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    mental bulimia..., 2008-08-16 15:46:54 | Main | it'll all have to go..., 2008-08-18 10:26:04

    spare me the humanity:

    Jad Mouawad, NYT, August 13th, providing a clear eyed view of the interests at stake:

    American policy makers hoped that diverting oil around Russia would keep the country from reasserting control over Central Asia and its enormous oil and gas wealth and would provide a safer alternative to Moscows control over export routes that it had inherited from Soviet days.

    Princeton professor Gary Bass, the NYT, two days later, clouding my eyes up with tears:

    In 1995, after three and a half years of killing, an American-led NATO bombing campaign helped stop Karadzics atrocities and turned the Bosnian Serb leader into a fugitive. But do the humanitarian interventions typified by Americas interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo have a future?

    Now, you can take your pick - whether you believe Clinton and Putin were intent on preventing genocide, like they claim, or whether their intentions reflected some more stately interest - but the objective reader might note a similar interest in "diverting oil around Russia" in the Balkans.

    Bass looks to the history of humanitarian intervention, and unsurprisingly finds it everywhere. He decides to land upon the British role in the Battle of Navarino as a "spectacular" instance of a nation intervening against its own interests for humanitarian purposes:

    When Greek nationalists rose up against Ottoman rule in 1821, much of the British public rallied to their cause, galvanized by press reports of Ottoman atrocities. This was supremely inconvenient for the British government, which had a clear imperial interest in supporting the Ottoman Empire as a bulwark against Russian expansion. But the London Greek Committee lobbied the government, sent money and weapons to the Greeks and dispatched men, including Lord Byron, then probably the most famous poet in Europe, to Greece to fight. Byron died of fever there. (Imagine Bono fighting in Darfur today.) Finally, in 1827, the British Navy, alongside French and Russian ships, sank much of the Ottoman Navy in Greece helping to secure the creation of todays independent Greece.

    An intriguing example! I note that the British Navy had been ordered to avoid hostilities - Britain only agreed to go in, after five years of successful stalling, on a bid to restrain the new Russian Tzar's unilateralist tendencies - and that sinking the Ottoman Navy, and thus winning Greece its independence, was rather an accident. The Admiral, as a reward for this humanitarian gesture of either disobeying orders or defending his fleet, was summarily relieved of his command and recalled to London for a solid dressing down, while the Foreign Office went about patching things up with the Ottomans and installing some Bavarian Prince into the otherwise empty throne of the Greek republic, and so, terminating the independence all those 19th century British Bonos had died fighting for.

    Bass continues:

    Humanitarian intervention, in other words, is not the property of the United States or the generation of liberal hawks who championed Balkan interventions in the 1990s. For better or worse, it is best understood as an idea thats common to the big democracies on both sides of the Atlantic.

    And, he might have added, common to other notable products of Western civilization. If only Neville Chamberlain had established a stricter system of international intellectual property rights, so much mid-century calamity could have been avoided.


:: posted by buermann @ 2008-08-17 02:17:02 CST | link





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