Against Liberal Intervention

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Jul 28 14:02:51 MDT 2003

There is an interesting exchange on the In These Times website between 
Ian Williams, a Nation Magazine contributor who backed war with 
Yugoslavia but not in Iraq, and John R. MacArthur, the publisher of the 
excellent Harpers Magazine. For obvious reasons, I don't want to waste 
bandwidth with Williams's arguments for a kinder and gentler imperialism 
( but do urge 
one and all to read MacArthur's comments at from which the 
following excerpt is drawn:

I recall a hair-raising speech by the currency 
speculator-turned-human-rights-promoter George Soros, in which he argued 
for creation of a U.N. rapid deployment military force that could 
intervene anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice to prevent the 
powerful from killing the weak—by killing the powerful. Around the same 
time, it became fashionable on the left (especially in the neighborhood 
inhabited by Susan Sontag and David Reiff) to denounce the U.N. 
peacekeepers in Bosnia for not being sufficiently anti-Serb, the Serbs 
being ultra-nationalist “fascists.” At a human rights group board 
meeting I heard a well-known U.S. television journalist actually refer 
to the blue-helmeted soldiers in Sarajevo as “capos in a concentration 
camp,” who functioned as oppressors, not protectors, of the noble Bosnians.

“Liberal” military interventions by the United States and its allies 
followed in due course. Bush I had already played the human rights card 
by promoting the fake baby incubator atrocity in Kuwait, a brilliant 
maneuver that undermined both the “no blood for oil” and the “no more 
Vietnams” lobbies. Then came Somalia, which was a disaster for Americans 
and Somalis alike; Haiti, where the United States intervened in support 
of the sometimes repressive Bertrand Aristide; and lastly, Kosovo, which 
achieved reverse ethnic cleansing of Serbs on behalf of the Kosovo 
Liberation Army. Like Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic was alternately 
denounced by do-gooders on the left as a Hitler-like fascist and “the 
last Stalinist,” first cousins to Christopher Hitchens’ “Islamic Fascists.”

Kosovo was the clearest assertion of the new doctrine of liberal 
intervention, a legal and moral template for the overthrow of Saddam. 
According to its critics, the NATO bombing campaign was a pre-emptive 
war in clear violation of international law (Kosovo was legally part of 
Serbia, which had attacked no other country). But liberals were happy 
because the 78 days of aerial mayhem led to the eventual removal of 
Milosevic from power.

“Leftists” more radical than Kouchner, like Paul Berman, now seek to 
expand the concept of liberal pre-emption by claiming Abraham Lincoln as 
their patron saint. Lincoln, they say, was bent on liberating the whole 
world, not just the southern states—a foolish exaggeration about a 
practical politician who nearly wrecked his career by opposing America’s 
imperialist invasion of undemocratic Mexico in 1846 (and who initially 
wanted to send the slaves back to Africa). It’s no coincidence that 
President Bush has chosen the USS Abraham Lincoln for his welcome- home 
photo op.


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