Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifist illusion.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifist illusion (2018).

By Bagehot, “Economist”, 19th April 2018, Source=https://www.economist.com/britain/2018/04/19/jeremy-corbyns-pacifist-illusion.

[ Author Bagehot, Posted by Lara Keller 25/1/20 Updated 7/3/20] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

The Labour leader’s reluctance to use force threatens to make the world a more dangerous place Britain.

GEORGE ORWELL wrote, a little wickedly, in “The Road to Wigan Pier” that the British left acts as an irresistible magnet to cranks of every variety: fruit-juice drinkers, nudists, sandal-wearers, sex-maniacs, “nature cure” quacks, and, a particular peeve of his, pacifists. On the whole the Labour Party has done an admirable job of keeping its crank-wing under control when it comes to serious issues like national security. Ernest Bevin was one of the architects of NATO. Nye Bevan slammed supporters of unilateral nuclear disarmament with a rhetorical flourish about sending a foreign secretary “naked into the conference chamber”. Tony Blair’s failure, if anything, was to go too far in the use of force.

There are two exceptions to this tradition. One was in 1980-83, when Michael Foot committed Labour to unilateral nuclear disarmament and shrinking the armed forces. That hardly mattered because Foot was crushed under the wheels of Margaret Thatcher’s chariot in the general election of 1983. Another was in 1932-35, when the party was led by a committed pacifist, George Lansbury. In 1933 Labour’s annual conference passed a resolution calling for “the total disarmament of all nations” and pledging never to take part in any war. The party routinely opposed rearmament. This mattered enormously. Adolf Hitler and his confrères took it as evidence that they could proceed with impunity.

Enter Jeremy Corbyn. Today’s world has more than a whiff of the 1930s about it. The old order is shaky. Strongmen are on the march. Wars on the periphery are threatening to spread. And the leader of the Labour Party is talking about peace. The big difference this time is that Mr Corbyn is much more powerful than Lansbury ever was. He has a tight grip on his party apparatus and is the most likely winner of the next general election.

Mr Corbyn says that he is not a pacifist. He is willing to sanction the use of force in certain circumstances—“under international law and as a genuine last resort”—and gives the second world war as an example of a conflict he would have been willing to support. It is true that he is not a pacifist, but not for the high-minded reasons that he gives. He has spent his life opposing the use of force by Western governments. He not only objected to the Iraq war, and acted as chairman of the Stop the War Coalition in 2011-15. He also opposed the West’s decision to strike against Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic in 1999. He not only spent his youth campaigning against the Vietnam war and nuclear weapons. He has also been a longtime critic of NATO.

But his conscience has been less sensitive when it comes to opposing the use of force by anti-Western regimes or by various non-state actors. He half-justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, saying that the roots of the conflict lay in “belligerence” from the West and that Vladimir Putin was “not unprovoked”. He has often found time to hold meetings with left-wing groups that have sanctioned the use of violence to achieve their aims. In 1984, a few weeks after an IRA bomb nearly killed Thatcher (and did kill five others) at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton, he invited Gerry Adams, the leader of the IRA’s political wing, to Parliament for a reception. The essence of Corbynism is the rejection of one of the basic tenets of British foreign policy: that you side with the West, rather than its enemies. He is a pacifist of ideological convenience rather than principle.

Two noxious events in the past two months—a poisoning in Salisbury and a chemical attack in Syria—have given a vivid sense of what Mr Corbyn’s quasi-pacifism means in practice. He has repeatedly raised questions about the government’s (and indeed the West’s) version of events. He has called for the government to delay acting until international bodies have had their say—despite the fact that, in the case of Syria, Russia’s ability to veto any decision by the UN means that this would be like waiting for Godot.

Mr Corbyn’s prevarications are a reminder of what a risk Britain would be taking with its foreign policy if it sent Mr Corbyn to Downing Street in the next election, which is due in 2022 but could happen earlier given the government’s lack of a majority and the agonies of Brexit. A Corbyn government would weaken Britain’s relations with its allies. The United States might well refuse to share sensitive information with a leader who has built his career on anti-Americanism. It would weaken NATO, since Mr Corbyn has refused to say whether he believes in Article 5 (which states that an attack on one is an attack on all) and has opposed the use of nuclear weapons (bizarrely, he supports maintaining Britain’s nuclear submarines but not arming them). It would also embolden Mr Putin, who could assume that, through the UN, he could exercise a veto over British foreign policy—and thereby neutralise one of the world’s strongest military powers and one of the West’s most consistent champions.

Nudists in the conference chamber.

The classic objection to pacifism is that it makes conflict more likely, because bullies conclude that they can act unpunished. This is even more true of Mr Corbyn’s quasi-pacifism. It insists on erecting endless obstacles to the West’s use of force, from the seemingly reasonable (such as a parliamentary debate before the use of force), to the deliberately impossible, such as international consensus. At the same time, it makes endless excuses for the use of force by the West’s enemies.

In 1935, as the strongmen flexed their muscles, the Labour Party replaced the hapless Lansbury with Major Clement Attlee, who combined a vigorous support for Britain’s entry into the second world war with unceasing work to found the post-war welfare state. Today, alas, Labour’s parliamentary party is bereft of Attlees. Meanwhile, the party in the country is dominated by sandal-wearers and nature-cure quacks, who are willing to give the slippery Mr Corbyn the benefit of the doubt in return for the vague promise of a more just society.

This article appeared in the Britain section [Economist] of the print edition under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifist illusion”.


The Diplomacy of Force.

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The Diplomacy of Force (2014).

By Roger Cohen, 19/6/2014, From Opinion Piece In New York Times. 

[Source= https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/cohen-the-diplomacy-of-force.html ]

[ Author Roger Cohen, Posted by Lara Keller 22/1/20 Updated 7/3/20] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

OSLO — If there is one rule of international affairs that the Obama administration has forgotten or never learned, it is that mediated settlements reflect power balances. The principal way such balances are changed is through force.
This is not a popular thing to say in a peacenik moment, when the aversion to the use of military action in the United States is running high after the failure of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as the disasters in Syria and Iraq (now an undifferentiated, jihadi-infested “Syraq theater”) illustrate, plenty of people can die when force is abjured and the place of military action in diplomacy is forgotten.

“I’d say it’s an iron law that mediation reflects power balances,” said David Harland, a specialist in armed conflict resolution who heads the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

I got to know Harland in Bosnia a couple of decades ago. For more than three years, as with Syria today, world leaders threw up their hands while the war festered. Then, through a brief burst of NATO bombing, the power balance between the long-dominant Serbs on one side, and the Bosnian and Croat armies on the other, was changed. That shift laid the foundation for peace.

Dictators from Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia to Bashar al-Assad in Syria don’t sue for peace on a whim. They do so because their options have narrowed. They do so because a kernel of fear has begun to twist in their gut. There was a moment in the Syrian conflict when decisive military aid to the opposition could have changed Assad’s calculation. President Obama mouthed vague promises of arms and allowed Assad to regroup. The Syrian disaster, with its more than 150,000 dead, demonstrates why “Don’t do stupid stuff” does not cut it as a United States foreign policy.

Four years after the Bosnia bombing, a further NATO intervention in Kosovo changed the balance of forces there and led to Milosevic’s fall. Fifteen years later, there has been successful mediation of the long-festering Serbia-Kosovo conflict.

The point, of course, is not to use force for its own sake. War is a terrible thing, as the 100th anniversary next week of the outbreak of World War I reminds everybody. But diplomacy unbacked by any credible threat of force or attempt to change the balance of power is vain.

The converse is also true: Force in the absence of a sustained political and diplomatic strategy leads nowhere. This has been Obama’s failure in Afghanistan, where the United States never invested much capital in a diplomatic solution involving negotiation with the Taliban; and in Iraq, where the president allowed American forces to withdraw without leveraging the massive U.S. investment there into ensuring that the sectarian Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki reached out to the Sunnis and Kurds.

Maliki is a Nixonian figure who sees enemies everywhere, especially among Sunnis. Like Nixon, he was elected democratically. But Obama should never have allowed Maliki to indulge his worst, petulant instincts. Now it is too late. Asking him to be inclusive won’t convince a single Sunni from Mosul to Riyadh. The exercise is as pointless as asking Assad to be a democrat. It smacks of an earnest naïveté. Progress in Iraq and Syria hinges on moving beyond Maliki and Assad.

The past months have constituted a low point in American foreign policy: the rampage by the Sunni fanatics of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria through wide swathes of Iraq; President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and successful trouble-making in eastern Ukraine; Syria’s descent into ever further horror; China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea; the failure of U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Perhaps it is a coincidence that all this has occurred at a moment when the credibility of American power has eroded significantly. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Obama’s retreat from his Syrian red line was a signal moment noted around the world. It was a mistake. Very few people now believe this president is ready to be tough enough when needed.

In his recent West Point commencement speech, Obama said: “U.S. military action cannot be the only, or even primary, component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” This is true. It also missed the point. Force can be, sometimes must be, an essential component of persuasive American diplomacy advancing the national interest.

Obama also said: “The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it: when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.” The advance of the ISIS jihadis in Iraq meets this test; the United States cannot accept a jihadi state within a state closer to Europe and itself than Afghanistan was in 2001.

Will the president back his words with deeds in this instance? He should.

[Roger Cohen]


The original article was then followed by 288 comments. In terms of word count 32 times larger than the article itself. Almost all were critical of Roger Cohen’s argument with a wide representative set of pacifist tropes.


 

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We Need A Real Pro-Citizen Movement.

 

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We Need A Real Pro-Citizen Movement.

[ Posted by Lara Keller 13/1/20 Updated 7/3/20] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

We need a real pro-citizen movement more urgently than ever. To be a citizen means having a guaranteed set of rights and having the power to ensure them. The concept of the citizen is what civilization means. In recent years there have been three highly contentious issues for Western Democracies: climate change, inequality and foreign intervention. The first is the denial of the guaranteed rights of future citizens, the second of current citizens and the third is ignoring the rights of foreign citizens. We are the abandoning the concept of the citizen.

Foreign intervention is pitched as a battle between anti-war progressives and Neo-Imperialist elites. This leads to the absurdity of progressives supporting oppressive regimes, and spreading propaganda whitewashing the atrocities of these regimes. At the same time Western Elites present regimes then want to attack as a risk, while doing nothing to empower their oppressed populations. It makes real sense to create progressive movements that demand foreign policies that empower population under oppressive regimes to be real citizens of what becomes their countries.

Inequality means the rights guaranteed to citizens cannot be in practice be achieved. Business secrecy and unnecessary complexity makes inequality possible. No efficient progressive economic policies are possible with absolute property rights. Information about wealth and income must be public and accessible. Only a country can guarantee the rights of citizens to the benefits of their property, balanced with the rights of the country to share the benefits of this property with its citizens.

Climate change is the theft of the future climate from future citizens. The climate is the shared property of all countries and all generations. Only a world wide organization in which all countries belong can guarantee the access of future citizens to a stable climate. Countries and their citizens must make information about their global heating activities public. They must accept the world has the right to set a world wide limit of the total of these activities. These limits must be shared between countries to provide basic needs, with  a progressive reallocation over time to accommodate economic development.


 

 

 

 

Where Are You? Campaigning For True Peace And The Coming Iranian War.

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Where Are You? Campaigning For True Peace And The Coming Iranian War.

[ Posted by Lara Keller 5/1/2020 Updated 9/1/2020] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[Also See: Good Intervention In Syria And MENA Generally Collection.]

The death of Qasem Soleimani this week may well be a turning point for the clerical dictatorship in Iran. Soleimani (and his Quods force) was responsible for the growing  malign military interference of the Iranian dictatorship in neighbouring countries. He expanded, created and supplied sectarian fundamentalist Shia militias throughout the region, from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq to Yemen; which have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Soleimani and the Quods force have been a major supporter (along with Russia) of Assad’s genocide in Syria. Soleimani was a terrorist warlord whose death was well deserved.

It would be better if Soleimani had been put on trial like any other psychopathic criminal, but in the circumstance he got justice. It was sickening to see UN spokesperson being so concerned about whether the action sanctioned by Trump was legal? The UN has shown little concern about doing anything meaningful about the illegal deaths of his hundreds of thousands of victims. Damn the other hypocrites in the West who claim to be progressive and yet seek to appease the fascistic Iranian regime.

Iran is not a democracy. Like a South American right-wing dictatorship from the 1970s, there are elections but candidates who meaningfully try to represent the interests of ordinary people are vetoed by the clique really in charge. In Iran the clique are an increasingly nepotistic group of high ranking clerics and soldiers. This means there is no public opinion capable of curbing the reckless aggression of the regime. There is no chance of internal reform, because the kleptomaniac families at the center of power, have a powerful security force to endlessly prevent it. The regime is creating long range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, while having close military links with North Korea, and notoriously attempting to develop abundant weapons-grade enriched uranium.

Progressives in the West have to be honest that neither appeasement or diplomacy is  going to halt the aggressive policies of the Iranian Dictatorship. A war with Iran lead by the United States appears to be highly likely.

You could attempt to protest against this, which like Iraq will have little effect. Anti-war rhetoric will not effectively answer the evidence of Iranian Regime’s aggressive warmongering policies or its nuclear  intentions. Appealing to previous exaggeration over Saddam Husein’s capabilities in Iraq is not going to be nearly enough.

A different tack which would really worry the Western elites promoting this war, would be to not allow them to ignore the Iranian People. Campaign for a war directed at the regime not the people. Campaign for a reconstruction policy driven by the non-Shah supporting Iranian opposition. Campaign to demand a clear reconstruction plan that rebuilds physical security;  food, medical and housing security; and local representative government. Taking a bottom up approach to harness community bonds. This approach has a long history, and was applied to European reconstruction after the defeat of Nazism.

The tweet put out by President Trump is concerning, and is a misdirection I hope rather than policy. The approach of a force neutralizing the Iranian Regime must be to ensure the empowerment of the Iranian People. This means protecting Iranian Cultural and Shia Religious sites. This means ensuring protection for Shia minorities in the region, to undermine and replace the power of Iranian backed Shia Fundamentalist Militias. The enemy is the nihilistic fundamentalist “black” Islamist faction of the late Ayatollah Khomeini who stole the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The enemy is the nepotistic clerical elite he spawned. The enemy are the generals at the top of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) whose sole purpose is to protect the corrupted Iranian Dictatorship. The allies are the large non-Shah supporting Iranian Opposition, ordinary Iranian People, and the majority of Shia Muslims dedicated to genuine Islamic values.

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Targets should be confined to the security and property assets of the Iranian Regime.

It is not pacifism or anti-war waffle that is needed, instead it is a realistic progressive commitment to humanity and peace making, recognizing that this involves the controlled use of force when the criminals are in charge of the state.

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