Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Interventionalism of Convenience?

Responsibility to Protect, Will to Intervene based on luxury of power

Dr Mutuma Ruteere has a bone to pick with Paul Collier.

Collier, a professor of economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, has recently written a book entitled Wars, Guns & Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.

In the book, Collier argues that the "bottom billion" of the world -- Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia -- are structurally insecure and unaccountable (no surprise to those who have paid attention to the sad state of that portion of the world). Collier argues that these countries are too large and diverse to be nation states and too small to provide security.

Collier continues by insisting that democracy has failed in the world's "bottom billion", and that the international responsibility must intervene in these countries and provide security in place of those governments. In extreme cases, Collier even argues that coup d'etats should be engineered against undemocratic governments.

Collier's ideas represent the ideas contained in the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine -- a UN foreign policy doctrine developed under the leadership of Lloyd Axworthy and Romeo Dallaire.

The Responsibility to Protect doctrine assigns the responsibility to each of the world's states to protect their citizens from natural and human disasters. This responsibility encompasses the aftermath of natural disasters, as well as (even particularly) attacks on the citizenry of that state, be that by the forces of a foreign state, militant forces wtihin the state, or even the state itself.

According to the doctrine, the international community is responsible for preventing that protection in cases where states fail or refuse to provide it.

The relationship between R2P and Collier's ideas are evident.

The goal of R2P was to put a stop to crimes against humanity that are already in progress. Collier's ideas entail acting preemptively in order to supplant the institutional instabilities that eventually lead to these crimes.

No less a conservative magnate of conservative economic and foreign policy than William Easterly has denounced Collier's ideas as sheer colonialism -- and he may well be right.

The problem is that Collier's brand of colonialism may not be necessary.

Dr Ruteere notes that African states have often proven more willing to risk their own troops intervening in African matters than the developed world has. He notes that Nigeria intervened in Sierra Leone and Liberia, South Africa intervened in Lethoso, Tanzania intervened against Idi Amin in Uganda, and Dallaire's admission that Ghanaians and Tunisians were among his best and most reliable troops in Rwanda.

By contrast, Ruteere notes that the United States used its own institutional means to settle its last serious political conflict -- the turmoil surrounding George W Bush's reelection.

If the United States had proven unwilling to settle the matter without political violence -- institutionalized or otherwise -- it seems entirely fair to wonder if the international community would intervene.

It would seem entirely fair, but it really isn't. The developed world has a woeful record intervening against developed countries. During the 1930s Nazi Germany was allowed to overrun half of Europe before Britain, France, the United States and the ANZAC (Australia, New Zealand and Canada) states saw fit to stand up. The other great butcher of the developed world, Joseph Stalin, was actually an ally during the war. Earlier in the 1930s, Stalin's Soviet Union engineered a genocide via famine in the Ukraine.

The Responsibility to Protect clearly plays to privileges of power the developed world enjoys over the developed world. But even amidst the privilege of this power, many African countries -- who can't boast the sheere brute force of the military of nearly any NATO country, for example -- have demonstrated that they possess something that the developed world has proven that it all too often does not possess:

The Will to Intervene, even against neighbour states that are comparable to them in terms of military and economic power.

A foreign policy doctrine by this very name has recently been proposed in Canada -- once again with Romeo Dallaire at the lead. At the very core of this proposed doctrine are truths that forward-thinking African countries have seemingly understood for quite a while: that the disasters that unfold in African countries will eventually impact them, just as the developers of the W2I doctrine have recognized that they will eventually impact Canada.

If political collapse followed by civil war were to break out in a country like the United States, it's evident that the effects of that conflict, and of any crimes against humanity being perpetrated there under such conditions, would impact the developed world much more quickly than such a conflict in Africa.

Dr Mutuma Reveere seems to imply a very important question for the citizens of the developed world: can we find the will to intervene against our powerful neighbours if ever the need should arise.

The need has arisen before, and the will has proven lacking. If the need arises again, we cannot afford to have the wrong answer to such a question.

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