Monday, September 03, 2007

Oh, lonesome me

Conor Foley is feeling lonely in his political space over on Comment is Free. After reading it, I am not really surprised. There are many odd propositions in there, for instance I hate the idea that left social policy is based on 'liberal compassion' rather than hard-won rights, but this is really curious:

The main division on the left over foreign policy 25 years ago was between multilateralists, who favoured peace through a system of collective security and a strengthening of multilateral institutions, and unilateralists, who argued that Britain should act as a vanguard example. However, since the invasion of Iraq was a clear violation of international law, its supporters now argue that the existing legal system should be scrapped, or dramatically altered, and that multilateral institutions, such as the UN, should be sidelined from the debate about when resort to armed force is justified.

He starts with debates within the left over nuclear deterrence and then morphs seamlessly into a topic that has nothing to do with it, Iraq. Leaving aside the continuing debate over the legality of the war, this non-sequitor is a total misrepresentation. If the war was illegal, then those supporting it would argue that the law is inadequate to handle humanitarian intervention. The clear implication is that international law should be reformed and strengthened, not scrapped.

In the comments thread on another CIF piece by Sunny Hundal he elaborates,

The Euston Manifesto also calls for an overhaul of the entire international legal system to make it easier for states to attack one another.

This is what the Euston Manifesto actually says,

We stand for an internationalist politics and the reform of international law—in the interests of global democratization and global development. Humanitarian intervention, when necessary, is not a matter of disregarding sovereignty, but of lodging this properly within the "common life" of all peoples. If in some minimal sense a state protects the common life of its people (if it does not torture, murder and slaughter its own civilians, and meets their most basic needs of life), then its sovereignty is to be respected. But if the state itself violates this common life in appalling ways, its claim to sovereignty is forfeited and there is a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue. Once a threshold of inhumanity has been crossed, there is a "responsibility to protect".

In other words the Manifesto is calling for a limit to state sovereignty based on a clear definition of human rights. Calling for collective action to protect individuals from torture and murder is hardly scrapping the existing legal system and sidelining multilateral institutions, let alone making it easier for states to attack each other. It is the creation of international law that puts the rights of the citizen ahead of the rights of the State. How can anyone on the left object to that?

Thanks to Will for pointing out the post and the comment in his own unique style

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