As the Tory isolationist right and scab Labour “anti-imperialists” make common cause to betray the Libyan rebels, my old comrade Bob Fine reminds us of what “non intervention” has meant over the years. If you missed this piece in last Tuesday’s Graun, you really should read it:
Simon Jenkins writes on the shortcomings of liberal interventionism in Libya (By merely bolstering the weaker side, we are prolonging Libya’s civil war, 1 April). His own response is to oppose the intervention altogether: “I want nothing to do with this… the dispute of eastern Libya with Gaddafi is not my dispute.” More broadly, he casts liberal interventionism as a neo-imperialist project that lacks the courage of its convictions: “It claims to know what is best for the world and glories in bombing to get its way. But when push comes to shove it backs off.”
But he should not forget that “non-interventionism” can itself be a barbaric doctrine, expressive of the indifference of power to human suffering. Each time we look at Picasso’s rendition of Guernica we are reminded that, during the Spanish civil war, “non-intervention” was the pretext under which western democracies refused to help the republic while Franco, aided by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, terrorised Spain.
Jenkins says “the end of the cold war seemed to release an urge [by western powers] … to use military might to reorder the world in the west’s own image”. But let’s not forget what transpired during the cold war. Non-intervention was formally treated as sacrosanct but brutally violated by the US and USSR in the name of protecting their own “spheres of influence”. Liberal interventionism was born out of resistance to this kind of military intervention, which reminds us more of Goya’s Disasters of War than of anything to do with humanity.
Non-interventionism was no better after the cold war, when the western powers failed to put an end to the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Srebrenica and Sarajevo and refused to take any action that might have prevented the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.
Read the rest here