On Comment is Free David Rieff had a post two days ago on how Tony Blair has contributed to making liberal interventionism 'a political non-starter for at least a generation'. In the field of foreign policy Blair started out as 'a leader of consequence': he can claim the chief credit, Rieff argues, for creating a climate of opinion in which...
... interventions on moral grounds - whether to thwart a dictator, as in the case of the Balkan wars, or to put an end to anarchic cruelty, as in the case of British intervention in Sierra Leone - seemed like a great advance in international affairs.But no more. Humanitarian intervention is now 'a dirty word' (sic), because of the catastrophic invasion of Iraq.
In setting out this argument, is Rieff merely reporting on a state of affairs, merely registering the change of opinion he sees as having taken place? Apparently not. It looks like he's also endorsing it. He says:
For Blair, there is a moral unity between the interventions in Kosovo and Iraq, both of which he presents as examples of a post-Westphalian idea that powerful states are called upon to defend suffering communities globally, including by military means.And then Rieff goes on to place this idea beside the charge that is made against it of liberal imperialism ('updated for the post-cold war world'), and to uphold that charge: behind the values Blair claims to speak for are really the interests of 'the rich world's governments'.
Now, one may believe that there was no persuasive moral case for the Iraq war - many people do - and one may believe that the threshold for humanitarian intervention should be set in such a way as would have left Iraqi sovereignty inviolable in early 2003. But to say liberal interventionism is now a non-starter and endorse its being that is to say it doesn't matter - doesn't matter to you, the person who's saying it - what any government does to its people, how many of them it kills, maims, tortures or allows to starve to death, nothing may be done. I don't know what interests are secreted behind that particular value, but I also don't much care. The values embodied in the doctrine of a responsibility to protect are better ones.