. Roger Cole - May 24, 2013

Of course people have a right to be concerned about penalty points. I was only making the case that the corporate media has become so supportive of imperialism that it ignores the support Shatter and the rest of the FG/Labour Party Govenment gives to imperialists wars. As far as PANA is concerned imperialist wars and Irish involvement in these wars is a more important issue than penalty points.

For example, in the current NATO Review Shatter states that Irish neutrality is not relevant because of the war on terrorism, but of course the IT and the rest of the corporate media ignores it.

D_D suggests that I support Assad. This is a continuation of the right wing reactionary ideology which is opposed to the policy of Irish neutrality. When PANA opposed the US/UK led conquest of Iraq, the same sort of people said we supported Sadam, or in a earlier period of our history, that De Valera supported Hitler.
For the record, the case of the US/NATO//Israeli/Al-Queda war on the Syrian state, PANA in it’s press statements has called for a ceasefire and inclusive negotiations. However all our press statements are regularly ignored by the corporate media.

Baku 26 makes a clear point about “useful fools”. There were no end of them when the US Empire invaded Iraq and they have not gone away. As I said, all the US/EU/NATO axis offers is perpetual war abroad and perpetual austerity at home. PANA since its foundation in 1996 ha sought to build a broad alliance in Ireland against these imperialist wars and to work with international organisations such as the World Peace Council that have similar views.

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8. D_D - May 24, 2013

“D_D suggests that I support Assad.”

No, I was asking if a – strong and unexpected – characterisation of the uprisings in Libya and Syria as “NATO’s conquest of Libya” and providing “money to Al-Queda terrorists in Syria” implied support for Gadaffi and Assad.

Opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the US etc.cannot be compared to support for an uprising by large sections of the Syrian people against Assad.

Surely our slogan at the time was that it was up to the Iraqi people to remove Saddam.

Neutrality between states does not suggest neutrality beween a state and those subject to it.

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9. Joe - May 24, 2013

It’s a bind isn’t it?
Assad’s Syria is a one-party state. Members of his minority sect get most of the top jobs and generally get looked after by the state at the expense of the majority. There is little or no right to freedome of expression or political activity.
Inspired by the Arab spring, the majority rise up in mass peaceful demonstrations against the regime. And are shot dead in their thousands by Assad’s military and police. So they resort to armed resistance and revolt. But on their own they will not defeat Assad’s army. Their only hope of doing that is with support from foreign imperialist powers. Plus, some of the most effective fighting groups against Assad are Al Quaida Islamic fundamentalists.
So what should “a socialist” do?
Oppose western imperialist intervention, thus leaving the rebels to be slaughtered by Assad’s army?
Support the west arming the rebels and end up with a western-backed (puppet?) regime replacing Assad or, less likely, a Sunni fundamentalist Islamic state?

My current view is that supporting the rebels is the right choice. This will lead to some kind of western-backed regime replacing Assad. But there will be more chance, over time, that the people of Syria will be able to establish some kind of democracy for their country under such circumstances than they could under Assad.

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

A ‘Socialist ‘could always oppose the West arming the rebels. This provides him, or her, with the opportunity to decry the West’s willingness to let Muslims die. In the event of the West intervening he can then denounce imperalism. It’s a win-win situation. And it’s also what happened re Milosevic.

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10. dmfod - May 24, 2013

Why the perpetual impulse to take a side, even when there doesn’t seem to be a left or even a notably ‘progressive’ side to the conflict?

If we’re honest none of know all that much about the actual politics of the situation and we have even less power to influence it, so why can’t we just adopt a neutral stance and leave it at that? Why the constant urge to ‘intervene’?

I would support humanitarian aid i.e. food & medical supplies only to refugees, but that’s it. I don’t support rebels I have little reason to believe would be significantly better than Assad, I don’t support Assad and I don’t support making the situation worse by supporting increasing flows of arms into the conflict from equally repressive governments in the region who are enemies of Assad for reasons that have nothing to do with the welfare of the Syrian people.

Most of all, as the one aspect of the situation that as an Irish citizen I could theoretically have some influence over, I don’t support further Western interference in the region or in the Muslim world in general, when it has already caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and so much misery.

The comments to Roger suggesting that because he sees the NATO intervention in Libya as imperialist and opposes Western intervention in Syria as imperialist he must be a supporter of Gadafy or Assad are completely unfair and actually pretty despicable. Anyone making this argument is sinking to the level of Bush’s ‘with or against us’ attitude. At this stage people should know that the enemy of my enemy is not my friend and is probably just another enemy.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

I sort of agree, but…

Does that impulse though work say for Israel/Palestine – I’m not by the way slagging the SPs position on it which is reasonable enough, but just curious.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

Though I sort of disagree as well. Granted I’m being equivocal. I’m genuinely interested how we’re meant to pick and choose. Or where the boundaries of our interest are meant to end.

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Mark P - May 24, 2013

I’d say that the impulse to oppose imperialist intervention in non Western states holds in Palestine just as it holds everywhere else: The West after all does intervene in Palestine, providing money and armaments to the Israeli state. I’m certainly opposed to that.

There are two separate issues at work here: Firstly, should we sympathise with one “side” in a civil war or occupation? The answer to this will be very much dependent on the circumstances and isn’t really amenable to a general statement of principle. Secondly, should we support Western military intervention? Almost regardless of the answer to the first question, my response to this will be no.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

I agree with you re ‘very much dependent on the circumstances’. I’m not entirely sure I’d go down the route that Western military intervention will always be a no. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility to see the rise of a fascist state in or on the margins of Europe, for example, in which instance I’d be very leery about saying no intervention ever simply because it was the West. But that said I think the bar for intervention has to be set very very high indeed.

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dmfod - May 24, 2013

All of this is in a personal capacity 🙂 As in Syria, I oppose imperialist intervention by Western powers, but I think the two situations are different. In Syria you have a civil war, whereas in Palestine you have a racist foreign occupation with imperialist US support oppressing an entire people that has a fairly universally supported, if fractured national liberation movement. This means even though left wing forces in Palestine are weak, there is still a clear right and wrong side, so the question is not ‘who do you support?’ but what’s the best strategy for supporting them and for supporting a progressive outcome to the situation.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

That’s a fair point re differing circumstances, though one could argue that they’re still far beyond our ability to take sides in a meaningful sense, and even then it is still a bit more complicated in that Israel is not a uniform whole and the space exists within it for oppositional forces. So it’s not exactly manichaean. Mind you once we’re into strategy we’re all probably lost.

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eamonncork - May 24, 2013

But maybe DD’s mistake is understandable because right away you did have someone coming in with unequivocal support for Assad. I haven’t seen Roger say he doesn’t support Assad by the way. And it’s nice to see everyone being so sanguine about the civilian casualties being inflicted by the Syrian regime. A relative of mine has been keeping in close touch, it’s a work thing, with this thing since it’s begun. He would, as I would, be pro Palestinian and would dispute the caricaturing of a complex situation rooted in the politics of Syria itself as being in some way manipulated by the CIA or Israel. People in the Middle East do have some amount of agency you know. And all this ‘we don’t know much about what’s going on these foreign places’ stuff hasn’t been a barrier to much pontificating on here in the past. The fact that Hamas aren’t exactly a bundle of laughs hasn’t stopped people from supporting them either. I find a lot of these contributions a bit fucking dispiriting to be honest.

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Mark P - May 24, 2013

Not half as dispiriting as I find the willingness of some on the left to abandon sense or reason as soon as warmongers start talking about civilian casualties or “humanitarian intervention”. Somebody please think of the children isn’t much of an analysis of imperialism.

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eamonncork - May 25, 2013

Don’t lecture me about imperialism Mark P. When there was imperialism on your doorstep in the North the SP were tacit, and sometimes enthusiastic, supporters of it. Nowhere in my posts by the way did I say that American intervention in Syria would be a good thing. I just objected to the caricature of what’s going on in Syria and what went on in Libya as being basically driven by Western intervention. Your and dmfod’s solicitude for Roger and somewhat breathless outrage at what you perceived as his arguments being misrepresented doesn’t prevent you doing the same thing with me. Fortunately I’m not quite as sensitive.
It strikes me that a certain amount of sophistry and bad faith is required to pretend that a position portraying the Syrian rebels as essentially tools of the West is in no way supportive of the Assad regime. I’m presuming that you’re girding up your rhetorical loins to blame the CIA for winding him up if he uses chemical weapons against his enemies. Have at it.
Also it’s slightly simple minded to say that Roger can’t be supportive of Assad in any way because he’s in an organisation with Peace and Neutrality in the title. What next? The American invasion of Iraq was all about Freedom because it was called Operation Iraqi Freedom? East Germany must have been like really Democratic?
And supporting the Palestinian case at the moment effectively means supporting Hamas, at least in part. Because that’s who you’ve got in Gaza and that’s who you’re going to have.
The argument that since NATO played some part in Gadaffi’s removal, Gadaffi’s removal as therefore a bad thing doesn’t appeal to me much. Would it therefore have been better to let Milosevic slaughter as many Kossovars as he thought fit if it could only have been averted by NATO air strikes? Was Srebenica the ideal outcome because the West stayed out of that particular fight? Is it warmongering and imperalism to even ask these questions? I don’t think it is.
There’s also intellectual dishonesty in pretending that the Syrian opposition is totally discredited because it includes Islamic fundamentalists. That was the right’s argument supporting the American occupation and is still their argument whenever Israel go into Gaza. Now, you may think it’s very amusing to turn the right’s argument back against them when it suits you but it strikes me as being in bad faith.
Anyway there, as the man said, are my correct things about everything. I don’t mind a bit of a row but I do object to being portrayed as some kind of useful idiot who supports American invasion.
Anyway, as I said before, Mark P and his cohorts had the chance to see imperialism in action up the road and placed themselves, thanks to a load of unconvincing rhetorical twisting and turning, on the side of the imperialists. But then that might have directly affected them. They’re a lot braver when it comes to the theoretical side of things. Had the IRA been fighting in South America I’m sure he wouldn’t have found wanting.

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eamonncork - May 25, 2013

Mark P might post up one of the many Socialist Party statements calling for the British Army’s withdrawal from the North to show his long standing and principled opposition to military intervention.

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Que - May 25, 2013

+1 Eaman a Chorcaigh

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Mark P - May 26, 2013

Eamonn, you start with an outright lie and then your post goes downhill from there. I’m actually slightly disappointed to see this sort of drivel from you.

Militant, as you would know if you’d actually looked at the material posted both here and on the Socialist Party website before introducing your little attempt at a smear, opposed the sending in of British troops to the North, just as the Socialist Party opposes all Western military interventions. If I was inclined to be charitable, I might suspect that you are getting confused about the way in which Militant later raised the demand for the removal of troops once they were there – they didn’t simply say troops out at that point, but included the demand as one of a series of linked slogans, which used to annoy more nationalist minded leftists. I’m not particularly leaning towards charity however, given the tone of your post.

The rest of your post addresses almost nothing I actually said, and instead consists largely of you attributing views to me that I have not expressed and do not hold. At no point, for instance, did I comment on the nature and composition of the anti-Gadaffi forces in Libya or the anti-Assad forces in Syria, so defending their honour against me is something of a wasted endeavour.

I note the implication in some of your “questions” that you supported the NATO bombing of Serbia and would have supported Western military intervention in Bosnia. Let’s not leave any room for confusion here. I don’t want to assume that you are a “useful idiot who supports American invasion”, unless that’s what you are, so lets get away from implication and insinuation and clarify where we actually disagree:

1) Do you support or oppose Western military intervention in Syria?
2) Did you support or oppose Western military intervention in Libya, Kosovo or Bosnia?
3) Are there any other Western military interventions you support?

For the record, my answer to all of these questions is no. The militaries of imperial powers are not charities. They exist to further the ruthless pursuit of state (and therefore class) interests. Pro “humanitarian intervention” NGOs and “Cruise Missiles for Human Rights” liberals are at best useful idiots and at worst are deliberate propagandists for Western power and its civilizing mission.

It is theoretically possible that, if looked at in strict isolation from the wider international context, you might find a Western military intervention that did more good than harm. Although it should be said that I can’t think of one where that is unambiguously true, while the list of examples where Western invasions made things demonstrably worse is lengthy. But even in such a theoretical case, in a period when “human rights” and “democracy” are the main reasons given to justify all imperial interventions, whether in the Middle East or Francafrique, even an imagined relatively benign invasion has toxic effects on a wider scale. I note, in that context, the hopes expressed by many a human rights warmonger and imperialist liberal since the Libyan bombings began that this “good war” would rehabilitate the “responsibility to protect” (ie the responsibility to bomb brown people for their own good) after the recent “bad wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The context matters. Every invasion we cheer on legitimises the next one, helps build support for it, helps cloak the ruthless pursuit of imperial interests in high minded ideals and helps doom more wedding parties somewhere else to quick and unwelcome transformations into jam by drone strikes. It is counterproductive to find epiphenomena of imperialism to support if only we can divorce them from their cause and purpose. The biggest favour the Western powers could do the rest of the world is to stop meddling entirely.

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dmfod - May 24, 2013

Who here has given “unequivocal support for Assad”? And you’re still insinuating Roger supports Assad for some reason. Given he’s a spokesperson for the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, I strongly doubt that’s the case.

I agree the situation in Syria is complex and that people there have “agency”. They are fighting a bloody war right now so that’s blatantly obvious. But that’s not incompatible with the situation also being manipulated by foreign powers, the CIA, Israel, the Gulf states etc. and opposing imperialist intervention wherever it happens is pretty much a core left wing principle for me.

I also think you can support the Palestinians’ right to self-determination without supporting Hamas – though someone might want to tell that to the SWP.

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2013

I think perhaps it was the somewhat unuanced tone of Roger’s comments above in relation to Libya and AQ in Syria which triggered this. The situation there, whether one takes a side or not, is a bit more complex than AQ against Damascus. It’s exactly what you say about support for Palestine within support being for Hamas.

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11. Pete - May 25, 2013

Eamoncork is embarassing himself, again.

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WorldbyStorm - May 25, 2013

I don’t think he is.

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eamonncork - May 25, 2013

The genius speaks.

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yourcousin - May 25, 2013

I’d +1 your position on this whole thread though that might count against you even more.

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12. D_D - May 25, 2013

“The comments to Roger suggesting that because he sees the NATO intervention in Libya as imperialist and opposes Western intervention in Syria as imperialist he must be a supporter of Gaddafi or Assad are completely unfair and actually pretty despicable.” (dmfod)

I hope I’m not included in this. Please return to Roger’s original post: “supported NATO’s conquest of Libya, provides money to Al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria”

I was asking a genuine question, not a rhetorical one. If a – strong and unexpected – characterisation of the uprisings in Libya and Syria as “NATO’s conquest of Libya” and providing “money to Al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria” implied support for Gaddafi and Assad (the other sides in the civil wars). If Assad is, implicitly, combating – the very Western bogeyman – Al Qaeda (now apparently bankrolled by the West in Syria), and if the revolutionary overthrow of Gaddafi was, explicitly, an external conquest by NATO, whether these implied, or impelled even, support for Assad and Gaddafi in these particular conflicts.

Maybe the question I should have asked was whether Roger was implying opposition to the Libyan and Syrian uprisings. But that seemed implicit enough to me without further clarification. Maybe I was wrong.

I attended every ant-war protest I could and opposed sanctions on Iran. I continue to support the work of PANA and of Roger in it. But if no one else here is disputing the characterisation, if that’s what is meant, of the overthrow of Gaddafi as the conquest of Libya by NATO, I surely am.

It would be as much a misrepresentation of those who support the Libyan and Syrian uprisings to maintain that they support Western imperialism as it was a misrepresentation of those who opposed the US/UK led conquest of Iraq to maintain that they supported Saddam.

My analogy between Syria today and the Third Reich would not be the comparison of De Valera and Hitler but the Resistance and Hitler.

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WorldbyStorm - May 25, 2013

That’s more than fair enough D_D. Whatever else the overthrow of Gaddafi appears to have been a genuine event and at most times well beyond the control of any external players (or itself!). Syria is tricky, but again does appear to be a genuinely organic process where external forces are in the main of secondary importance.

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CMK - May 25, 2013

I have someone very close to me working on the ground in Libya and they are getting out as AQ related groups are gaining a foothold, seemingly with the connivance of some elements in the Libyan government. ‘The Transition to Democracy’ narrative is almost meaningless. Elections aren’t democracy alone and it’s the non electoral parts of democracy which are under severe pressure in Libya. The idea that NATO are solidly in control of Libya doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Several of the key political forces in Libya have been, until recently, ‘terrorists’ in the eyes of the West. Anyway, expect Libya to be back in the news soon enough.

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WorldbyStorm - May 25, 2013

I’d hope that somehow and probably messily they’ll find space to move to their own position, and hopefully one that is more rather than less democratic. But after an embedded dictatorship of decades that’s going to take quite a time and is going to be subject to precisely the pressures you outline above in relation to electoral and non-electoral parts of democracy.

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13. Alan Shatter | misebogland - May 25, 2013

[…] via They say the situation is… | The Cedar Lounge Revolution. […]

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14. Roger Cole - May 25, 2013

As I assume this thread is coming to a close allow me to make a few points. I joined it beacuse while Mr. Shatter’s involvement with the penalty point issue is clearly important to the corporate media, the same corporate media is ignoring Mr. Shatter’s interview in the NATO Review in which he states that Irish neutrality is irrelvant in the context of the war on terrorism. For PANA that has campaigned against the proccess of the destruction of the policy of Irish neutrality and Ireland’s integration into the EU/US/NATO military structures in order to ensure Ireland full and active participation in its perpetual war is a much more important issue that that of penalty points. Since PANA’s opposition to these neverending imperialists wars is ignored by the corporate media because it is totally supportive of the twin and linked agenda of perpetual war and perpetual austerity I thought I would make the case on a site for lefties to old to quit, if only to get it off my chest.
During PANA’s campaign against the US conquest of Iraq, the most nasty right wing reactionary elements which supported the conquest constantly accused PANA of being supportive of Sadam. It is clear that those elements have not gone away as I would have thought it obvious that PANA is no more supporive of Assad than it was of Sadam. But just to clear up an confusion from people who might not be aware of PANA’s long standing opposition to imperialist war, PANA does not support Assad or indeed any of the groups involved in the war in Syria. Our press statements have consistently called for a ceasefire and inclusive negotiations of all parties involved in the conflict, a position that now appears to be being agreed to by US which for the last few years has bitterly opposed it. PANA does not take or seek to take a position on every international issue as we focus on those taken by the Irish government that seek to continue the strategy of integrating Ireland into the EU/US/NATO military structures and its commitment to perpetual war. Thes include:
The adoption of an aviation policy to seek additional military flights through Shannon Airport.
The continuing participation of Irish trrosp in the Afghan War
The decision to participate in the Mali civil war by sending Irish troops
to take part and Mr. Shatter’s advocacy that 400 more should be sent tto take part in this war, which Mr. Cameron has described as a “generatiional war
The particiation of Irish troops in EU Battle Groups, the next being the Nordic Battle Group in 2005
Support for totally unjustified sanctions against Iran
Supprt for the participation by NATO in the war in Libya
The provision of financial support to the NATO/Israeli/Al-Queda axis in the war in Syria
PANA seeks to build an anti-imperialist alliance in Ireland and is part of the WPC that opposes imperialist wars throughout the world.

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WorldbyStorm - May 25, 2013

Roger, the Shatter issue is not just important to the corporate media (actually you’ll find that some of them, as with Stephen Collins have sought to make light of the situation). It’s important to me and to others on here. A Minister of Justice using private information to attack another politician publicly is a matter of deep concern not just for leftists but democrats of any stripe.

There’s no hierarchy here in relation though to topics raised. We have a What You Want to Say thread every week on a Wednesday morning which can be used throughout the week to comment on issues of topical relevance or whatever. So it’s certainly not a case of not wanting you to get it off your chest, but there is with that What You Want to Say thread a more appropriate place to do so without completely diverting the direction of this current thread. You are always and genuinely welcome to use that to raise this sort of discussion topic.

And all that said many thanks for the clarification of the PANA position.

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eamonncork - May 26, 2013

It’s good to have him clarifying that PANA believe in the existence of a NATO/Israeli/AL Qaeda axis in the Syrian conflict, it shows that they’re parroting the propaganda of the Assad regime as regards the opposition. If it walks like an Assad supporter and it quacks like an Assad supporter, it doesn’t have any business throwing its hands up in mock outrage when it’s characterised as being an Assad supporter. Anyway that’s enough of my time and energy wasted on Roger and his bunch of PANA planespotters who are effectively doing the same amount as myself in combating the scourge of imperialism i.e. fuck all. Though I suppose at least they’re getting a bit of fresh air and exercise.
And if anyone thinks I’m being mean to him, well I just don’t think the CLR is the place to let people indulge in this kind of mendacity. Thinking that the opposition to Assad is not entirely a foreign led conspiracy doesn’t make me Henry Kissinger.

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eamonncork - May 26, 2013

And the reason Roger and his cohorts are perpetually ignored by almost everyone is not because we can’t handle their forthright message of truth, it’s because they don’t affect anything and don’t matter. But thanks for pointing out that new Israeli/Al Qaeda alliance, I might have missed it otherwise. Did you ever meet a dictator you didn’t like?

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eamonncork - May 26, 2013

You could always rename your organisation, in the light of recent developments, the Western Anti Nato Conspiracy Alliance. It might be more appropriate.

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WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2013

I’m sure Roger wouldn’t see it as never meeting a dictator he doesn’t like, but on the other hand the idea of an Israeli/AQ/NATO axis is moving towards the absurd. And it does raise the issue of what neutrality means in this context if the assumption is that – for example, if such a linkage existed we should take a side, even purely rhetorically against or for it. I mean why is that bad exactly? Or why is it good? How could one make a value judgement on it. And why would it be worse – say – than a Syrian/Russia/Iran axis? Or more imperialist? Or why should we care if the networks are so heterdox? In a weird way it would almost sort of push me to dmfod’s position of taking no position at all.

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eamonncork - May 26, 2013

There’s at least a certain honesty about dmfod’s position which would count as genuine neutrality.

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dmfod - May 26, 2013

What I object to is imperialist intervention into these conflicts, regardless of what side is in the right or not. I wouldn’t support it to prop up Assad and I wouldn’t support it to overthrow him. The same goes for Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. As Mark P has said, the best thing Western capitalist states could do in any of these conflicts is butt out. Ireland not being neutral means Ireland supporting Western imperialist interventions i.e. “neutrality” is the best we can hope for from a weak Western capitalist state.

The distinction between neutrality as a stance towards Irish government policy and neutrality in relation to supporting sides in particular conflicts in other ways has maybe become a bit blurred. In Syria, I’d adopt a “double neutrality” position, whereas in Palestine, I’d want Ireland to be militarily neutral, but I would support the Palestinian cause.

You can support popular uprisings without supporting Western intervention into them, but this seems to have become the default position if you support a particular side in a conflict. This is completely at odds with left wing politics for a whole load of reasons – not least because it feeds into Team America, World Police assumptions and also usually entails the former colonial power intervening into their former colonies ‘for their own good’ – France in Chad, Mali & countless other ex-French colonies, the UK in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan etc. etc.

It sickens me to see Ireland dragged into these situations as the ‘non-imperialist’ face of imperialism with no history of colonialism blah blah, which our government leverages as a selling point that supposedly helps us “punch above our weight” in the EU.

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WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2013

But is the west with it’s very very hesitant and partial involvement in Syria being more imperialist than the allies of Syria, ie Iran, Russia or indeed Hezbollah which has openly come out against the opposition. Surely those sr in their own way imperialist interventions, seeking to exert power and influence, too, from local, regional to global depending on which we examine.

And what of those who are attempting entirely genuinely and of their own free will to bring down the Assad regime and replace it with a mor democratic one? Is the best they can get rhetorical support because some with similar goals ie AQ or whether Islamists of the day also are active in this? And what of the key issue that the Assad regime by any reasonable criteria is a totalitarian dictatorship which has ruthlessly stepped on even the mildest dissent. That power disparity between that stat and this who oppose it seems very stark to me.

I guess for me the problem is there are multiple imperialisms in play or perhaps a better term is expressions of power and where that leaves those inside and outside Syria who want more progressive outcomes is in a real bind. But given the choice between Assad et al or (significant parts of) the opposition I find it almost impossible not to see the latter as being more preferable and that would be true to my mind of Libya and before it the wars of secession in Yugosavia (though Serbians in general got a bad and unfair rep there).

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WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2013

By the way I think it’s worth adding that where a society is is key in this. In a civil war there may be a greater need to examine support/intervention of a broad range of sorts than in an Iraq situation because mass resistance and armed resistance against a totalitarian state seems to me to be qualitively different state of affairs to invading a totalitarian which is not attacking others or is relatively stable. And invasion seems to me to the absolute last option to be examined.

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dmfod - May 26, 2013

WbS I wouldn’t support Russian or Iranian intervention either and bringing it up is a bit whataboutery. The point about opposing specifically Western imperialism is that a) it’s currently the dominant imperialism and has been for hundreds of years and b) it’s the type of imperialism Irish citizens could conceivably have some influence on in the sense of how much Ireland actively supports it.

I don’t see much point in expending too much energy in “evenhandedly” condemning Russian imperialism, or the dictatorship in Burma, or any other obviously bad regime I have no influence over, especially if condemning them plays into Western foreign policy interests and functionally is the main reason they get condemned in the West.

I also don’t think you can reduce imperialism to an ‘expression of power’. It’s about a lot more than that.

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WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2013

I have a friend who is a Bosnian Muslim. She’s from a rural background but culturally she’s probably as Christian as any of us here – which is to say not much. She’s no patsy for the west, she’s harshly critical European and of German motivations in particular in relation to the breakup of Yugoslavia which she considers a crime – and she’s my age so all this happened when she was already in her late 20s and older. Nor does she blame the Serbs as has been much the fashion, but instead sees it as a result of Croat and Serbian political leaderships and their opportunism which exacerbated matters quite deliberately. Yet her read is that for her family friends and the mixed community in which she lived intervention, belated and partial as it was, was essential and de facto saved lives whereas for those who she knew elsewhere it came too late.

So I’m not sure it is whataboutery to bring in other elements in discussions like this because that to me seems to be dangerously close to shutting down discussion rather than facing up to the complexities and difficulties and contradictions of these matters on the ground where yes, in very limited cases western intervention (in a range of forms) may be a positive.

And for her Croat and Serbian (and at a remove Russian) imperialism was most definitely reducible to expressions of power (while of course being much more too).

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dmfod - May 26, 2013

And 20 years later Bosnia is still divided into two ethnic states and is still effectively an EU-US colony run by a modern day imperial dictator, while Kosovo ended up being run by a NATO-backed organ-trafficking mafioso.

Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia are also all in the ten poorest countries in Europe after being part of one of the better off states.

Brilliant long term outcomes from Western intervention there, but twenty years later the framing of the region is nearly always still on the “moral” moment in time when as a “last resort”, “we” were “forced to intervene” – rather than a reasoned appraisal of what the actual motives for Western intervention were at the time and what the long term impacts have been.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

From her perspective the fact her family and friends are actually alive and her community intact, or at least not ethnically cleansed or worse than it was, might weigh more heavily upon her thinking even taking into account all the factors you raise. It’s not a perfect world. She would have seen the continuation of Yugoslavia as the best outcome. but what actually happens is often, perhaps usually, sub optimal, but alternatives can be worse.

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yourcousin - May 27, 2013

Because an ethnically pure greater Serbia and Croatia would certainly have been better, you know, just so we could stick it to countries who weren’t being ethnically cleansed.

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smiffy - May 27, 2013

“Brilliant long term outcomes from Western intervention there, but twenty years later the framing of the region is nearly always still on the “moral” moment in time when as a “last resort”, “we” were “forced to intervene” – rather than a reasoned appraisal of what the actual motives for Western intervention were at the time and what the long term impacts have been.”

Surely any such appraisal must be based on a comparison with what would have been the most likely outcomes (short-term and long-term) of non-intervention, or other approaches to the situation.

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eamonncork - May 27, 2013

Where dmfod learned about modern day Kossovo.

Cause, y’know, some peoples just aren’t fit to govern themselves. Because they’re, like, savages. Otherwise they’d be in the European top 10 like us, wealth per capita being the SP’s ultimate measure of national worth.
She’s right, it would be better for your Bosnian acquaintance to be dead rather than have to toil in the lower reaches of the European wealth league. It’s Socialism Jim, but not as we know it.

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eamonncork - May 27, 2013

If Milosevic, God bless him and save him, had been let slaughter these Albanian scum, our organs would be safe today. Who can disagree with this clear eyed Socialist Party reading of the situation?

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King Alpha Plan - May 27, 2013

And this year’s prize fro imperialism’s useful idiot goes to…

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CMK - May 27, 2013

Eamonn, you’re trolling there. There are legitimate criticisms to be levying at the post conflict regimes in both Bosnia and Kosovo, dismissing them by claiming that the person raising them learned about Kosovo by looking at ‘Taken’ is, coming from a normally sensible commentator, risible. That’s before we get to your claims that the SP hold or ever held a candle for Milosevic.

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dmfod - May 27, 2013

smiffy & yourcousin: It’s difficult to say what the long term impacts of “non-intervention” in Yugoslavia would have been, but we do know the many harmful impacts of what the West actually did.

Early on, premature recognition of Croatia by Germany threw petrol on the situation by encouraging other declarations of independence and an arms embargo prevented Bosnian forces from acquiring arms but had little effect on Yugoslav army.

Then a UN ‘safe haven’ policy dissuaded people from fleeing Bosnia in order to minimise refugee flows into Western Europe and left them concentrated in one place to be slaughtered.

Later, NATO’s intervention in Kosovo sparked exponentially greater violence than had been happening beforehand and helped keep Milosevic in power by deliberately bombing civilian infrastructure and killing thousands of Serb civilians.

On a wider level, the interventions established the first precedent for NATO using force outside of its member states and for reasons other than self-defence, when many had assumed it would have no further purpose after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. This gave NATO a new imperialist purpose and later helped it become a de facto outsourced “peace enforcement” arm of the UN, rather than traditionally neutral countries that historically provided peacekeeping forces.

Finally, it was used very successfully to create a norm of humanitarian intervention/responsibility to protect that pops up as the main justification for the use of force by Western states that have not been attacked.

In practical terms, this can be used as a pretext for intervention in almost any conflict the West has an interest in intervening in for other reasons. Almost every conflict involves severe human rights violations and war crimes, which are not aberrations but part of the very nature of war. And even if they don’t, they are easy to fabricate with the help of a credulous media looking for atrocity stories. Indeed, belligerents have a vested interest in doing so to help provoke intervention. The possibility of Western intervention may also discourage peace agreements if there is a chance of it being a game changer. This seems to have happened in Yugoslavia on several occasions, prolonging the conflict.

WbS you justify intervention on the basis of the experience of one individual and her family and friends. I know this isn’t your intention, but that’s precisely the tactic of liberal humanitarian interventionists, who always want to forget the wider context, the structural issues and geopolitics, and focus on individual, decontextualised human suffering – which is then used as a pretext for imperialist policies motivated by other concerns entirely.

Focusing on one set of civilians in almost any conflict could make it seem like intervention to save them would be the right thing to do because civilians are almost by definition not at fault, but invariably end up getting killed. But in practice, intervening “to save civilians” usually means NATO or some other US-led coalition taking sides in a civil war in a developing country, which is often also a former colony of one of the members of that alliance, and in which the West has important economic or geopolitical interests. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother intervening, regardless of the humanitarian crisis.

Two final points & apologies for the length of this post!

What gets forgotten in the whole ‘should “we” intervene?’ narrative is that a) “we” as people on the left should not be identifying ourselves with capitalist states and particularly not with NATO, the US, France or the UK with whom we share no interests – in fact their interests are diametrically opposed to ours and b) the West is always “intervening”, so any military intervention will be just the latest installment in centuries of damaging interventions.

Framing the debate in terms of ‘should “we” intervene?’ glosses over this by portraying the status quo as something the West has had nothing to do with, when so often it has sown the seeds of the situation historically and is already fuelling the conflict by covertly supporting one side or another. The question should not, therefore, be ‘should “we” intervene?’, but ‘how are Western governments contributing to and instrumentalising this situation and is there anything we can do to stop them causing further damage?’

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dmfod - May 27, 2013

eamonn cork: perhaps you should educate yourself before commenting. The Council of Europe, UN and NATO have all linked Kosovo’s PM to organised crime, including organ trafficking, and it has been reported in the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, CNN etc. etc.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/14/kosovo-prime-minister-llike-mafia-boss

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/kosovo/8280226/Leaked-Nato-cables-allege-Kosovo-PM-was-biggest-fish-in-organised-crime.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/14/hashim-thaci-kosovo-prime_n_796654.html

Wikipedia also has a summary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_theft_in_Kosovo

You’re missing my point when you say: “Cause, y’know, some peoples just aren’t fit to govern themselves. Because they’re, like, savages” My whole argument was that Western intervention has turned Bosnia into a virtual EU-US colony. It has not been allowed to rule itself since the first High Representative was given dictatorial powers in 1995 and my point about national wealth was that Bosnia, like other colonies, has ended up impoverished having being much economically better off in the past.

I’ve also pointed out that I am speaking only for myself so I don’t know why you keep making wild and inaccurate allegations about SP positions. And I think the fact you have adopted such an aggressive and unserious tone shows you can’t really rationally back up your position.

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eamonncork - May 27, 2013

I’m not trolling. Might the fact that they’d been involved in a minor bit of civil disturbance also have something to do with Bosnia’s economically parlous state.
As for the SP and Milosevic, Joe Higgins was very forthright in his condemnation of NATO air strikes against Serbia, in the Dail on March 26 1999. The net result of those strikes was to halt Serbian attacks on Kossovo. Now, it would have been fantastic if those attacks could have been halted by some immediate alliance of progressive forces and workers movements between Serbia and Kossovo, but we know they couldn’t have been. It would have been fantastic too if the people who were killed at Srebenica could have been saved by an outbreak of class consciousness by their captors but that didn’t happen either.
It’s like the SP’s policy on the North which, in practice, meant the continuation of Unionist hegemony even while they waffled on about cross community working class links which never happened. Which is why, when anyone sensible would be pleased that the killing has stopped in the North, they’re more bothered adopting an I Told You So line about a capitalist sectarian state which they compare invidiously with some utopia which was never going to exist and which they were in no position to do anything to bring about. Then again on their website, check it out if you don’t believe me, they claim to be responsible for starting the Peace Process so perhaps reality isn’t their strong suit.
When I read these defences of the SP line it reminds me of a comedian, I forget which one, which said that the Bush regime in the US always wanted to be judged on their intentions rather than their actions and thus expected a free pass when they did terrible things in Iraq because it was all ostensibly in the cause of freedom. Hence when they tortured people, it wasn’t really torture because they were the good guys.
I think the problem with the SP line on Kossovo is that while in principle the NATO strikes were deplorable, in practice they saved many Kossovan lives, a conclusion which can fairly be reached given how the Serbs behaved in Bosnia. So Joe Higgins’ line on the matter while ideologically impeachable would have actually led to a worse outcome on the ground. He has the luxury of being theoretical.
The notion that it would have been better had the Serbs crushed the Kossovans because the Kossovans are basically scumbags is a pretty sinister one. Yes, it is legitimate to raise questions about the Bosnian and Kossovan regimes but perhaps they should be compared to the Serbian regime which might have been there otherwise rather than with Western democracies.
So while the SP did not support Milosevic they were de facto enablers of his policy in Kossovo. Not that it matters because they had no effect on things anyway.
But if I’m a troll or an idiot for raising these matters, so be it.
Joe Higgins in his Dail speech, by the way, said that the NATO air strikes would strengthen the Milosevic dictatorship. He also mentioned, quite legitimately, Turkey and Iraq in his speech. You could call that whataboutery of course but I’d prefer to think of it as putting things into context.

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smiffy - May 27, 2013

“smiffy & yourcousin: It’s difficult to say what the long term impacts of “non-intervention” in Yugoslavia would have been, but we do know the many harmful impacts of what the West actually did. ”

Yes, I get that. However, if you only look at the negative impact of what actually happened, as opposed to considering the likely outcomes of other approaches (and note that my question referred to non-intervention or other approaches, an attempt to avoid the binary intervene/don’t intervene opposition) then the analysis is very limited.

It’s not easy, of course, and can never be definitive. But while the experience and perspective of individuals such as WbS’ acquaintances can, obviously, be used as part of a wider Western campaign of soft propaganda and a pretext for further military action, that doesn’t mean that they have no validity in themselves.

And it may well be that, on balance, it may have been better in the wider international and political context if there had not been military intervention when it did take place, and if the civilian death toll in Bosnia had been far greater (not that I’m saying that the two are necessarily linked). But it’s important that those kind of issues are faced up to squarely and honestly, difficult though that might be.

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CMK - May 27, 2013

Eamonn, you are trolling, quite seriously and deliberately.

Your claim that NATO air strikes stopped Serb atrocities in Kosovo is not borne out by the facts. Nearly every commentator acknowledges that the NATO air strikes were largely ineffective against Serb forces on the ground in Kosovo. The Serbs were well able to camouflage their equipment and suffered very little from airstrikes. Pointedly, Serb attacks on Kosovo civilians were unaffected by the air strikes (p225 of the Rand report linked below).

What the air strikes did do was to purposefully target the civilian infrastructure of Serbia – bridges, roads, factories, water treatment plants, power stations, killing 500 Serb civilians in the process – and it was THAT pressure which forced Milosevic to capitulate NOT attacks on Serbs forces engaged in atrocities in Kosovo. I presume that the default tactic of US/NATO air power, the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure, designed to rapidly reduce the civilian population’s standard of living and put pressure on a regime, sits well with you? In every post 1989 US led / NATO led intervention civilians have been targeted indirectly and in nearly every instance said civilians have had not role to play in the decisions of the regimes being targeted. They are doubly attacked: first by their oppressive government, and then by the West. But, I suppose, fuck ’em, they choose to live in Serbia and Iraq if they didn’t like Milosevic or Saddam they could always leave, right?

http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1365/MR1365.ch8.pdf

I can take from your ‘critique’ of the SP’s position on the North that the views of the 1 million unionists/loyalists can be safely ignored and that if they resist integration into a united Ireland they can be dealt with appropriately? What would you propose?

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dmfod - May 27, 2013

Eamonn Cork – again you’re reduced to the ‘with us or against us’ line that either you support Western imperialist intervention or you must be “enabling” Milosevic/Assad/Saddam/Al Qaeda/the Taliban.

I absolutely never suggested that ‘it would have been better had the Serbs crushed the Kossovans because the Kossovans are basically scumbags’. I merely pointed out the criminal, corrupt nature of the Western-backed regime installed by NATO afterwards as a long-term negative outcome of the intervention that shows how much regard the “humanitarian” interveners really have for the people of Kosovo.

Anyone who’s in full command of the facts and is being honest admits the intervention sparked an exponential increase in violence and sparked a chain of events that may have ended up with more Kosovars being killed than would otherwise have been the case.

According to Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies of the University of Pittsburgh: “the casualties among Serb civilians in the first three weeks of the war are higher than all of the casualties on both sides in Kosovo in the three months that led up to this war, and yet those three months were supposed to be a humanitarian catastrophe” Also: “The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported its first registered refugees outside of Kosovo on March 27 (4000), three days after the bombings began. The toll increased until June 4, reaching a reported total of 670,000 in the neighboring countries (Albania, Macedonia), along with an estimated 70,000 in Montenegro (within the FYR), and 75,000 who had left for other countries”
http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199907–.htm

We therefore have no evidence that the intervention “saved many Kossovan lives”. Just because Serbs in Bosnia acted in a particular way does not mean Serbia would have acted in the same way under the different conditions that prevailed in Kosovo, when it hadn’t done so up to that point and had actually been engaging in peace talks.

The choice you pose between supporting “humanitarian” Western imperialist intervention and somehow “enabling” Milosevic by opposing Western intervention and calling for mass opposition to overthrow him, as Joe Higgins did, is utterly false.

It was mass opposition, not the NATO bombing, that eventually did topple Milosevic, so suggesting it as an option was clearly not unrealistic.

Here’s what Joe Higgins actually said in the Dail:
“The Kosovar people have the right to self determination and the right to an independent state. At the same time the Serb minority within Kosovo must have an absolute guarantee that all their rights, cultural and political will be respected. The crude policy of bombing by NATO forces cannot and will not resolve the extremely complex issue of ethnic peoples in the Balkans or anywhere else … It is not the sordid and vicious regime of Milosevic that will really suffer as a result of this bombing adventure, it is innocent people, innocent Serbian people including those opposed to the regime of Milosevic and indeed innocent Kosovars as well … it is imperative that the regime of Milosevic is overthrown but that is not the aim of NATO. I do not believe that the people of the region can put their trust either in the ex-Stalinist gangsters who rule some of those states, like Milosevic. Nor can they put their faith in the cynical military powers of western capitalism which is represented in NATO. That is a task for the people and the mass opposition that exist among the Serbian people themselves to the dictatorship of Milosevic”. http://www.socialisme.be/lsp/documents/nato2.htm

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

WbS you justify intervention on the basis of the experience of one individual and her family and friends. I know this isn’t your intention, but that’s precisely the tactic of liberal humanitarian interventionists, who always want to forget the wider context, the structural issues and geopolitics, and focus on individual, decontextualised human suffering – which is then used as a pretext for imperialist policies motivated by other concerns entirely.
Focusing on one set of civilians in almost any conflict could make it seem like intervention to save them would be the right thing to do because civilians are almost by definition not at fault, but invariably end up getting killed. But in practice, intervening “to save civilians” usually means NATO or some other US-led coalition taking sides in a civil war in a developing country, which is often also a former colony of one of the members of that alliance, and in which the West has important economic or geopolitical interests. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother intervening, regardless of the humanitarian crisis.

Actually I’m not trying to justify intervention on the basis of one individual and her family, friends and most importantly perhaps – though you neglect to include the term which I used – her community. What I am trying to do is point to the flaws in the idea that all situations or all interventions are the same.

If we take Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Libya it is clear that two of those were outright armed aggression into sovereign states, something that I think almost none of us would stand over. Libya was a civil war and the level of external military involvement was considerably lower – personally I’ve very mixed feelings about intervention there. Bosnia was part of a war of secession, a land grab by neighbouring power and a civil war, all rolled effectively into one. To suggest that all these are the same makes no sense. And if all of these conflicts are not the same then logically the response to them will not be the same in each instance.

Nor were the situations on the ground identical in terms of what could be achieved. in some instances there was nothing that could be achieved, or nothing that wouldn’t exacerbate the situation. In others there was more that could be achieved.

By the way I think your overview of the Bosnian situation is a bit askew. In Bosnia/Yugoslavia there were already strong UN resolutions allowing peace keepers in from 1991. In 1992 Bosnia/Herzegovina was recognised internationally as an independent sovereign state. So again this clearly isn’t the same as Iraq. You overemphasise external actors – by 1991 the chances of Yugoslavia remaining intact were low to minimal, much of the damage was done in the period preceding that and arguably by 1990 it was all over particularly with the dissolution of the all-Yugoslav CP though even that was but a symptom of deeper political processes. The actual shooting war predates the recognition of independence by quite some time. You berate the west for the failure of safe zones, but you surely know that those zones weren’t safe due to the lack of military power and more importantly the willingness to use it, so that’s not the fault of the west for not intervening when – as was inevitable – local actors realised that UN protection was meaningless. Quite the opposite, a clearer defence profile would have assured them (by the way, I don’t actually see why Europe or anyone should see as better the idea of Bosnians fleeing their homeland as refugees than them staying there which seems to be the implicit approach of your comment on refugees). Then there’s the small matter of genocidal acts, such as Srebrenica. There’s more of course, but it’s a slightly different discussion to the one we’re having.

As to your fears of precedent, well perhaps, though it does leave those on the ground swinging in the wind. Also it’s been overtaken by events. I would very strongly doubt we’ll see another Iraq or Afghanistan style invasion in the near to mid-term future. The Libyan hand-off aerial war style appears to be most likely, so completely did Iraq/Afghanistan undermine the idea of liberal humanitarian interventions.

Although on reflection I wonder if we need ascribe the term ‘liberal’ to any of this in the first place?

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

I don’t really like agreeing with King Alpha Plan but, Eamonn, now that we’ve reached the point where you are simply insinuating that those who opposed NATO’s cluster bombing of Serbia are pro-Milosevic, we can consider the “useful idiot for imperialism” question conclusively settled.

That line of argument is precisely the same as the declarations by supporters of imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq that opponents of those wars were pro-Saddam or pro-Taliban.

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smiffy - May 27, 2013

What about if they were described not as pro-Milosevic but instead as ‘useful idiots’ for Milosevic? Would that be acceptable?

Or, instead, if everyone dropped the politics.ie kind of name-calling, and dealt with the substance of the arguments, that might be better all round.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

+1 smiffy.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

Smiffy: There has been no substance to Eamonn’s recent posts other than the recycling of standard issue Euston Manifesto type smears. Precisely the same smears which are used by supporters of every imperialist military adventure against its opponents. There’s nothing to engage with there that hasn’t already been dismantled by dmfod and CMK above.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

Mark P given the latitude you’ve been given on here over the years in your interactions it might be best for you to take a back seat in this and accept that others will be given latitude for intemperate statements too.

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dmfod - May 27, 2013

WbS I’m not saying Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Libya ‘are the same’ so I’m not saying that ‘if all of these conflicts are not the same then logically the response to them will not be the same in each instance’. All I am saying is that supporting imperialist Western military intervention as the solution to any of these diverse situations makes no sense at all from a left wing perspective as it strengthens the power we should be trying to undermine while making the situation on the ground worse, usually in both the short and long term.

I don’t see the relevance of your statement that I “overemphasise external actors by 1991 the chances of Yugoslavia remaining intact were low to minimal, much of the damage was done in the period preceding that and arguably by 1990 it was all over” as I never said Western intervention was the main factor in the break up of Yugoslavia and nor did I say I wanted Yugoslavia kept intact at all cost.

These are two assumptions you are making about what you think I think. All I was doing was pointing out how Western intervention – at pretty much every turn in different forms and in different ways – made a bad situation worse.

The half-arsed safe havens whose main purpose was to prevent a massive influx of refugees into Western Europe rather than really protect civilians, which ended up, unintentionally but criminally negligently, corralling people for slaughter. The cluster bombing that was also supposedly humanitarian but killed thousands of Serb civilians and sparked escalated killings of Kosovars too.

I also think you’re getting things wrong when you say you “doubt we’ll see another Iraq or Afghanistan style invasion in the near to mid-term future. The Libyan hand-off aerial war style appears to be most likely, so completely did Iraq/Afghanistan undermine the idea of liberal humanitarian interventions”.

Libya was all about rehabilitating the concept of humanitarian intervention/R2P, which had been badly damaged by opposition to the invoking of it re. Iraq and Afghanistan. R2P is a repackaged humanitarian intervention ‘norm’ that was enshrined as a new international norm by being included in the World Summit Outcome document in 2005 and has been included in several SC resolutions since.

Libya road-tested it properly for the first time but it’s there now, officially used for the first time as a legitimate pretext for UN-sponsored NATO attacks on a sovereign state that has not attacked any member of NATO or even any other state. Straight away it exceeded the limited “protect civilians” mandate granted by the UN and went for regime change because Western interests in the region was what it was all about in the first place.

As to whether big invasions like Iraq are likely again soon – of course the West would rather get cleanly in and out without getting bogged down in a long term conflict and instead have it fought out by proxies as much as possible, or set up a puppet regime. But that doesn’t undermine “humanitarian intervention”, it strengthens it.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

WbS I’m not saying Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Libya ‘are the same’ so I’m not saying that ‘if all of these conflicts are not the same then logically the response to them will not be the same in each instance’. All I am saying is that supporting imperialist Western military intervention as the solution to any of these diverse situations makes no sense at all from a left wing perspective as it strengthens the power we should be trying to undermine while making the situation on the ground worse, usually in both the short and long term.

Except you’ve provided no evidence to support that assertion in the context of Bosnia. It remains but an assertion, or more accurately a point of view. And moreover you’ve ignored the point that western intervention (if it can be called that) wasn’t a single event but a long drawn out affair where the military aspect came long after all others – and that this was framed largely (almost exclusively?) within the context of the United Nations legitimisation with NATO actions being on foot of same. If we consider the UN has any legitimacy there seems to me an argument that this is precisely the model we want as distinct from NATO solo runs.

I don’t see the relevance of your statement that I “overemphasise external actors by 1991 the chances of Yugoslavia remaining intact were low to minimal, much of the damage was done in the period preceding that and arguably by 1990 it was all over” as I never said Western intervention was the main factor in the break up of Yugoslavia and nor did I say I wanted Yugoslavia kept intact at all cost.
These are two assumptions you are making about what you think I think. All I was doing was pointing out how Western intervention – at pretty much every turn in different forms and in different ways – made a bad situation worse.

I’m simply reading the following quote from you and extrapolating from what seems to be an implicit line that ‘declarations of Indepdence’ were a bad thing, particularly in relation to your thoughts on ‘other declarations of independence’.

Early on, premature recognition of Croatia by Germany threw petrol on the situation by encouraging other declarations of independence and an arms embargo prevented Bosnian forces from acquiring arms but had little effect on Yugoslav army.

As to over-reifying the west, your two paragraphs that deal with it above starting with the paragraph I quote directly above seem on the face of it to do just that.

I also think you’re getting things wrong when you say you “doubt we’ll see another Iraq or Afghanistan style invasion in the near to mid-term future. The Libyan hand-off aerial war style appears to be most likely, so completely did Iraq/Afghanistan undermine the idea of liberal humanitarian interventions”.
Libya was all about rehabilitating the concept of humanitarian intervention/R2P, which had been badly damaged by opposition to the invoking of it re. Iraq and Afghanistan. R2P is a repackaged humanitarian intervention ‘norm’ that was enshrined as a new international norm by being included in the World Summit Outcome document in 2005 and has been included in several SC resolutions since.

Except it hasn’t rehabilitated troops on the ground invasion style interventions and I doubt it has rehabilitated ‘humanitarian’ interventions. There’s no public appetite at all for either in the west, quite the opposite. I see your point re the SWO doc, but a moment’s consideration of the historical record demonstrates military intervention is business as usual for states. A while back Russia did precisely that in Georgia. The UK and US and France and so on have done so for long periods. If they want to they will do so. That is the reality in these instances. Bosnia was in a sense sui generis because they had to be dragged to ever deepening involvement.

It’s worth noting, during the Bosnian conflict there was broad support for military action that predated NATO air strikes and so on. Almost impossible to envisage that today in any context.

By the way and while this is perhaps a little pedantic it does have some import, humanitarian interventions as commonly understood involve intervention in sovereign states not at war with other states. If that is the definition then the interventions in Bosnia weren’t humanitarian interventions since they were, for the most part occurring on the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and while the state didn’t exercise control over large tracts of territory (at one point 70 per cent plus was in Serbian hands) it did continue to exist and was internationally recognised. Given that that state called for international involvement I wonder if we can even class this as an intervention.

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dmfod - May 27, 2013

WbS I honestly don’t know how you can say “I’m not a ‘humanitarian intervention’ advocate” but simultaneously support Western military intervention in Bosnia and possibly in Libya for humanitarian reasons? Or how you can simultaneously believe that Western intervention will happen anyway so humanitarian justifications don’t matter but then argue that those interventions actually are justified on humanitarian grounds?

On the subject of refugees and “safe havens”, you now seem to be conceding that the aim of this policy was to strengthen the Bosnian government in the war and was not purely humanitarian. Do you also accept this meant putting civilians at greater risk than if they had been granted the right to asylum in a safe country as supposedly guaranteed under international law?

This article by Susan Woodward makes some interesting arguments about the political reasons for the safe haven policy http://www.odi.org.uk/events/docs/3775.pdf‎

“realpolitik from European nations such as Britain and France which sought ways to avoid sharing the burden with Germany in implementing the refugee protection regime by seeking means of protection that would keep civilians at home). But the concept also became a critical element of the Bosnian government’s military strategy. The locations of safe areas for Bosnian Muslim civilians — six were eventually so proclaimed by UN Security Council Resolutions — were chosen by Bosnian military planners to be at strategic points of communication inside Bosnian Serb-held territory that would both constrain the mobility of the Bosnian Serb army and tie up significant manpower in defending against the enclaves … Towns with equally vulnerable civilian populations such as Mostar that did not fit into the military plan of the Bosnian government (representing the main Bosnian Muslim political party) were not granted safe-area status … UN peacekeepers were deployed to surround the safe areas to guarantee the terms agreed for safe areas — a ceasefire, a weapons-exclusion zone and regular delivery of aid to these enclaves — the areas were, in fact, never demilitarised and became the base for initiating war from the safe area into the surrounding enemy (Bosnian Serb-held) territory”

You said: “humanitarian interventions as commonly understood involve intervention in sovereign states not at war with other states. If that is the definition then the interventions in Bosnia weren’t humanitarian interventions since they were, for the most part occurring on the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and while the state didn’t exercise control over large tracts of territory (at one point 70 per cent plus was in Serbian hands) it did continue to exist and was internationally recognised. Given that that state called for international involvement I wonder if we can even class this as an intervention”

I’m not sure what you’re getting at about the NATO intervention in Bosnia not being a humanitarian intervention because it was in response to an attack on the internationally recognised Bosnian state, as most of the fighting was between Bosnian Serbs and other Bosnians and so would still be classed as a civil war even after Bosnia was admitted to the UN in May 1992. All sides got international support but that’s par for the course in civil wars and doesn’t make them not a civil war.

As to whether intervention made the situation better in Bosnia. In that case, the short term effects of the NATO intervention were positive from the perspective of the Bosniaks, although the prospect of it probably dragged out the war and caused more deaths, and I’m not convinced this was the only or the best way to even achieve that aim. The long term effects – an international dictatorship/colony with the population ethnically cleansed into two separate hostile enclaves doesn’t seem like a fantastic long term outcome from Western intervention.

“If we consider the UN has any legitimacy there seems to me an argument that this is precisely the model we want as distinct from NATO solo run” – so would you have supported the US invasion of Iraq if it had gotten UN authorisation? Did you see the occupation of Iraq as legitimate once it became UN-authorised? What precisely is it about China, Russia, the US, Britain and France horse trading the future of weaker countries that you find “legitimate”?

“It’s worth noting, during the Bosnian conflict there was broad support for military action that predated NATO air strikes and so on. Almost impossible to envisage that today in any context.”

So what? Is it surprising people thought military action was a good idea when the entire media was telling them how important it was to stop a holocaust? There was majority support for invading Iraq in the US, did that make it right?

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

WbS I honestly don’t know how you can say “I’m not a ‘humanitarian intervention’ advocate” but simultaneously support Western military intervention in Bosnia and possibly in Libya for humanitarian reasons? Or how you can simultaneously believe that Western intervention will happen anyway so humanitarian justifications don’t matter but then argue that those interventions actually are justified on humanitarian grounds?

Why should I accept your term for my beliefs? I think there were a number of reasons to justify intervention in Bosnia, above and beyond the humanitarian. State sovereignty etc, but in intervening those assisted the humanitarian aspect.

On the subject of refugees and “safe havens”, you now seem to be conceding that the aim of this policy was to strengthen the Bosnian government in the war and was not purely humanitarian. Do you also accept this meant putting civilians at greater risk than if they had been granted the right to asylum in a safe country as supposedly guaranteed under international law?

Where did I ascribe purely humanitarian motives to it?
As to the implementation of the policy, I’ve said from the off that it was bad, too limited and so on. But the choice wasn’t simply between that and the mass exodus of Bosnians from Bosnia (which would by any criteria constitute ethnic cleansing) but between that and a range of options including what ultimately occurred, the use of air power to halt ethnic cleansing. Which by the way it did quite effectively in tandem with conventional warfare on the ground and most importantly pushed Serbia and Croatia to negotiate with the Bosnian government.

I’m not sure what you’re getting at about the NATO intervention in Bosnia not being a humanitarian intervention because it was in response to an attack on the internationally recognised Bosnian state, as most of the fighting was between Bosnian Serbs and other Bosnians and so would still be classed as a civil war even after Bosnia was admitted to the UN in May 1992. All sides got international support but that’s par for the course in civil wars and doesn’t make them not a civil war.

Please, the Serbian and Croat governments had de facto control of the situation on the ground through their proxies, or why else were the signatories to the Dayton Accords Milosevic, Tudjman and Izetbegovic but no one from the Republic Srpska. Because the local proxies weren’t important and once Belgrade and Zagreb turned off the tap they were out of the picture militarily.

As to whether intervention made the situation better in Bosnia. In that case, the short term effects of the NATO intervention were positive from the perspective of the Bosniaks, although the prospect of it probably dragged out the war and caused more deaths, and I’m not convinced this was the only or the best way to even achieve that aim. The long term effects – an international dictatorship/colony with the population ethnically cleansed into two separate hostile enclaves doesn’t seem like a fantastic long term outcome from Western intervention.

If the choice was between potential ethnic cleansing of Bosnia of Bosniaks or a divided Bosnia, which at least functions reasonably well, I think I’d go with the latter. And to be honest, in the long view less than twenty years is, as the line has it, ‘too early to tell’.

“If we consider the UN has any legitimacy there seems to me an argument that this is precisely the model we want as distinct from NATO solo run” – so would you have supported the US invasion of Iraq if it had gotten UN authorisation? Did you see the occupation of Iraq as legitimate once it became UN-authorised? What precisely is it about China, Russia, the US, Britain and France horse trading the future of weaker countries that you find “legitimate”?

The invasion of Iraq would not have got UN authorisation. Not a snowball’s chance in hell. A direct incursion into another sovereign nation in the way the US was doing it? No way.

I think it’s far from perfect, to put it mildly, but I’m happier that there’s some mechanism than none. I presume at the time you felt it important that the UN didn’t authorise the invasion too.

So what? Is it surprising people thought military action was a good idea when the entire media was telling them how important it was to stop a holocaust? There was majority support for invading Iraq in the US, did that make it right?

Of course it didn’t, but the dynamic isn’t the same. In the former that opinion developed throughout the early 1990s pushing the international community to greater action. In the latter the action was going ahead anyhow, opinion arguably followed it.

Those are two radically different situations, which is precisely my point. That public opinion moving of its own volition towards sympathy with the Bosnians, because the UK and US and other European states in the main sure as hell weren’t interested in intervening, assisted ultimately in allowing more defined action to be taken.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

“because the UK and US and other European states in the main sure as hell weren’t interested in intervening, assisted ultimately in allowing more defined action to be taken.”

Which by the by entirely undercuts the ‘imperialism line’ because if this was imperialism by the west it was of the most inefficient, hesitant and useless kind imaginable. Years to implement any sort of proper armed intervention, mistake after mistake, a clear wish that it would go away, and – and I’m entirely serious about this and it’s to their eternal discredit – sending the likes of Carrington and then Owen in. What a joke.

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dmfod - May 27, 2013

WbS – So now you support Western intervention to protect state sovereignty??? Under what circumstances? Is this a general principle? And if so, shouldn’t the West have been intervening to prevent the break up of Yugoslavia and for that matter the Soviet Union?

That position just makes no sense on any level, especially when the point of the humanitarian intervention/R2P norm is so often to over-ride state sovereignty – as was the case in Libya, Kosovo etc.

Could you explain what are your other “number of reasons to justify intervention in Bosnia, above and beyond the humanitarian” and state sovereignty?

“I presume at the time you felt it important that the UN didn’t authorise the invasion too.” – nope! I always disagreed that with that line of argument coming from people like the (Irish) Labour Party, precisely because it implies the same intervention with UN authorisation would be ok. I note you didn’t deal with whether you thought the occupation was ok once there were UN resolutions in place legitimising it afterwards.

You refer to “public opinion moving of its own volition towards sympathy with the Bosnians, because the UK and US and other European states in the main sure as hell weren’t interested in intervening”. This ignores the huge role in shaping public opinion of the liberal media, liberal NGOs like the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch, and their influential liberal interventionist elite allies in the US and UK foreign policy establishments who did want intervention. Public opinion doesn’t fall from the sky.

Re. the civil war/humanitarian intervention issue, you did say earlier that Bosnia could be partly classed as a civil war but you’re right, this is a bit pedantic. As you said yourself, “Bosnia was part of a war of secession, a land grab by neighbouring power and a civil war, all rolled effectively into one”.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

And moreover you’ve ignored the point that western intervention (if it can be called that) wasn’t a single event but a long drawn out affair where the military aspect came long after all others – and that this was framed largely (almost exclusively?) within the context of the United Nations legitimisation with NATO actions being on foot of same. If we consider the UN has any legitimacy there seems to me an argument that this is precisely the model we want as distinct from NATO solo runs.

This is actually quite an important little aside.

No, I don’t “consider the UN has any legitimacy”. No, I don’t want a UN model “as distinct from NATO solo runs”. It is of no significance or interest whether imperial interventions are organised with the acquiescence of all five of the most powerful and aggressive regimes in the world (ie UN approval) or as a solo run by one or more of them. The UN is a den of thieves and the Security Council is just a meeting of the five families.

More precisely it is of no significance to the nature of imperialism, nor to the ruthless pursuit of their own interests by great powers, whether or not their actions are in accordance with UN imprimatur (or “international law” or other such gibberish). It is of no significance when it comes to weighing up whether or not to support their bombing campaigns and invasions, nor their sanctions, nor any of the other means they use to pursue those interests. UN approval is however of interest in one crucial regard: Its propaganda value.

As with the rhetoric of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect”, the UN, as an idea, still has a certain power. It’s been diminished over time but it still has some extant sway amongst many people. So UN approval can help the Western powers build support amongst their domestic publics and build coalitions abroad. To the point where we even have people here on the radical left counterposing good UN war to bad NATO solo runs. No, I’m not in favour of that in any way, shape or form.

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WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2013

dmfod, I can’t deal with this now due to wage slavery, so I’ll return to engage more fully this evening.

But you’re not really getting my point. I’ve noted before I’m utilitarian about these matters but with an aversion to armed interventions. I don’t have “general principles” in the sense you appear to of pushing everything into a box marked ‘humanitarian intervention’ and therefore saying that in all circumstances and at all times it is beyond the bounds. In my view the world is far too complex for that sort of an approach.

To illustrate that, you ask ‘shouldn’t the West have been intervening to prevent the break up of Yugoslavia’. And the obvious answer is no, and one part (but only one) of that no is that it shouldn’t because it had no agency at all there. Pure pragmatism would supply that response.

But that’s precisely why the Bosnia situation is so different. The post-Yugoslav secession saw UN mandates to put peacekeepers on the ground. They were already there, as the situation on the ground worsened they – slowly and belatedly – asssumed different roles, necessary one’s as I see them. So therefore from my position that was an acceptable situation in which increased intervention could occur – in the context of the actions on the ground by proxy Serb/Croat and in some instances Bosniak forces.

This wasn’t, and I reiterate again, the same as Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya even – which as I’ve previously noted I’m deeply conflicted about and quite literally half and half in terms of whether I think it was appropriate or not.

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dmfod - May 28, 2013

WbS you still haven’t explained what your reasons, other than humanitarian concern and state sovereignty, were for supporting the armed NATO intervention in Bosnia. Even if you saw Bosnia as “sui generis” you still must have had some general principles you applied that enabled you to see it was in fact a unique case.

I obviously would not have been in favour of armed Western intervention to prevent the break up of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. I simply raised these two utterly inconceivable scenarios to highlight that Western intervention will only happen when it is perceived to be in the interests of the West.

There are really no other principles at stake and whether you think you would have justified an intervention for other reasons really has no bearing on the actual realpolitik imperialist decision-making process of the US and the other powerful states in NATO as to whether to intervene in any situation or not.

Just as you say ‘It really doesn’t matter what you consider the UN is or isn’t’ but it does matter what the UN actually is, it matters what the actual motives of NATO intervention were and not what you would have liked them to be or what effects you hoped they would have.

This is one of the problems with ascribing benign rationales to imperialist interventions. It makes people expect good outcomes, which are highly unlikely to occur when good intentions are not behind them. And imperialist motives do matter because they affect the short and long term outcomes and that it why they should always be opposed, regardless of the justifications offered.

As Ellen Meiksins Wood put in an article on NATO’s intervention in Kosovo:
“Motives do matter, if only because they tell us a lot about what the actor will and will not do, and what the outcome is likely to be.”

You also say that I “essentially demand only the best of outcomes in all these situations which you then counterpose with the bloody and grim reality as if those are the only two alternative positions rather than there being a continuum of alternatives from best to worst – but I suspect to many of us it was considerably better than the alternative.”

You’re missing the point I’ve been trying to make all along here – that there are more than two options: support ethnic cleansing/Milosevic vs. support imperialist intervention, with us or against us. I am arguing that both of those options are obviously bad and supporting either of them is not a solution.

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WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2013

WbS you still haven’t explained what your reasons, other than humanitarian concern and state sovereignty, were for supporting the armed NATO intervention in Bosnia. Even if you saw Bosnia as “sui generis” you still must have had some general principles you applied that enabled you to see it was in fact a unique case.

There’s a broad range of reasons, some that come to mind immediately include in addition to above the stability of states neighbouring Bosnia. Stability of the region. And Bosnia, was sui generis for a number of reasons – some of which I’ve already outlined, land grabs by neighbouring powers, use of genocidal acts by protagonists, importantly UN troops on the ground there and in the wider former Yugoslavia, location in Europe, lack of particular ‘imperialist’ goal in broader context, lack of enthusiasm for action by West during period 1991 to 1995. Each of these is a factor, but not a single determining factor. That’s the way I approach this issue in general, that is, if you like, my general principle, that each context is different, that that which is achievable will vary from nothing to something, that sometimes (perhaps most often) it is best to do nothing, that self-interest will play a part etc, etc.

I obviously would not have been in favour of armed Western intervention to prevent the break up of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. I simply raised these two utterly inconceivable scenarios to highlight that Western intervention will only happen when it is perceived to be in the interests of the West.
Except that’s not entirely correct about Bosnia. Western intervention was very very slow, had to be pushed in significant part by public and political pressure. But of course if that’s the standard you use then it strikes me as being more problematic from your perspective than mine. The interests of the west might coincide with any number of interests including those that might be beneficial to those on the ground. And particularly if public opinion is demanding action on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. You can see how that works.

There are really no other principles at stake and whether you think you would have justified an intervention for other reasons really has no bearing on the actual realpolitik imperialist decision-making process of the US and the other powerful states in NATO as to whether to intervene in any situation or not.
For you with your interpretation there are no other principles at stake. For me there are. Please don’t assume that your approach is one which is self-evidently correct or taken as such by others. It’s just a framework you’re using, nothing more. Even on this thread alone there are differing views as regards the nature of imperialism and what position socialists should take in regard to such matters from other revolutionary socialists.

Just as you say ‘It really doesn’t matter what you consider the UN is or isn’t’ but it does matter what the UN actually is, it matters what the actual motives of NATO intervention were and not what you would have liked them to be or what effects you hoped they would have.
This is one of the problems with ascribing benign rationales to imperialist interventions. It makes people expect good outcomes, which are highly unlikely to occur when good intentions are not behind them. And imperialist motives do matter because they affect the short and long term outcomes and that it why they should always be opposed, regardless of the justifications offered.

I find this hard to understand. At no point have I “ascribed a benign rationale or motivation” to an intervention, any intervention. Even interventions I fully support such as the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam or Cuban interventions in Angola during the apartheid period weren’t exactly ‘benign’ in that both the Vietnamese and the Cubans could be said to gain from them for their own ends, stability for the Vietnamese and kudos for the Cubans, but in each instance they had the result, unintended or not, of toppling or assisting in toppling the KR and apartheid regime respectively. And those of the west aren’t either. I’m not interested in their motivations, the west acted very slowly in relation to Bosnia.

I don’t have any expectation of good outcomes either, though neither do I necessarily have an expectation of worse outcomes than those already occurring in such contexts. As I’ve noted before it is contingent. In some limited cases I would hesitantly suggest there can be good outcomes in many more there will be bad. But there will also be bad outcomes in the absence of action as well, if nothing is done.

As Ellen Meiksins Wood put in an article on NATO’s intervention in Kosovo:
“Motives do matter, if only because they tell us a lot about what the actor will and will not do, and what the outcome is likely to be.”

I don’t see an empirical basis for the quote you provide. It appears to me to be purely rhetorical. Of course motives will matter an extent but they’re not the totality of an action, or indeed an actor.
To argue that motives determine outcome in an absolutist fashion flies in the face of our lived lives. The Gardai may be the tool of the bourgeois state – and that may indeed be their motivation, or at least that of those who control them, but somehow I sleep better in my bed knowing they are out there, for all their flaws. Does the motivation inflect the outcome, sure, to some extent, but it’s not the only element there and not necessarily the most important one.

You also say that I “essentially demand only the best of outcomes in all these situations which you then counterpose with the bloody and grim reality as if those are the only two alternative positions rather than there being a continuum of alternatives from best to worst – but I suspect to many of us it was considerably better than the alternative.”
You’re missing the point I’ve been trying to make all along here – that there are more than two options: support ethnic cleansing/Milosevic vs. support imperialist intervention, with us or against us. I am arguing that both of those options are obviously bad and supporting either of them is not a solution.

That’s interesting, what precisely is your alternative option in the instance of Bosnia? What route with the then extant agents in that state at that time would you have seen as offering a way forward?

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WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2013

Mark P, I’m very interested in the following:

“More precisely it is of no significance to the nature of imperialism, nor to the ruthless pursuit of their own interests by great powers, whether or not their actions are in accordance with UN imprimatur (or “international law” or other such gibberish).”

Is that view of international law and the UN your own view or is that the view of your party?

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dmfod - May 28, 2013

On the one hand you say you’re “not interested in the motivations” of interventionist states, on the other you defend Western intervention in Bosnia by strongly implying that Western states were responding to “public opinion” “demanding action on ‘humanitarian’ grounds”, whereas “self-interest” only “played a part” in their decision.

First, you can’t have it both ways. Either states’ motives matter or they don’t. Why defend your support for intervention by saying Western states had no clear interests and were responding to “public opinion” “demanding action on ‘humanitarian’ grounds” if their motives don’t matter?

Second, saying states were responding to public opinion in the way that you do either implies this is somehow distinct from their “self-interest” (when as I argued above “public opinion” in this case was manipulated by a liberal media and other liberal elites with close ties to Western foreign policy establishments), or else it implies a Weberian view of the capitalist state as somehow representing the public interest.

I disagree with both because I have a Marxist view of the state as representing the interests of capital and reacting to public opinion only insofar as necessary to maintain its role as a representative/means of capitalist/imperialist dominance, while also shaping public opinion in a hegemonic way. These dynamics interact in different ways, often simultaneously in relation to the same issue.

Therefore the motives of Western states in apparently responding to “public opinion” cannot be separated from the class-imperialist interests of capitalist states and the role of elites in shaping public opinion, so that “public opinion” can be portrayed as having played a bigger role compared to the smaller part played by “self-interest”. The two are not in a zero-sum relationship but are dialectically intertwined.

Your analogy of the guards doesn’t hold for international intervention because the latter occurs entirely at the whim of imperialist states’ perceived interests and not because they are legally obliged to respond to all humanitarian crises in the same way as the guards are supposed to respond to crime reports. They pick and choose according to their perceived interests.

In addition, the primary role of the guards is to defend property relations and hence capitalist dominance, not individual safety, and the same applies to militaries. That doesn’t mean they can’t have some individual beneficial side-effects in specific circumstances but to say “Does the motivation inflect the outcome, sure, to some extent, but it’s not the only element there and not necessarily the most important one” misses the woods for the trees by reversing the order of priority vis-a-vis the purpose of these state structures – just as you have continually tried to bring the discussion back to the individual, “human” level, the specific circumstance, rather than examining wider structural, political effects and the negative implications of legitimising Western intervention.

Re. your admonition, “Please don’t assume that your approach is one which is self-evidently correct or taken as such by others. It’s just a framework you’re using, nothing more” – judging by the number and length of your posts you seem equally convinced of your own point of view despite your different style of argument, but I’m not lecturing you about having the temerity to hold strong opinions or think that you’re right! But nor do I have any time for the postmodernist notion that all worldviews are just equally valid frameworks!

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WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2013

On the one hand you say you’re “not interested in the motivations” of interventionist states, on the other you defend Western intervention in Bosnia by strongly implying that Western states were responding to “public opinion” “demanding action on ‘humanitarian’ grounds”, whereas “self-interest” only “played a part” in their decision.
First, you can’t have it both ways. Either states’ motives matter or they don’t. Why defend your support for intervention by saying Western states had no clear interests and were responding to “public opinion” “demanding action on ‘humanitarian’ grounds” if their motives don’t matter?

Not being that interested in the motivations of states doesn’t mean I don’t think they have motivations. And it doesn’t mean that I think their motivations are good even when there are positive effects from action. I think it was a good thing that the west acted in Bosnia. But I don’t think it did it out of intrinsic goodness even if it did so in part due to public pressure. In fact I’d be scathing about the manner and motivation of the west in Bosnia, their tardiness, their inability to even approach their own supposed rhetoric, etc, etc. I’m not defending my support but pointing to facts. I think it a good thing that the public opinion pushed states. In a way isn’t that what we want in all our political actions, even if in this instance we might disagree on the underlying issue and the correct way forward.
I genuinely can’t see a contradiction.

Second, saying states were responding to public opinion in the way that you do either implies this is somehow distinct from their “self-interest” (when as I argued above “public opinion” in this case was manipulated by a liberal media and other liberal elites with close ties to Western foreign policy establishments), or else it implies a Weberian view of the capitalist state as somehow representing the public interest.
I disagree with both because I have a Marxist view of the state as representing the interests of capital and reacting to public opinion only insofar as necessary to maintain its role as a representative/means of capitalist/imperialist dominance, while also shaping public opinion in a hegemonic way. These dynamics interact in different ways, often simultaneously in relation to the same issue.
Therefore the motives of Western states in apparently responding to “public opinion” cannot be separated from the class-imperialist interests of capitalist states and the role of elites in shaping public opinion, so that “public opinion” can be portrayed as having played a bigger role compared to the smaller part played by “self-interest”. The two are not in a zero-sum relationship but are dialectically intertwined.

Well again, that’s a theory. And I’ve no issue with it as such. I think though that like a lot of theories about ‘media manipulation’ etc it posits essentially gullible and uncritical consumers of information across a range of areas. I doubt personally that that’s the case and it’s certainly a deeply patronising view of people’s ability to understand the world around them, even if one accepts there are distortions in what information they receive. But if we examine the course of the war we can see that public opinion did shift towards intervention. Was some of that a construct or a manipulation? I don’t know. Perhaps, or perhaps the reality of an armed conflict on the borders of the EU concentrated the minds of the public.

Your analogy of the guards doesn’t hold for international intervention because the latter occurs entirely at the whim of imperialist states’ perceived interests and not because they are legally obliged to respond to all humanitarian crises in the same way as the guards are supposed to respond to crime reports. They pick and choose according to their perceived interests.
In addition, the primary role of the guards is to defend property relations and hence capitalist dominance, not individual safety, and the same applies to militaries. That doesn’t mean they can’t have some individual beneficial side-effects in specific circumstances but to say “Does the motivation inflect the outcome, sure, to some extent, but it’s not the only element there and not necessarily the most important one” misses the woods for the trees by reversing the order of priority vis-a-vis the purpose of these state structures – just as you have continually tried to bring the discussion back to the individual, “human” level, the specific circumstance, rather than examining wider structural, political effects and the negative implications of legitimising Western intervention.

But they are both tools of capitalist dominance and logically if one can operate for good in one area then it follows that the other can whatever the motivations or the discretionary ability of the state to deploy them. That’s the central point. And surely you’re not seriously basing an argument on ‘legal obligation’ here when in this state we see how supposed legal obligations in a raft of areas aren’t worth the paper they’re written on (or after Mark P’s discursive critique of the gibberish of ‘international law’)?
By the way, you too sought to bring it back to ‘human’ levels in relation to Bosnia discussing long term effects etc. And Mark P in the context of Afghanistan spoke of ‘wedding parties being made into jam’.
And in fairness these aren’t immaterial and shouldn’t be. Human considerations should be at the heart of left poltitics, or else it’s nothing but cant.

Re. your admonition, “Please don’t assume that your approach is one which is self-evidently correct or taken as such by others. It’s just a framework you’re using, nothing more” – judging by the number and length of your posts you seem equally convinced of your own point of view despite your different style of argument, but I’m not lecturing you about having the temerity to hold strong opinions or think that you’re right! But nor do I have any time for the postmodernist notion that all worldviews are just equally valid frameworks!
But that’s not quite what I’m suggesting. What strikes me, and I deliberately referenced the point that other revolutionary socialists don’t agree with the framework you and Mark P are using, is that you seem to believe that it is beyond question, both in your assumptions about imperialism etc. That’s why I felt it was necessary to point out that this isn’t empirical, that these are simply models for understanding and framing events and that people will have radically divergent views about them. I’m not suggesting you should stop holding the views you do, but simply to note that they’re not beyond critique or self-evidently correct to the rest of us.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

“by the way, I don’t actually see why Europe or anyone should see as better the idea of Bosnians fleeing their homeland as refugees than them staying there which seems to be the implicit approach of your comment on refugee

Running away is an age old and entirely rational response to serious armed conflict, and even more so serious armed conflict which involves regular atrocities against civilians. Helping to keep refugees pinned inside a war zone, is a monstrous thing to do. Although almost humorous in a tragic and bleak way when combined with the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention on behalf of civilian victims of violence.

Although on reflection I wonder if we need ascribe the term ‘liberal’ to any of this in the first place?

If we can’t describe humanitarian intervention, a foreign policy doctrine pushed by liberal academics, liberal NGOs and the liberal wing of Western foreign policy strategists, and which is even consciously written about by its proponents as a liberal project much of the time, as “liberal” than we can’t describe anything as such.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

Mark P, I’m a little concerned about the way this discussion of Bosnia is unfolding. There appears to be a lack of knowledge about the details of the conflict, about the nature of interventions, from the UN onwards and so forth which took part across a half decade and more. The idea of safe zones wasn’t to keep people “pinned inside” a war zone, it was to mark out areas where conflict wasn’t meant to take place. The problem, to reiterate, wasn’t the establishment of the safe areas but the fact they weren’t backed up by military force.

Frankly there’s nothing at all humorous about it.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

WbS, I’m quite familiar with the tragic story of the Bosnian “safe areas”, and the grim results of that particular intervention, both intended and otherwise.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

Then you’ll be more than willing to accept that you just mischaracterised entirely their intended purpose when you said it was to keep people ‘pinned inside’ a war zone – no?

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

Their result was precisely to pin people up inside a war zone, and that result was predictable. I’m actually surprised that this is considered controversial, given that it’s actually common ground amongst both anti-NATO writers and cluster bombs for human rights liberals that the policy had this effect.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

You genuinely don’t see the clear distinction between carving out demilitarised areas where people are protected by UNPROFOR and deliberately trying to ‘pin’ people inside an area and of course your use of the term ‘pin’ imputes the worst possible motive on those doing it because you’re implicitly saying they’d be less safe there? Which they were but only because UNPROFOR didn’t have the necessary mandate to protect them to the fullest extent?

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

And no, I don’t think I’m mischaracterising anything. The policy was designed, in an extremely optimistic manner, to keep refugees safe while keeping as many of them as possible in Bosnia, whether they liked it or not. You asked if that latter part was really so bad, and my response then and now is that, yes it was really so bad.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

You’ve just resiled from the term ‘pinning people in’ in terms of motivation. That’s all I asked.

I don’t recall asking your opinion on whether it was so bad. Indeed I didn’t think we’d had any communication on that matter at all. So that too mischaracterises my response. My own view of the safe area policy is that it was far too little too late (or too early), but it was part and parcel of the flailing about by the international community in that period of the war where it was dragged unwillingly to do anything.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

I’m not “resiling” from that in the slightest. The Western states approach had two parts: (1) Provide “safe” refuges” while (2) keeping refugees in Bosnia rather than letting them flee. This second objective both preceded and continued with the safe zones. It had the predictable effect of trapping refugees in a war zone because it was in fact a policy of trapping refugees in islands in a war zone.

The usual liberal “humanitarian interventionist” criticism of this whole period is that the safe areas weren’t protected by overwhelming foreign military force. They don’t generally criticise a core assumption behind all of the Wests’s shifting policies in this regard: That refugees had to be kept in Bosnia whether they wanted to stay there or not and whether that put them at risk or not. And most certainly that, despite periodic begging from the UNHCR and ICIC, the Western states themselves weren’t going to take large numbers of refugees.

Maybe I’m a cynic, but personally I’m not particularly convinced by the “humanitarian” motives of states that will drop bombs to vindicate the rights of refugees before they will give refuge to large numbers of them.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

Ethnic cleansing, or to put it another way, generating refugees, was a war aim of both the Serbian government and its proxies. It wasn’t just an unfortunate byproduct of the war, it was the point of the war.

Think what you’re saying for a moment about the west letting refugees in. Had they let Bosnia collapse and allowed all refugees in that would have been a colossal number. Bosniaks make up 2.5 million of the 4.8 million or thereabouts. I’m all for open borders but populations transfers on that scale, even if it was right in terms of allowing a state to fold like that due to aggression from a neighboring state would be absurd.

I can understand how some thought at the time that staunching that was a reasonable aim. I don’t think that reflects poorly on other states, except in so far as they weren’t willing to do the necessary to ensure the borders (at the time the thinking amongst many in the UN was that the only way to secure the Republic was to make it a UN trusteeship).

It’s important to note that intervention was part of an internationally legitimised process of supporting the internationally recognised Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the statutory authority in Bosnia during that period. It may have been a wrong headed approach, I think we probably both agree that it was, but the problem was that rather than going the whole hog and supporting the integrity of the Republic they tried to do it on the cheap, or to quote dmfod above in a ‘half-arsed’ way. indeed in the UN in 1993 when it as clear as the safe areas were initiated that they wouldn’t work

But that’s not the point I’m getting at, I’m suggesting that it wasn’t a deliberate policy to cause massacres of Bosnian populations as your terminology would appear to suggest. Anything but.

The failure of the safe areas doesn’t for a moment invalidate the fact that once the UN actually authorised proper retaliatory action the stability and coherence of the Republic was assured. Indeed one small but useful stat is that in 1993 70 per cent plus of the Republic was in Serbian hands, by 1995/6 and the Dayton Accords 51 per cent was in the Republic’s hands.

By the way, you entirely misunderstand everything I’ve written on this thread if you think I believe the west was ‘humanitarian’ in all this or if you think I have any time for self-ascribed ‘humanitarian interventions’. I’ve been at pains to point out that it happened only slowly and hesitantly precisely because they didn’t want to get involved.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

But that’s not the point I’m getting at, I’m suggesting that it wasn’t a deliberate policy to cause massacres of Bosnian populations as your terminology would appear to suggest.

It wasn’t a policy designed to cause massacres. They would of course have preferred if no massacres took place. It was however a policy which preferred to risk refugees being killed than to let them flee. The massacres were undesirable from the point of view of the Western states, but the rather obvious risk of such massacres (rather obvious at the time too) was deemed preferable to the West having to absorb large numbers of refugees, or to the “ethnic cleansers” getting what they want.

Or to put it another way, tough shit refugees. You are just going to have to sit there and suck it up because letting you out would compromise our (which is to say the Western states) political objectives.

Of course, your justification of this aspect of the Western states approach (I realise that you don’t justify their approach as a whole), sits a little strangely with your comment to dmfod about how the various wider structural factors she raised might mean relatively little to your Bosnian friend as compared to the fact,or at least assumption, that intervention helped her and her family and her community survive. One might suggest that the unwillingness of Western states to accommodate a large number of refugees, because it would be expensive and inconvenient and would set the wrong example to both other refugees and future “ethnic cleansers” and might strengthen the Serb side in the war, probably didn’t weigh very heavily as a moral stance in the minds of those now dead.

I don’t usually like deploying this sort of “think of the children” moral blackmail. This style of argument essentially exists to delegitimise structural arguments, to erase any attempt at contextualisation, and to force discussions into a narrow binary: with the victims, and so with NATO, or against the victims, and so a callous monster. It is of course very effective as a rhetorical device: So effective that it’s the dominant way of presenting most modern Western military adventures, and so effective that even radical leftists can be found echoing it. But while I don’t like stooping to the level of “humanitarian intervention” advocates, it is necessary to do so sometimes to illustrate the constrained range of conditions in which they are willing to allow their moral outrage and humanitarian concern to trump all other concerns. In Bosnia we are told that the need to save civilians is important enough to justify military assault. But we are also told that the need to save civilians is not important enough to justify allowing large numbers of refugees to flee. I find that incongruity fascinating.

In fact, wider structural issues are vital to look at. Bosnia was a turning point in the language and presentation of imperialism’s military adventures. It’s worth assessing the positive and negative (mostly negative) effects of Western cluster bombs and invasions in particular regions at particular times. But the context is important. The bombing of, for instance Libya, didn’t just kill x number of soldiers and y number of civilians. And it didn’t just lead on the one hand to the removal of a dictator, or on the other hand to the creation of a chaotic and rather unpleasant new regime. Nor did it just result in the likely privatisation of Libya’s energy resources, economic deregulation, etc. It did all that but it also changes the world situation, setting more countries up for “regime change” from the skies should the opportunity and interests coincide.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

It wasn’t a policy designed to cause massacres. They would of course have preferred if no massacres took place. It was however a policy which preferred to risk refugees being killed than to let them flee. The massacres were undesirable from the point of view of the Western states, but the rather obvious risk of such massacres (rather obvious at the time too) was deemed preferable to the West having to absorb large numbers of refugees, or to the “ethnic cleansers” getting what they want.

Let me be clear, are you suggesting that ethnic cleansing would have been preferable to armed foreign intervention?
And are you suggesting that international responses were driven by the fear of having to accommodate refugees in massive numbers?
And are you saying that there was a distinction between the West absorbing large numbers of refugees and the ’ethnic cleansers getting what they want. Surely one could only follow on foot of the other? So I’m puzzled by the ‘or’ between those two elements of your last sentence. Finally why are you using inverted comma’s around ethnic cleansers?

Or to put it another way, tough shit refugees. You are just going to have to sit there and suck it up because letting you out would compromise our (which is to say the Western states) political objectives.

The west, or rather the neighbouring states, quite reasonably wanted stability in the area. That I suspect was the only geopolitical or political objective. Nothing humanitarian about it but entirely understandable. But again why do you present it as if refugees from ethnic cleansing is an understandable outcome?

Of course, your justification of this aspect of the Western states approach (I realise that you don’t justify their approach as a whole), sits a little strangely with your comment to dmfod about how the various wider structural factors she raised might mean relatively little to your Bosnian friend as compared to the fact,or at least assumption, that intervention helped her and her family and her community survive. One might suggest that the unwillingness of Western states to accommodate a large number of refugees, because it would be expensive and inconvenient and would set the wrong example to both other refugees and future “ethnic cleansers” and might strengthen the Serb side in the war, probably didn’t weigh very heavily as a moral stance in the minds of those now dead.

It might by contrast have something to do with the UN charter, the integrity of sovereign states in international law, international law itself in relation to forced population transfers and worse, and so on and so forth, all of which would lead my friend and her friends both Bosnian, Serb and Croat, to have a reasonable expectation that she or her family could live out their days in the place they were born.

I think anyone in a human situation like that would understandably be glad that the Republic survived, despite significant damage which had already occurred at the hands, not of the west but of Serbia and Croatia and the proxies of both states, and all things considered is improving.

BTW I’m not a ‘humanitarian intervention’ advocate.

I don’t usually like deploying this sort of “think of the children” moral blackmail. This style of argument essentially exists to delegitimise structural arguments, to erase any attempt at contextualisation, and to force discussions into a narrow binary: with the victims, and so with NATO, or against the victims, and so a callous monster. It is of course very effective as a rhetorical device: So effective that it’s the dominant way of presenting most modern Western military adventures, and so effective that even radical leftists can be found echoing it. But while I don’t like stooping to the level of “humanitarian intervention” advocates, it is necessary to do so sometimes to illustrate the constrained range of conditions in which they are willing to allow their moral outrage and humanitarian concern to trump all other concerns. In Bosnia we are told that the need to save civilians is important enough to justify military assault. But we are also told that the need to save civilians is not important enough to justify allowing large numbers of refugees to flee. I find that incongruity fascinating.

To reiterate ethnic cleansing, forced populations movements etc are war crimes and crimes against humanity under the term ‘forcible deportation of a population’. There’s no question that is what was taking place in Bosnia. It made perfect sense to attempt to stabilise the Republic. There’s no incongruity there. To have done otherwise would have been to allow ethnic cleansing to succeed more than it actually did. That the stabilisation was partial and piecemeal demonstrates nothing other than that there was enormous division on the part of the international community as to how far they were willing to sanction force in support of that Republic. Eventually when it was put up to them they sanctioned air power and at that point the situation changed.

In fact, wider structural issues are vital to look at. Bosnia was a turning point in the language and presentation of imperialism’s military adventures. It’s worth assessing the positive and negative (mostly negative) effects of Western cluster bombs and invasions in particular regions at particular times. But the context is important. The bombing of, for instance Libya, didn’t just kill x number of soldiers and y number of civilians. And it didn’t just lead on the one hand to the removal of a dictator, or on the other hand to the creation of a chaotic and rather unpleasant new regime. Nor did it just result in the likely privatisation of Libya’s energy resources, economic deregulation, etc. It did all that but it also changes the world situation, setting more countries up for “regime change” from the skies should the opportunity and interests coincide.

No it really didn’t. The history of the 20th century, as I noted elsewhere, is littered with regime change from the sky. Business as usual. The humanitarian spin was modish for a decade or so recently, but it’s not something that will weigh heavily in the deliberations of states one way or another when making their decisions.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

The history of the 20th century, as I noted elsewhere, is littered with regime change from the sky. Business as usual.”

Well yes, and for that reason I draw no distinction between imperial powers talking about saving the poor victims or them talking about foreign aggression or the pursuit of their national interests or international law when they start bombing people. It’s always business as usual, and I’m always opposed to it.

But the language they use, the concepts they use, the propaganda they employ are all of real interest. Not because the concepts, whether in Libya or Iraq or anywhere else, are of any interest in themselves. But because these idea and arguments effect their freedom of action, their ability to build popular support or at least acceptance, their ability to build coalitions. The language of humanitarian intervention and the “responsibility to protect”, just like language dealing with other obvious fictions like “international law”, matters because of the degree to which it can gain wider acceptance for imperialism. And I think that you are very wrong that this particular type of propaganda is going away. It is currently a much more effective way of mobilising support than the old, crude, languages of national honour, national affront or national interests.

Just look at this thread, filled with well meaning leftists echoing this babble in a way that they would never dream of doing with previous justifications for imperialism. If it has that sort of resonance with some people I’d really expect much better from, indeed who I would expect to be intransigent opponents of imperialist invasions and bombing campaigns, then I can only suggest that it will often have quite a wide resonance indeed.

Let me be clear, are you suggesting that ethnic cleansing would have been preferable to armed foreign intervention?

Are you suggesting that the Taliban’s brutal policies towards women, girls and ethnic and religious minorities would have been preferable to armed foreign intervention?

Are you suggesting that Saddam’s massacres of Kurds and Shia would have been preferable to armed foreign intervention?

I genuinely can’t believe that I got that response to a post largely concerned with pointing out the crude propaganda inherent in these sort of attempts to reduce complex issues to “with the victims and so with NATO or against the victims and so a callous monster”.

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WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2013

Well yes, and for that reason I draw no distinction between imperial powers talking about saving the poor victims or them talking about foreign aggression or the pursuit of their national interests or international law when they start bombing people. It’s always business as usual, and I’m always opposed to it.

Clearly we take different views on these matters, I don’t have a problem with certain actions by ‘imperial powers’. I do with others. I’ve a fairly high threshold too in these matters. But then I don’t see western imperialism in quite the way you do and I’ve got to be honest I’m glad that sufficient pressure was put on the UN that decisive action was actually taken. I felt that in 1992 and I’ve felt it ever since (by the way long before I met my friend). If an essentially identical circumstance cropped up again I’d feel the same. It wouldn’t stop me being active against adventurism by the west, or any other quarter either.

Are you suggesting that the Taliban’s brutal policies towards women, girls and ethnic and religious minorities would have been preferable to armed foreign intervention?
Are you suggesting that Saddam’s massacres of Kurds and Shia would have been preferable to armed foreign intervention?
I genuinely can’t believe that I got that response to a post largely concerned with pointing out the crude propaganda inherent in these sort of attempts to reduce complex issues to “with the victims and so with NATO or against the victims and so a callous monster”.

Don’t act affronted Mark P. We’re not talking Iraq, we’re not talking Afghanistan, we’re talking Bosnia. You’re quite happy to outline why you think my friend from Bosnia’s perceptions are incorrect. I’ve every right to query what your position is.

Particularly when the paragraph you wrote that the question is a response to is extraordinarily difficult to parse in terms of what your view is on this issue.

It’s also difficult to understand whether you believe that ethnic cleansing is an inevitable part and parcel of the conflict or not (it’s fair to say that you appear to be placing enormous blame on the west for simultaneously intervening and not intervening). But again how am I to judge without getting a clearer picture of your intention in what you write.

And finally, but not least, because by placing ‘ethnic cleansing’ in inverted commas that appears to suggest that you have some issue with the term. Now that may be an accident or not deliberate on your part, but you’re a smart guy and it’s difficult not to think that you’re being deliberately baiting in order to provoke a response.

Given the seriousness of the topic, and its seriousness to me personally due to people I know, you might at least attempt to engage likewise with some seriousness.

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Mark P - May 27, 2013

Don’t act affronted Mark P.

I’m not affronted. I’m amused.

I was amused earlier in the thread when D_D and EamonnCork tried using the old Bush with or us with Saddam stunt earlier in the thread in the Libyan context. I’m no less amused to have you demand “ethnic cleansing or NATO?” in response to a post which was largely devoted to pointing out the crudely propagandistic nature of exactly that sort of demand to back NATO or accept moral responsibility for the atrocity du jour.

And yes, we “are talking Bosnia”, but the logic of your demand is precisely the same as that of the questions I responded to you with. With NATO or ethnic cleansing? With NATO or with the Taliban’s oppression of women? With NATO or with Saddam’s massacres of civilians?

There is no difference in method. The only difference is that you are with the interventionists on Bosnia while being opposed to them in Afghanistan and Iraq. So that sort of binary question seems useful to you in the Bosnian context, while it’s obviously outrageous or at least mischievous or unfair when some Eustonite uses exactly the same line in the context of Iraq or Afghanistan.

I’m not sure what you mean when you state that it’s difficult to understand my view on the issue under discussion. My view is that I’m opposed to Western imperialists bombing anywhere or invading anywhere, at any time and for any reason that seems even remotely likely to me. I’ve tried my best to avoid getting bogged down in detailed discussions of the ins and outs of the various wars that have come up on this thread. However, I’ve posted here before about all of them.

If you are looking not for an account of my views on Bosnia but more specifically for my views of Western involvement there, I can quote from a post to a previous thread:

“It is important to note that the bombing took place in September 1995, by which stage the military situation had already begun to shift. The Bosnian and Croat forces had allied together. Serb successes in the latter part of the war had been in large part contingent on fighting between Bosnians and Croats.

Western Slavonia fell to the Croats in May. At the same time as the Serbs were taking Srebrenica in July, they were being driven out of the Bosnian Krajina. The Croation Krajina fell to Croat forces, with Bosnian assistance, at the start of August (amidst atrocities against those Serbian civilians who didn’t flee). This had the effect of lifting the siege of the Bihac enclave and it also changed the strategic map completely. The breakaway “Republic of Western Bosnia” fell immediately to the Bosnians and much of the Western part of Republica Srbska was now vulnerable.

The bombing simply did not take place against a background of sweeping Serbian advances. They had generally been bogged down, in some places they were in retreat and in others their earlier gains were under threat. When the bombing started it was accompanied by a sweeping Croat/Bosnian offensive in the Western half of Bosnia, which was made possible by a combination of the fall of Krajina and the “Republic of Western Bosnia” and the Nato bombing campaign. This advance was, unsurprisingly, not without atrocities of its own.

On the “credit” side of the debate, there is an argument to be made that the NATO bombing campaign, combined with the Bosnian/Croat advance, brought peace negotiations forward at a time when the war could otherwise have reached a bloody stalemate.”

Or to put it more bluntly: The NATO bombing campaign did not prevent another Srebrenica, but did, by assisting in a sweeping move of the front lines, assist in the creation of another round of atrocities against civilians (something which accompanied pretty much every such move). Now you can regard improving the military situation of the Bosnian/Croat forces as a good in and of itself. I’m not really particularly interested in that question, or at least not half as interested as I am in the ongoing effects which the new legitimisation of imperialism (but now good imperialism for human rights!) has had worldwide.

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WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2013

As I was saying to dmfod I’ll return to this later this afternoon/evening.

I’m still absolutely unclear as to your view on these matters. Would it be fair to say that you think that due to the existence of what you believe to be ‘imperialism’ therefore at no time and in no circumstance is armed intervention ever permissable whatever the nature of the situation on the ground. Or another way of putting it, are there circumstances in which you would accept same.

As with dmfod I think you place far too much emphasis on NATO and the broader response. Actors on the ground had more than enough agency when it came to inflicting hurt, as I’ve noted to dmfod all were implictated in such actions to varying degrees.

I’m puzzled at how you can be certain that the NATO bombing campaign didn’t prevent another Srebenica. It’s more than easy to argue that in a situation where the war had dragged on in a sort of stalemate further there would have been yet more atrocities and ethnic cleansing. What it did do was to push Serbia and Croatia and the Republic to an agreement.

None of this was perfect – I’m fascinated how both you and dmfod essentially demand only the best of outcomes in all these situations which you then counterpose with the bloody and grim reality as if those are the only two alternative positions rather than there being a continuum of alternatives from best to worst – but I suspect to many of us it was considerably better than the alternative.

Finally just a thought in passing. It really doesn’t matter what you consider the UN is or isn’t.

For all the partial and contingent engagement by states internationally it remains extant as the only global socio-political mechanism of its type and therefore it has some – admittedly often marginal – influence on the direction of matters. It provides a check occasoinally on some actions and a means of showing up the negative aspects of others. During Iraq the fact Powell was forced to explain himself made the realty of what he was saying and what the US administration was doing even more obviously self-serving.

You may think that’s nothing, but I’d bet most would think it actually quite something and that it has had an effect both at the time and subsequently on how states justify armed interventions etc.

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15. Roger Cole - May 25, 2013

sorry for the typo the Nordic Battle Group is 2015

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WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2013

No bother at all.

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16. Roger Cole - May 26, 2013

thanks for your comment. point taken and I will stick with the wednesday thread

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17. CMK - May 27, 2013
18. Joe - May 27, 2013

Sober and depressing.

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Gearóid - May 27, 2013

+1, increasingly frustrated with western leftists who make glib declarations about this conflict from whatever perspective, as if they have as much right to comment about it as people living there. Reading this thread, and debates elsewhere, some people seem more interested in using the conflict to attack political opponents on the left than anything else.

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19. Gearóid - May 27, 2013

EU has lifted arms embargo on Syrian opposition following British pressure.

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20. D_D - May 28, 2013

Mark P: “I was amused earlier in the thread when D_D and EamonnCork tried using the old Bush with or us with Saddam stunt earlier in the thread in the Libyan context.”

Amused and confused. When the US aggressively invaded Iraq I opposed that without supporting Saddam. When there was a war between Iran and Iraq I was neutral, or oposed to both sides and their slaughter. When the Libyan people rose up against Gaddafi, and the Syrian people (‘with all their prejudices’) rose up against Assad, I supported them against Gadaffi and Assad. I think all that is a fairly common, though not universal, position on the left.

An external imperialist invasion is different (the opposite?) to an internal civil uprising. Claiming the Libyan war was a NATO conquest is confusing the latter with the former.

It is perfectly possible to be against the US conquest of Iraq without supporting the Saddam regime. How it is possible to oppose the Libyan upsrising against Gaddafi, and portray it as a NATO conquest, and not support Gaddafi in that particular conflict, is outside my understanding of logic. But logic isn’t everything; a simple indication of opposition to Gaddafi and Assad in both conflicts would possibly clear this up.

I would like to hear from our very own Ed on this. He conducted a staunch debate with the formidable Pham Binh, on the ‘North Star’ site I think, from within the ‘support the rebels’ camp. If I remember correctly, and I hope I am not misrepresenting them, Ed was for supporting the uprising but did not go all the way with Binh’s outright call for (and strong arguments for) Western arming of the rebels.

Did anyone take up my reference to The Aud?

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dmfod - May 28, 2013

I think you’re constructing a false binary there D_D. Surely it’s possible to support the rebels against Gaddafi or Assad, but not to support imperialist Western intervention on their behalf because you think the long term negative effects would outweigh any short term gain?

I also don’t think the distinction between Iraq as an external imperialist invasion and Libya as internal civil uprising holds. There would have been an uprising in Iraq too if Saddam’s hold on the country had not been more effective – there had been uprisings in the past which were crushed. Would that have justified a US invasion to support the rebels? Or would you have been so suspicious about US motives that you would not have supported it even though it would have helped rebels in a civil war to overthrow a dictator probably worse than Gadaffi?

Or is it that Western imperialist air strikes are ok but Western imperialist invasion is not? What if the air strikes in Libya hadn’t worked and Gadaffi was winning the war, would you have supported a full-scale invasion/conquest then? This would have been similar to what happened in Iraq where the US tried no-fly zones and limited air strikes for years before they finally invaded.

And as I said before, why would the West bother with a full-scale invasion, risking their troops etc. when air strikes and local fighters could achieve their aims for them and any government that emerges in Libya will be permanently indebted to the West and more compliant than Gadaffi. This is in no way to imply any support for Gadaffi or opposition to the rebels – all I’m talking about here are US aims in the conflict.

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21. Jim Monaghan - May 28, 2013

“and any government that emerges in Libya will be permanently indebted to the West and more compliant than Gadaff”
The idea that whatever government that emerges in Syria or anywhere else will consider that they owe anyone is a big assumption.For example many USA rightwingers think it is a strategic mistake to back the Saudi parasites.The debate in the EU is precisely about that. Who to back if anyone? Who will emerge on top. Across the political spectrum is a lot of confusion. I recall in Russia an obscure tendency led by an exile came out on top.
More seriously as the war progresses it gets worse. And the element of vengeance grows. Majority rule has it’s problems.Before this the Christians of the Middle East were fleeing anyway.I can see a regional war. Shia versus Sunni. Kurds looking for freedom. The small minorities getting the worst deal. Who would want to be a Copt in Egypt. An Alawite in a new Syria, a Sunni in Shia Iraq. Look at an ethnic and religious map of the area and it is disheartening.The failure of the secular left Communists and even the Baath in it’s ear;ly days and it’s replacement by religious based parties does not look good.
A carnival of reaction on a grand scale. The left does not really know who to back and neither does the right.
A peace conference and and outcome that avoids massacres and gives rights to minorities is the best outcome.

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22. FergusD - May 28, 2013

I think we have to put “Western” involvement in the Middle East in context, which it seems to me many aren’t doing here. The actions of the US/NATO aren’t just (if at all?) a response to an humanitarian crisis in Iraq, Libya and Syria (Iran in the future), they have history. Even Blair said in his book (before the Syrian “crisis”):

“Cheney “would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it — Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.,” Blair wrote in his memoir, “A Journey.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/tony-blair-dick-cheney-wanted-remake-middle-east-9-11-invade-iraq-syria-iran-article-1.438532#ixzz2Uaf2938v

As Blair admitted they wanted to “re-make” the Middle East – and not for humanitarian reasons I suggest.

Many commentators suspect some similar motives were at work in the former Yugoslavia, certainly in the run up to war.

http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/breaking-yugoslavia-936/

(Although I don’t know anything about “Geopolitical Monitor, I have to say, many others have been critical of the Western role in Yugoslavia)

Of course some may argue that even if the mendacity of the western powers is accepted there is still the dilemma of the “humanitarian crisis” in Syria which, it seems, some here would argue requires military intervention – and from the US/NATO (who else is there?). As Roger Cole hinted, couldn’t such arguments be used against Ireland’s neutrality in WW”? From what I have seen on some UK TV programs (from the military historian Dan Snow, of all people) the situation in Syria is very complex.

I think any intervention in Syria by US/NATO has to be put in context of the past record.

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23. Laim Smullen - May 29, 2013

Laim Smullen
Its worth knowing for all those who opposed the
2003 Iraq war the previous policy was much worse,
because it was regime change through sanctions rather
than war. The question is this if no weapons found in Iraq
after the invasion then we such be asking what was happening between 1990-1998
rather Tony and George bush dossiers who everybody knew was false anyway.
Such as how reliable are were the weapons inspectors?

Hans off Iraq!
How Hans Blix and other weapons inspectors paved the way for war.
http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/1959/
http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/11387/
http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/4618/
http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/8714/
http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/4618/
Meet the Real WMD Fabricator A Swede Called Rolf Ekeus
http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/08/01/meet-the-real-wmd-fabricator/
UNSCUM vs ‘bunny-huggers’ in Iraq
http://svaradarajan.blogspot.ie/1998/02/unscum-vs-bunny-huggers-in-iraq.html
High time U.N. ended U.S. rampage in Iraq
http://svaradarajan.blogspot.ie/1998/11/high-time-un-ended-us-rampage-in-iraq.html
Iraq dumped WMDs years ago, says Blix
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/sep/18/iraq.iraq/print

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