Making the case for war should always be the last resort. An intervention should only be motivated by our duty to save lives.
The world is now interconnected by global social media and corporate media outlets. An atrocity cannot happen that we will not hear about.
The question is do we just stand by and allow it to happen?
For many on the left, post-Iraq War foreign policy is one afraid to answer that question. Humanitarian intervention, even in the case of human atrocity, is ‘bad’ because any Western intervention creates only more chaos and instability.
The solution must merely be a political one, longer and driven by discussion.
Yes, we must search political solutions where they exist. But the left have forged a supposedly leftist position in which one is ‘anti-war’ to the extent of apologising for fascists, tyrants and terrorists – and ideologically opposing any intervention, even when lives could be saved.
In the eyes of the anti-war left, everything that is bad is shaped by the West. According to journalist and Middle-East expert Oz Katerji: “they view the world through a US-centric prism, almost a form of white supremacy.” The other people, often people in the Middle-East, have no agency, as if they are purely influenced by the actions of the West. Even something as small as political support from the West is seen as destabilising.
James Bloodworth sums this up well, saying that the “indulgence of tyranny is invariably where politics takes you if you accept the increasingly fashionable view that the US is the world’s most malevolent power.”
Consider the genocidal actions of Assad in Syria. He is responsible for much of the human carnage, the refugee crisis, the genocide and total destruction of cities. He has starved towns, bombed human infrastructure like schools and hospitals and rained death on civilians.
And yet there is an ‘anti-war’ faction of the left, the likes of the Stop the War Coalition, who believe any potential intervention is unacceptable. That arming rebels fighting Assad’s brutality is wrong because this destabilises the region further. They see ISIS as the greatest threat, not Assad, but are unwilling to do anything to protect the people of the region from either.
They will lament and mourn about the dead Syrian children but do nothing to prevent more.
To them, Hilary Benn’s speech about fighting modern day fascism wasn’t genuine. They equate bombing ISIS or a dictator like Assad as bad as Russia deliberately bombing schools and hospitals. The anti-imperialist Western left would merely dismiss the rebels, many of whom born from the pro-democracy protests that promoted Assad’s brutal response.
Many on the left are unwilling to express with the Syrian rebels the unconditional solidarity that they do with rebels like Hamas or Hebzbollah.
Why is it these leftists do not object to Iran arming Hamas or Hezbollah fighting Israel but they will object if the West arms Syrian rebels fighting for their lives? They see the carnage of Aleppo and blame Hilary Benn.
They refuse to condemn Russian imperialism in Syria, co-partners with Assad in the slaughter of the Syrian people, but will condemn America for arming the FSA.
Green Party baroness Jenny Jones will not accept interventions to help the Syrian people, but is happy to call Assad’s pre-war Syria a “good place to live” – regardless of being a vile and oppressive sectarian dictatorship.
Tolerability is seen through the lens of US imperialism. Saudi Arabia are a bad dictatorship because they’re funded by the Americans, yet Iran is fine enough for Jeremy Corbyn to appear on their state television and receive £20,000 for the pleasure.
Libya was fine enough for the likes of Corbyn and Galloway to support, the latter whom also praised Assad and Saddam Hussein. It’s alright to protest Saudi bombing of Yemen (it is rightly protested) but not a word is said of Russian bombing in Syria.
In short, some dictatorships are detestable and others are acceptable. It depends who the West support.
The shadow of the Iraq War hangs heavily over us. The carnage that occurred of toppling a dictator in a country where there was no public uprising. And that is the problem. Oz Katerji described this as being a basic problem. “Constant comparisons with other places show the left aren’t interested in Middle Eastern geopolitics, why there’s a rebellion, why people rose up.”
Iraq is different to Syria and Libya but many leftists don’t recognise it. Iraq was invaded firstly on a false pretext but in terms of the instability that followed it – there was a power vacuum, no-one ready to replace Saddam Hussein. There had been no public uprising, no organic opposition.
In Syria and Libya it is different – there were public uprisings against dictators, met with brutal force. The need for intervention there changes. Many will merely dismiss Libya as a playground run by Islamists – this is not true. It is not yet stable but had Gadaffi been allowed to remain, it could well have been like Syria today.
Libya has escaped the worst of what Syria has faced, that in itself is because of NATO intervention.
That is not to say interventions are perfect. There is never a perfect choice in war. But when the left chooses to wash its hands of its humanitarian responsibilities under the guise of anti-war moral supremacy, it fails not only its own principles but the people who need it.
In doing so they abandon millions of ordinary, vulnerable people and deprive them of the human rights, that the left claim to base their foreign policy on, to satisfy their own ‘moral’ platitudes. This isn’t what the left is for. We are left because we care about helping the vulnerable. We can’t do that as ideologues, we can only do that by facing reality, and facing the future.