Opinion: Why Lib Dems should reject the doctrine of liberal interventionism

If the regular politics of coalition is a walk in a minefield, the Libya crisis presents Lib Dems with a walk in a minefield while being haunted by a pair of malevolent ghouls.

Those twin ghouls are ghosts of conflicts past, conflicts where Britain intervened and expedited disaster, such as Iraq , and the countries where the UK sat on its hands, and watched disaster unfold, such as in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

There are a number interesting, and from a Lib Dem point of view welcome, feature of the debate concerning the possibility of the western intervention in Libya, has been the focus from many different viewpoints, of the requirement for a multi lateral response, with the debate centring on whether the collective response should come from NATO, the UN or the EU, the latter being the view posited by Nick Clegg.

One of the key reasons that Liberal Democrats around Britain took to the streets in opposition to the Iraq war was that they didn’t believe the arguments about WMD, and when it became clear to Blair and cheerleaders that the British public didn’t believe them on this either, the argument switched to being about ‘liberating’ the people of Iraq, and instilling democratic western values.

This last argument is now being passionately trotted out again, often by the same people who only discovered it late in the day over Iraq, and is called “Liberal Interventionism”.

The first thing to point out about this idea is that it’s not new. The concept of invading another country to improve the lives of the people there was at the heart of British Colonial expansion. Whatever historians may think today, it was rare for political or military leaders in the past to say that
Britain’s motives in colonising were selfish. The purpose was to spread Christianity and civilisation.

It is in this tradition that much of the debate over Iraq was latterly framed, and it’s becoming a feature of the debate over Libya. Some commentators and academics would at this point highlight the traditional argument about cultural relativism, and whether the British system, politics and
government are worth exporting.

This is not particularly a point I want to explore further here, partly because Nick Clegg did it much better in a speech recently:

These values (liberal values) are sometimes referred to as ‘Western values’ -but only by people who do not know their history.

While much of Europe had still to emerge from the Dark Ages, the Baghdad of Haroun al-Rashid saw a flowering of free religious debate and openness to learning from non-Muslim sources.

But there is an even more traditionally liberal argument to be made against Liberal Interventionism. Liberalism is based on the idea, whether applied to commerce, to science, or to moral questions, that centralized, hegemonic and top down development, however progressive and liberal in thought or outcome, can never allow the society to which they are applied to achieve its full potential
in the way that society would if the society in question had been allowed to follow its own path to development.

I am not making an argument for the British government to ignore Libya, multilateral sanctions, arms embargoes, aid programmes and no fly zones will create for the Libyan people the freedom to pursue their own vision of freedom.

British troops marching through the desert sands to forcefeed that freedom may allow Britain to exorcise some of those past ghosts, but will in the long term restrict the spirit and ideas of true progress and a more liberal world from emerging in a part of the world where some of the earliest steps towards such a
world were taken.

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42 Comments

  • Mission creep is already beginning with arch neo-conservative Malcolm Rifkind arguing today that the U.S. France and U.K. should be actively helping the rebels fight their civil war with airstrikes.

    That’s NOT what the U.N. resolution allows. It was to protect civilians, not help armed rebels.

    A huge amount of the public is already suspicious this is all about regime change and if the mission creep continues more and more of them will conclude the coalition was lying about the goals of this military action. The publics tolerance for another neverending war in the middle east is very low to say the least.

    As for liberal interventionism, amusingly, here’s what the same Malcolm Rifkind wrote about it in 2009.

    “Conservatives should reject a philosophy of pre-emptive wars (or, as Blair prefers to call it, liberal interventionism) fought by ‘coalitions of the willing’.”

    How quickly they forget.

  • And for those who doubt we are being sucked further and further, day by day, into a civil war here’s the latest BBC News headline.

    Libyan rebels backed by extensive allied air raids have seized control of the frontline oil town of Ajdabiya from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

    This is the beginning of the close air support the rebels wanted and are now getting.

  • david thorpe 26th Mar '11 - 2:49pm

    I agree john.

    and al quaeda are a major influnec on the rebels, and we are in danger of making again the mistake that was made in afghanistan

  • George W. Potter 26th Mar '11 - 3:12pm

    This is rather a silly article as the difference with Libya is that we were invited to intervene by the recognised Libyan government e.g. the TNC. This is completely different to iraq or colonial wars where we went in uninvited and imposed our will on another nation.

    @david thorpe

    Bullshit. There is no evidence whatsoever that the rebels are linked to al qaeda and the only people who say that there are links is the Gaddaffi regime.

    The bottom line is that this was a ruler who was killing his own people and the people asked the world to help. You cannot possibly ask for a more clear cut case than this.

  • Philip Young 26th Mar '11 - 4:35pm

    A stalemate is perfectly possible. So is just not being able to afford the cost of lobbing in rockets that are £800,000 a throw. However, having travelled all around Libya, Im delighted we went in (just in the nick of time, it was nearly all over with most of the eastern country recaptured by Gadafi troops). There would be many many thousands of innocents killed by now if we had done nothing. And thousands more turning up in Europe claiming assylum.

    Malcolm Rifkind is not “neo conservative” Conservative. He is just plain Conservative. He was regarded as being among a tiny band of liberals (or wets) in the Thatcher era and about the only one who went out of his way to make Liberal/SDP contacts. But this doesnt help John Basils spin.

  • What would be silly is to forget that Tony Blair also said we were in Iraq to liberate the people to save them from a brutal Dictator who was was killing his own people. The cheerleaders for that war said the coalition of the willing would be greeted with ‘flowers on rifles’. Didn’t turn out that way, did it ?

    In fact until fairly recently we were constantly told that Afghan people want us to be there and remain there in their country. You don’t hear that so much these days either in the tenth year of that middle eastern quagmire which also has U.N. backing.

    There is nothing clear cut about this as the complete lack of anyone at the top knowing what the exit startegy or aims of this war shows. It’s a civil war with armed rebels we also know very little about. I agree there is little to connect them to Al Qaeda but we do know that there are former Gadaffi loyalists in the chaotic mix as well as some fairly militant islamists.

    “Malcolm Rifkind is not “neo conservative” Conservative.”

    This says otherwise.
    http://carbonweb.org/showitem.asp?article=166&parent=39
    “Dramatic new evidence has been released of high-level lobbying for Iraqi oil contracts, on behalf of oil companies BHP Billiton and Shell.
    Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind – who bid unsuccessfully last year for the leadership of the Conservative Party – promised to push US Vice President Dick Cheney for the oil companies to be granted a contract for one of Iraq’s largest oilfields, just weeks after the Iraq war.”

    Cameron’s Cabinet is filled with neoconservative hawks.
    “George Osborne praised the ‘excellent neoconservative case’ for war against Iraq”
    http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/49786,news-comment,news-politics,a-david-cameron-government-would-be-brimming-with-hawks-iraq-neocons#ixzz1HkqCSTD3

    Be very aware of the perils of trusting this war to Cameron’s inner circle as you might not like where they take you.

  • GWP :The bottom line is that this was a ruler who was killing his own people and the people asked the world to help. You cannot possibly ask for a more clear cut case than this.

    The ruler of a country (however repulsive) was putting down a revolution.
    They may be a bunch of amateurs with a hotch-potch of weapons, and no one would be sad to see Gaddafi go. But we don’t really know what will replace him if the rebels do win. Supporting them could turn out well, or may come back to bite us.

    Stopping both sides killing each other is a good thing. We then have to either get the two sides to resolve things, or stay there as peacekeepers till they do. Which could be decades, of course.

    Taking one side against the other isn’t a good thing: it’s none of our business.
    Enforcing regime change ditto.

  • david thorpe 27th Mar '11 - 12:35pm

    @ geoffrey potter

    evidence that al qaeda or in ternational jihadists at least are fighting with the rebels

    Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links – Telegraph.

    @ jeedibeftrix. I agree that phrase is thrown around a lot, and lots by people who dont understand it.

  • I didn’t throw around the phrase neoconservative casually, I backed it up with evidence.
    And we aren’t talking about a few marginal backbenchers here, we’re talking about the people who got David Cameron elected as leader of the Conservative party and to whom he owes a far greater allegiance than to Nick Clegg. They are his inner circle.

    I’m willing to believe there may be some evidence to link Al Qaeda to some of the rebels now I have seen it.
    Until david thrope posted with evidence about this I had seen none, though it was pretty clear that there were at least militant islamists in amongst the rebels.

    Here is the full story for those who haven’t seen it either.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8407047/Libyan-rebel-commander-admits-his-fighters-have-al-Qaeda-links.html

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Mar '11 - 2:25pm

    Having mentioned what happened in fromer Yugoslavia and Rwanda when the UK and others sat on their hands, and it is easy to name plenty of others, you fail to address how such cases should be addressed. And before we try and base the whole argument around Iraq – you should remember that Saddam did himself have no problems in practiscing interventionism – he invaded both Kuwait and Iraq, and not only did he have WMDs he actually used them when he gassed the Kurds. Perhaps we need to remember what Pastor Niemoller said about sitting back and not infereing.

    There are plenty of valid arguments as to why it is better for intervention to be by interenational bodies rather than particualr countries with colonial interests. And there is an awful lot to be said for defining the objectives of any intervention. But if you look at the UN at the moment it really isn’t fit for purpose.

  • david thorpe 27th Mar '11 - 2:32pm

    @ toryboysnevergrow up,

    international intervention in those areas could have made a difference, but a full scale invasion might not have been better.
    in iraq, saddam practioced colonialism, not liberal interventionism.
    yes he gassed the kurds, but lots of otjher dictatrors have practiced genovccide, should we attack them all?
    thats the problem with liberal interventionism, you cant do it in one country, unless there is only one country in the world that is a problem, and there are multiple countries, so how do you choose?

  • Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links – Telegraph http://t.co/HM6SqCu

    oh dear, just where is our government leading us?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Mar '11 - 3:54pm

    yes he gassed the kurds, but lots of otjher dictatrors have practiced genovccide, should we attack them all?

    No – you have to think about whether your action will work, timing, opportunity etc.etc. there are lots of different ways of reacting – but I’m pretty sure that if you believe in human rights sitting back and doing nothing is not an option. Liberal interventionism can have many forms – and I ‘m sorry that I regard Srbenica, Darfur, Halabja, Rwanda (and indeed Nazi Germany an dFrancoist Spain) as all being strong arguments in its favour. How would sitting on your hands – or appeasement, to give it its proper name, be any better.

  • >Toryboy Having mentioned what happened in fromer Yugoslavia and Rwanda when the UK and others sat on their hands, and it is easy to name plenty of others, you fail to address how such cases should be addressed.

    That’s the whole point.
    There ARE no easy, black-and-white answers.
    Tho’ as I said before, we can play a useful role with peacekeeping missions to stop sides killing each other.
    Where they let us.

    >he invaded both Kuwait and Iraq, and not only did he have WMDs he actually used them when he gassed the Kurds.

    We kicked him out of Kuwait. That was an easy one: he had no right to be there.

    >and not only did he have WMDs he actually used them when he gassed the Kurds.

    Old arguments. But if we invaded Iraq in 2003 to save the Kurds who were being gassed in 1988 it was a pretty belated response!
    Of course, Iraq was fighting Iran in 1988 and the Kurds were on Iran’s side and the West were unofficially routing for Iraq… ..and there are those who say it was Iran gassed the Kurds by mistake and those who say it was Saddam but he got the gas from the US…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/31/opinion/a-war-crime-or-an-act-of-war.html
    When it comes to Halabja, you pays your money and you takes your choice

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Mar '11 - 6:50pm

    Cassie

    I never said that Liberal interventionism was easy – I just said it was a whole lot better than doing nothing whatsoever. There are a whole hosts of possible course of action – if you look at Srbenica a simple one would have been for the Dutch UN troops to have been an awful lot more muscular in defending the local population.

    As for Halabja your “you pays your you pays your money and you takes your choice” comment is one of the most stupid I have heard from a LibDem in a long time – the gassed Kurds certainly had little choice at all. I think the lesson of Iraq is that the longer you leave a facist such as Saddam in charge, and quite frankly I don’t care whose side he was on at various times or where he got his weapons from, then the worse it will be in the end. All Iraq shows is the case for early liberal interventionism ( as did Hitler and Mussolini as well if you want to have a more historical perspective).

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Mar '11 - 6:56pm

    SHould have been small l in the first sentence of the last post – big difference I’m afraid.

    I should also point out that liberal interventionism should be based on human rights and not an assessment as to which side the US is on the argument, which I’m afraid has crept into more than a few arguments.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Mar '11 - 7:09pm

    And of course Saddam didn’t stop use chemical weapons after Halabja or the Iran – Iraq war did he – not if we are to believe the word of this LibDem peer http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ge2kERuB3bb2fSarxw7977CNXq3g

    But then the poisoned MArsh Arabs were prbably friends of Iran and the poison was supplied by the US.

  • david thorpe 27th Mar '11 - 7:34pm

    toryboy

    I agree to a large extent with you, but UN oeacekeeprs in srebrenica being more muscualr is not liberal interventionism…..its a good thing to do but its not liberal interventionism, which is a different thing

  • >As for Halabja your “you pays your you pays your money and you takes your choice” comment is one of the most stupid I have heard from a LibDem in a long time – the gassed Kurds certainly had little choice at all.

    If you’d actually READ what I wrote, I was saying there are different accounts of what happened there, and the choice is which to believe. But the main point was that the US/UK didn’t give a stuff in 1988 but suddenly did care in 2003 when Bush/Blair needed something to legitimise the war when it turned out there were no WMDs.

    >I just said it was a whole lot better than doing nothing whatsoever.

    You are not the only person who cares.

    If you READ my posts, I said TWICE I have no problem with us acting as peacekeepers.
    David T’s post at the start of this thread says:”I am not making an argument for the British government to ignore Libya.”
    No one is saying ‘we don’t care, leave them to it’.
    But we have to be realistic about what we can achieve, and what we should be aiming to do.
    And we have to define what that it is.

    All anyone is saying is – I’ll say it again – there are no EASY answers.

    What do think we should actually do in Libya?
    Arm the rebels? Send in ground troops? Take on Gaddafi ourselves?
    And then what?
    What if it ends in stalemate?
    What if the rebels start targeting civilians as they attack towns occupied by Gadaffi loyalists?
    What if they win and choose a leader who is just a replacement dictator?
    How can we afford to spend £2m a day on Libya from an already stretched defence budget without putting our troops in Afghanistan at risk?
    What about Yemen? Ivory Coast? Somalia?

    I>There are a whole hosts of possible course of action

    We know that. The question is, which is right?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Mar '11 - 10:40pm

    Cassie

    Read the NYT article you referred to – it made it clear that Hussein had used gas in Helabja and in the war against Iran. On which side those who he gassed or later poisoned among the Marsh Arabs and where he got the WMDs to do so – is not the point at issue. What is at issue is that he was able to do such things and invade two countries – and he still wasn’t turfed out.

    It is all very well to counterpose lots of what ifs and to say that there are lots of other problems in the rest of the world that need dealing with – but that is not an argument for doing nothing everywhere and avoiding military intervention at all costs. As for peacekeepers on the ground in Libya – next please.

  • davidj thorpe 28th Mar '11 - 12:18pm

    @ toryboys,

    my article makes clear I favoru a no fly zone and sanctions, thats hardly doing notrhing, Im just not in favour of mission creeep, or of arming rebels, we armed rebels in afghanistan and ended up fighting them.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 28th Mar '11 - 1:22pm

    David

    So you don’t favour air support for the rebels – even though it appears to be working?

  • >Toryboy. What is at issue is that he was able to do such things and invade two countries – and he still wasn’t turfed out.

    What was at issue in THIS discussion is that Bush/Blair used what happened in 1988 as a retrospective moral defence of invading Iraq in 2003. As I said above. Twice.

    >It is all very well to counterpose lots of what ifs and to say that there are lots of other problems in the rest of the world that need dealing with – but that is not an argument for doing nothing everywhere

    I don’t like capital letters, but I’m afraid you really aren’t reading what’s being said here. Even when it’s repeated.

    NO-ONE, INCLUDING ME, IS SAYING ‘DO NOTHING’ ANYWHERE.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th Mar '11 - 9:52am

    “What was at issue in THIS discussion is that Bush/Blair used what happened in 1988 as a retrospective moral defence of invading Iraq in 2003. As I said above. Twice.”

    No it isn’t – the original post didn’t even discuss the issue – and I certainly made no linkage between 1988 and 2003. This is something which is your construct entirely – and I certainly didn’t try. My point if you would care to listen is that if Saddam had been dealt with effectively at that stage then an invasion may well have not been necessary to remove Saddam – and as I have pointed out here and elsewhere the lessons of history are that delaying action when dealing with fascists such as Saddam (or Ghadaffi for that matter) always makes things worse (and it did!).

    No you are not saying do nothing – but on the other hand you are not saying do something and just using the opportunity to attack those who do as well as throwing lots of irrelevancies into the debate and tell us lost of things that you wouldn’t do. So what would you do to deal with Ghadaffi now? And in particular how would your suggestion of peacekeepers actaully work in practice? What would you have done to deal with Saddam earlier? What would you do to strengthen international institutions so that they can take effective multilateral action against fascists and other totalitarians in defence of human rights? What are you doing to will the means as well as the ends?

    In addition, if you again bother to read what I say, rather than what you assume you will note that i believe that liberal intervention can take many forms before the ultimate step of armed invasion.

  • david thorpe 29th Mar '11 - 11:10am

    @ toryboys,

    I favorua no fly zone to protect the civilian population, I do not supprt air support for the rebels, which would be counter to the resolution, and since the rebels have links to people british soliders are fighting in other countries I dont seehow we acn support them.

  • david thorpe 29th Mar '11 - 12:31pm

    installing people to power who may be religious extremists, is not liberal interventionism anyway, its intervention without thbe liberal

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th Mar '11 - 12:52pm

    I would have thought that allowing the Libyans the choice who they want to be in power regardless of who they might select is liberal however. You should also note that the Government now claim to be in regular contact with the rebels – and they do not share your view. The Libyans will certainly have more choice than they have had many years under Ghadaffi – and I don’t think that the experience to date in Egypt and Tunisia shows that the rebels there were fronts for Al Quaeda.

    I am not sure how you draw a distinction between the rebels and the civilian population – and anyway didn’t Ghadaffi breach the ceasefire and start to undertake acts against the civilian population which might constitute crimes against humanity. The resolution is quite clear that “all possible measures” short of occupation forces are permitted to support its objectives. On the other hand if the actions being taken now are not in support of the resolution – I am sure that you will be asking the LibDems to withdraw from the Coalition rather than being a party to breaching international law and being war criminals, or do you only apply such reasoning when there is a Labour government?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th Mar '11 - 1:19pm

    Rather than relying on Ghadaffi’s view as to who the rebels are – a more informed view may be found here

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12698562

  • david thorpe 29th Mar '11 - 4:35pm

    I have alreday provded a link in which a leader of the rebels says that at leats some of them are international jihadists who have fought against britian in other coubntries, I have no idea what ghaddaffi thinks

  • >Toryboy. No you are not saying do nothing – but on the other hand you are not saying do something

    Me:
    Posted 27th March 2011 at 11:12 am
    Stopping both sides killing each other is a good thing. We then have to either get the two sides to resolve things, or stay there as peacekeepers till they do

    Posted 27th March 2011 at 4:04 pm
    Tho’ as I said before, we can play a useful role with peacekeeping missions to stop sides killing each other.

    Posted 27th March 2011 at 10:15 pm
    If you READ my posts, I said TWICE I have no problem with us acting as peacekeepers.

    Like David T and a lot of people, I was concerned about mission creep, although Obama’s speech is encouraging on that one now.

    >So what would you do to deal with Ghadaffi now?

    The fact I can see the pitfalls of walking across a minefield doesn’t mean I have the solution to getting across it.
    Ideally, push diplomacy as well as force. Persuade the two sides it’s in their own interests to stop killing each other.
    Use force on his troops if they attack. But not if they defend.

    >And in particular how would your suggestion of peacekeepers actaully work in practice?

    Same as it works everywhere else (when it does). Peacekeepers than form a buffer between opposing forces prepared to use force on either if they break the ceasefire. Until such time as (if) the sides reach a peaceful agreement between themselves. If Gaddafi agrees to go, fine. If he refuses, it might mean partition.

    >I would have thought that allowing the Libyans the choice who they want to be in power regardless of who they might select is liberal however.

    Then we are agreed: it’s not up to us to enforce regime change.
    The Libyans fighting for Gadaffi seem to want him to stay. No accounting for tastes, but it’s their choice.

    >I am not sure how you draw a distinction between the rebels and the civilian population

    The ones firing the guns are the rebels.

    >but on the other hand you are not saying do something

    see above

    >as throwing lots of irrelevancies into the debate and tell us lost of things that you wouldn’t do.

    you introduced Saddam and gassing the Kurds into the debate. (And I so wish I hadn’t responded. I DID say at the time ‘old arguments’).
    b. How is what I wouldn’t do irrelevant?
    I wouldn’t take sides, I wouldn’t enforce regime change. That’s irrelevant?

    How about you answer the questions I posed you? The ones you brushed aside as ifs and buts and “no one is saying it’s easy”? The ones we need to consider before we wade in anywhere, all guns blazing.

    >In addition, if you again bother to read what I say, rather than what you assume you will note that i believe that liberal intervention can take many forms before the ultimate step of armed invasion.

    Really? What forms have you listed? You keep saying there are lots of things we can do, but apart from the Dutch at Sbrenica ‘getting more muscular,’ I don’t see any concrete suggestions at all in your posts.

  • >On the other hand if the actions being taken now are not in support of the resolution – I am sure that you will be asking the LibDems to withdraw from the Coalition rather than being a party to breaching international law and being war criminals,

    The current action was fully endorsed by Parliament. I would expect a fresh vote in Parliament and for Lib Dem MPs to vote with their conscience.

    >or do you only apply such reasoning when there is a Labour government?

    No.
    Tho’ Labour MPs who opposed the Iraq war didn’t resign their seats, that I noticed.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th Mar '11 - 11:10pm

    Cassie

    Your idea as to how peacekeepers would work is just plain impracticable when the two sides are fighting each other – look at how peace keeping forces have operated in the past – it would also be contrary to the present UN resolution and as far as I’m aware there were no countries willing to supply peacekeeping troops to the UN.

    As for means of liberal intervention – there are many and their use needs to be graduated and responsive to particular circumstances – but I actually think the present ones – tighter sanctionss, no fly zones, arir cover to the rebels, destroying Ghadaffi’s aerial abilities are just about right – and arming the rebels is worth considering the next step. You also forget that Ghadaffi is in clear breach of the UN resolution as he broke the ceasefire and shelled civilians ( a possible crime against humanity) – what do you think the punishment should be for that and hoiw should it be enforced. The coalition against Ghaddafi is entitled to use all possible means, apart from land inavasion of troopsto protect civilians and enforce the resolution.

    And no I don’t rule out regime change or invasions as valid forms of liberal interventionism depending on the particular circumstances and whether or not other means are possible. Fighting Germany to remove Hitler was perfectly acceptable to give one example.

    My earlier point on Iraq was merely to point out that Saddam and others had carried out plenty of repulsive and illegal actions earlier on – and that earlier liberal interventionism may have precipitated his removal earlier, ideally by forces within Iraq – and that leaving such intervention until later actually increases it degree of response required and the damage that results.

    The action against Iraq was also endorsed by Parliament (in advance of the invasion)- but I thought that LIbDEms also argued that that this was not sufficient and it had to be in accordance with International Law and specific UN resolutions – I think the current action in Libya is within the resolution but others appear to be arguing otherwise.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th Mar '11 - 11:12pm

    Btw – hasn’t Clegg now said that Libya is a good example of liberal interventionism. For once I agree with NIck – even the wrong people can be right about something!

  • david thorpe 30th Mar '11 - 11:18am

    I dont think clegg agrees with liberal interventionism, i.e I dont think he would use that term, for reasons outlines above, so I would be interested in any quote you may have

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Mar '11 - 12:30pm
  • david thorpe 30th Mar '11 - 1:44pm

    @toryboy

    thats a very interesting article, in which clegg appears to reject liberal interventionism, rejecting the idea of regime change etc which is the direction liberal interventionism has gone, but endorsing multilateral interventionism.
    i.e. i dont disagree witha word of his aims and goal on libyam, but I dont think he is advocating liberal interventioism as uit would be defined by liberakl interventionists in any other UK party.
    the key line being its not up to us to choose the libya government.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Mar '11 - 2:49pm

    “but I dont think he is advocating liberal interventioism as uit would be defined by liberakl interventionists in any other UK party”

    So what about this? http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/david-miliband-we-must-restore-belief-in-the-efficacy-of-liberal-interventionism-1032226.html

    Doesn’t look a million miles away to me – and I don’t think Clegg rules out regime change (which I think you are mistakenly equating with liberal interventionism) – and removing a totalitarian dictator doesn’t necessarily mean that you chose the sucessor government. I was quite happy to have regime change in Nazi Germany and its puppet regimes – for example.

    Also worth noting that Clegg’s comments about liberal vigilantism – given that the cost of liberty is usually seen as eternal vigilance.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Mar '11 - 2:51pm

    Shouldn’t the heading for the post be renamed “Why Lib Dems should reject the doctrine of liberal interventionism apart from how Nick Clegg defines it” ?

  • >Your idea as to how peacekeepers would work is just plain impracticable

    That’s been my point all along.
    Wanting to help and being able to aren’t always the same thing.

    Wading in with the best of intentions without a clearly defined plan on how to end it is no good.
    It’s like rushing into the middle of a minefield to rescue a cat, with no thought about how you’ll get back in one piece (if you make it to the middle unscathed), or whether the cat will ‘thank’ you by scratching your face, and (if you do both survive) eating your budgie when it’s free.

    We ‘liberated’ Iraq – and prompted years of ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence. How many British and US personnel were killed after we’d beaten Saddam?

    We ‘liberated’ Afghanistan – and ten years on, British soldiers are still being killed and wounded and there’s no end in sight.

    We’ve had a peacekeeping force in Cyprus for nearly 50 years. No sign of that ever being resolved.

    >and arming the rebels is worth considering the next step.

    The US covertly armed the ‘freedom fighters’ in Afghanistan against the USSR. Look how that turned out.

    >tighter sanctionss, no fly zones, arir cover to the rebels, destroying Ghadaffi’s aerial abilities are just about right

    All of which were doing in Iraq in 2003, btw, prior to the war and could have continued. If there had been any WMDs, an air strike could’ve dealt with it. Clinton did it in 1998.

    >I think the current action in Libya is within the resolution

    Arming the rebels wouldn’t be. Helping them win wouldn’t be. Enforcing regime change wouldn’t be.
    If Gaddafi’s forces dig in in populated cities, would you attack those cities? Stand by and watch the rebels attack them? Give the rebels arms to attack them?

    >Fighting Germany to remove Hitler was perfectly acceptable to give one example.

    We joined WWII to rescue Poland. A perfect example of how wanting to help doesn’t always end happily. Given that liberation from the Nazis was followed by 44 years under the oppressive thumb of the USSR.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Mar '11 - 10:48pm

    Cassie

    Yet more reasons for doing nothing – and your flip flopping on peacekeepers really is quite something – this is waht I would do but I now agree that it is impracticable!. As for it not being appropriate to attack Nazi Germany (and no I don’t really think that those declaring War did so to rescue Poland as a first step – more rather to try and stop further steps by Hitler) – the lesson to learn surely is not that it was wrong to intervene – but that intervention should have happened much earlier.

    As for CYprus what would you have suggested – just allow the Turkish invaders to carry on with ethnic cleansing. Can you not see that if stronger action had been taken against Saddam earlier – that he may have been removed without war and all that happened after he started using WMDs and invading other countries?? Delay increases the scale and costs of intervention – it does not reduce it.

    Where have I ever said that liberal intervention should not be planned or without clear objectives (for both execution and exit BTW) ? I will more than readily accept that this did not happen with Iraq – although I did agree with the objective of removing Saddam by force.

    Fortunately this is one area where Clegg is more sensible (when in government) than some LibDems.

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