Monday, March 21, 2011

The West is always wrong

You have to hand it to the so-called "peace" movement and the left.  They are as adept in chicaning their way around principle and consistency in position in all but one way - the West is always wrong.

Throughout the Cold War, both the West and the Soviet bloc (and China as much as it acted independently) all acted uniformly under the principle of realpolitik.  Interests were at stake, and each side supported allies as a bullwark against the other.  For the USSR and China, this never presented domestic problems because domestic problems were always resolved with the barrel of a gun so to speak.  Neither had to deal with protest marches, civil disobedience, bad press or the like, for they were (China still is to an extent) totalitarian prison camps.  Both happily backed, armed, clapped, funded and facilitated mass murder, torture, starvation and grotesque inhumanities in their own and many other countries.  Both had plenty of supporters in Western academia and a few in politics who were either taken in by the propaganda or simply were so anti-Western they embraced the obvious alternative.

The West didn't have such luxuries, for it had (and has) freedom.  Defence and foreign policy would be challenged, not only at the ballot box and within the political sphere, but with protests, free press and open civil society, its action would alway be open to scrutiny.  Quite right too.  However, those who would point the finger at the West on foreign policy and defence could not do so in the Soviet bloc.  Moscow knew this of course and helped fund several branches of the peace movement, figuring it could weaken the West by helping promote popular opinion in the West to disarm and withdraw - knowing similar calls in the Soviet block could be eradicated forthwith.

So it was simple - the peace movement and the left would, by and large, focus on what the West did wrong, because it was easy to report, and in fact it was seen as easier to change.  It was always far easier to point out the hypocrisy of Western realpolitik.  Our "interests" were in having allies that fought the allies of the Soviet bloc, yet these were on more than a few occasions inconsistent with the values people in Western countries saw as being the hallmark of superiority of Western liberal capitalist democracies over Marxism-Leninism.   Suharto, Marcos, Pinochet, Rhee, Somoza, Mobutu and others were often as bloodthirsty with opponents and as uninterested in free speech as their opponents.  The left in the West jumped on these and damned Western support for them.  This was the right thing to do, but they also turned a blind eye to the Soviet alternatives.

However, this philosophy of damning Western intervention in other countries remained after the end of the Cold War, although few noticed that suddenly more than a few non-Marxist dictatorships fell in relatively quick succession.  The end of apartheid in South Africa was partly facilitated by the end of the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique as the West withdrew support in parallel to the Soviet Union withdrawing support for their sides.  Chile, Zaire, Taiwan and South Korea all saw significant reforms with mixed success.   Then came Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly one of the nastiest dictators of the post war era (and he has plenty of competition).  He became important to both the West and the USSR when Iran fell to Islamist clerics, and was itself sabre-rattling against the US, USSR and Israel, so Saddam gained support from both sides in the Cold War, to take on Iran.  Pure realpolitik against a threatening enemy.  Yet it achieved nothing, except the spilling of the blood of hundreds of thousands, and a convenient target for the left - the West had backed another bloodthirsty thug, and Iran had not been contained.

Then Saddam attacked Kuwait.  There was a near unanimous international consensus in favour of ejecting him from Kuwait, yet the leftwing "peace movement" with the likes of the odious hypocritical Janus-like George Galloway condemning how the West attacked Iraq, after cossetting it for so long.  

You see with the peace movement, you can't correct your previous bad behaviour.  So whilst Saddam was expelled from Kuwait, subjected to two no-fly zones and extensive economic sanctions, in fact that was all wrong.  Because he had had Western backing before, he shouldn't be attacked now - the West is to blame for him.

Then after that, Saddam's continued breaching of UN Security Council resolutions and failure to allow the IAEA full inspection of all facilities it requested access to meant nothing.  Saddam should be left alone, even though he murdered Iraqis on a daily basis.  In fact, economic sanctions on Iraq, which hurt Iraqis not Saddam, should be lifted - not because it was Saddam's fault, but the West's fault for "killing Iraqi children" as Saddam used his population as propaganda.  

Remember the left warmly embraced economic sanctions against the South African racist regime, but for Iraq Saddam was now to be appeased.  Iraq was to be "left alone", for this wasn't a dictatorship that should face sanctions or military action.

Then, 9/11 happened.  The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had barely caused a murmur in the "peace movement", but Western backing for the mujahideen did.  The Taliban winning power in Afghanistan also barely caused a murmur, except for its radical misogyny and destruction of some historic statues.  However, the attack against the Taliban regime, which had sheltered and supported Al Qaeda, was wrong.  It was wrong for the US to strike against those who harboured and supported those who attacked and killed thousands of people on its soil.   It was wrong to overthrow those who treated girls as chattels denying them education, banning music and executed anyone who didn't support their stone age theocracy.  

G.W. Bush attacked Iraq, in part because of Saddam's continued defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions, in part because of a belief that regime change and installation of a Western friendly democracy in Iraq would be positive for the region.  It was appallingly undertaken, but it gave backbone to the peace movement which saw it as death and destruction.  Saddam's overthrow was bemoaned by few, but the performance and behaviour of a few troops became a reason to damn the lot.  Furthermore, the rise of an Islamist insurgency, which at one point was peddling death on a daily basis through bombing, saw the peace movement attribute those deaths to the West.  After all, if Saddam hadn't been overthrown, Iraq would be peaceful (blank out Saddam's tendency to turn on his population randomly).   Little credit was given to overthrowing a tyrant the left had opposed in any case.   Less credit was given to fighting the Islamist insurgency with some even backing them.  

The Western leftwing "peace movement" support for Islamist terrorists in Iraq said so much about the belief in peace and human rights that they claimed - it was profoundly empty. What mattered was to oppose whoever the West supported, to oppose whatever the West did.

So Saddam was opposed when the West supported him.  Saddam was supported when the West opposed him.   The peace movement as hypocritical as the West it finger pointed at.   Note that never did the USSR or Russia get damned for their roles in any of it.

The recent revolutions in the Arab world have also had similar responses.  Tunisia and Egypt were both led by Western-friendly dictators, so the West was blamed for both of them.   Blamed for intervening to prop them up.  Except this time, the West did nothing of the sort.  It sat back and let things happen.

That was wrong though.   You see it should have "done more" to ensure the dictators it supported before were overthrown.  Um...

So along comes Gaddafi.  Avowedly anti-Western, a murdering tyrant if ever there was one.  Ronald Reagan bombed one of his palaces in the 80s after Gaddafi had a bomb go off in a West Berlin nightclub, but that wasn't acceptable to the left.   Gaddafi blew up an airliner, which certainly saw more opposition to him (George Galloway to be fair damned Gaddafi consistently after this).  However, beyond that his exploits were largely ignored by the left.   Then, after the overthrow of Saddam, Gaddafi put his hands up, said he was no longer pursuing WMDs, and sought friendly relations - which he got.

Now of course his own people, emboldened by events in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, have had enough.  Barack Obama has decided the US is now taking a largely isolationist stance, so it took France and the UK to lead efforts to introduce a no fly zone and undertake airstrikes against Libyan military targets that were threatening civilian.  Even the rather odious Arab League supported the No Fly Zone.  

So a popular revolution in Libya is being supported in the air, by Western forces.  No ground troops and no sense of occupation.  It is all about protecting civilians.  While the West was not taking action, it was criticised.  Now it is taking action.

It isn't good enough though.   The left is damning it because Libya has oil and gas, so a side effect of getting rid of Gaddafi will be to have a regime (hopefully) which is a democracy that will sell oil and gas.  That of course is a good thing, unless you are part of the left/peace-movement/environmentalist faction that thinks consumption of oil and gas kills babies, destroys trees and impoverishes continents.  Apparently the West shouldn't intervene when it suits its interests.

Beyond that, the intervention is damned by conspiracy theorist Robert Fisk because there can be no guarantee the replacement of Gaddafi will be squeaky clean.   Well yes.  If you don't want an invasion and occupation, that's the risk.  The intervention so far is just to protect Libyans from air and naval strikes, and major ground force attacks.   If it was more, the West would be wrong again.   Fisk also recalls a civilian victim of the US attack in 1986, but interestingly it is noted that the woman's mother supports Gaddafi being overthrown - not quite as simple as it first seemed.

George Galloway, who has long damned Gaddafi appeared on Sky News damning the attacks, not because of the effect on Libyans, but because the West hadn't also intervened in Bahrain, Yemen or Saudi Arabia.

Well no.  There is no obligation to intervene, at all.  However, the opportunity exists and it is in Western interests, so the decision is made to intervene.  That is quite morally justified.

It would be morally justified to intervene in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia as well, although in Bahrain there is the issue of the US Navy Fifth Fleet being based there.  A major decision would need to be made on relocating it if it was decided to turn on Bahrain's murderous monarchy.   Yemen's insurgents include a substantial outpost of Al Qaeda.  Intervention there would be wholly justified, but the unintended consequences could be far worse.   Saudi Arabia is another story.  It would be a formidable foe, the economic impacts alone of Saudi turning off oil supplies would be catastrophic, and would directly harm millions in the West, it would not go down without a fight, and as the home of Mecca, a Western attack would undoubtedly instigate substantial Muslim support against it.

In short, intervention in Libya is low cost, relatively high gain and positive.  The other cases don't stack up.

However, that doesn't matter.  The West is always wrong.

It was wrong to damn Gaddafi for so long, despite his record for murder and terrorism. 
It was wrong to respond positively when Gaddafi stopped engaging in terrorism and pursuing WMDs - he is a tyrant.
It was wrong to sit by and do nothing while Libyans fought Gaddafi (because of the relatively positive relations the West had with Gaddafi since 2002).
It is now wrong to intervene to protect Libyans fighting Gaddafi - because it should intervene elsewhere.

No doubt if the West actually did intervene in Bahrain and Saudi, it would be bad because the claim would be it is about oil.  If it intervened in Yemen, the claim would be that it is the "war on terror", which the left rejects.

Which is why the so-called "peace movement" can and should be ignored.  It has only one principle, opposition to the West.  It isn't seriously interested in peace, or human rights, or democracy, or anything it claims.  

Watch them now defend Gaddafi - once more - and pretend it is about opposing war.

1 comment:

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