Jonathan Freedland is arguing that military intervention isn't always wrong. He's arguing it apropos Syria. Even though he isn't calling for immediate military action to stop the killing there, he allows that it could have to come to that. His column is prompted by surprise at the fact that the Stop the War Coalition is demonstrating not to protest at 'the truly shocking slaughter' being perpetrated by the Assad regime, but rather against the possibility of US intervention in Syria or Iran.
It is needless for me to say here that I agree with Jonathan that military intervention isn't always wrong. But, though I do agree about that, I disagree with his explanation for this demo directed against US intervention. Here is what Jonathan says:
There's a one-word explanation for how anti-war activists find themselves more exercised by the prospect of intervention to stop murderous violence than by the murderous violence itself. That word is Iraq. The 2003 invasion of Iraq has tainted for a generation the idea once known as "liberal interventionism".
There will be some sector of anti-war opinion that has been made wary about liberal interventionism by the war in Iraq. But so far as that segment of it explicitly picked out by him in this piece - that is to say, activists in and around the Stop the War Coalition - Jonathan starts the clock at the wrong time. The forces of the 'anti-war' left oppose all wars led or joined by America; they were doing so long before the Iraq war in 2003. They opposed intervention in 1991 to evict Saddam's armies from Kuwait, just to pick out one relevant example. It's anti-imperialism that always does the work for them, and slaughter of civilians by oppressive regimes is one of those facts of the world to be endured without ever contemplating Western military intervention anywhere. It's hard to imagine an exception to this generalization arising - unless the US, Britain or some other Western power were to intervene against Israel.
All the same, despite the disagreement, I'm glad to see Jonathan now defending the principle of liberal interventionism. In September 2009 he reported on the view, on both the left and the right at the Labour Party conference, that 'Blair's doctrine of "liberal interventionism"... should be dumped in the nearest skip', its practice having proved disastrous. True, he didn't actually endorse this view, but he registered no misgiving about it either.