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Sanctions and Siege Warfare

December 14th, 2006 by Matt

Helen Clark has announced that the New Zealand government will not be sending troops to Fiji. We will, however, impose economic sanctions, including a reduction of aid.

I agree with Clark about militarily intervention. I believe that a state has the right to wage war only to defend those living with in its boarders from attack. A state’s authority to use coercion to uphold justice is limited to its borders.

Just as a state has no right to prosecute a person for committing a crime committed outside NZ or to make laws regulating peoples behaviour beyond its shores, it has no duty to defend people in other countries.

However, it seems to me that replacing military action with sanctions is questionable. First, sanctions are in fact a type of warfare, a form of siege warfare. Where a person instead of fighting the enemy directly attempts to force a surrender by cutting off supplies and starving the populace into submission. (Not suggesting that Helen intends to see the people of Fiji starve – making a general point about what siege warfare entails.)

Secondly, siege warfare of this type is unjust. In a just war one targets enemy combatants – a military intervention would do this. The NZ army would go in and kill the military who are carrying out the coup and would not deliberately target innocent civilians. Sanctions do not do this. The entire population is deprived of aid and support including women, children, the poor, etc. Sanctions work in the same way terrorism does, one attempts to force a government to change by causing innocent civilians to suffer and essentially blackmailing them into submission.

Also sanctions infringe the rights of New Zealand citizens to freely dispose of their own lawfully acquired property. New Zealanders will be told that they cannot sell to another person because of his race (in this case Fijian race) and because some other person of the same race has behaved unjustly. This is the mentality of the KKK.

Moreover, for a government to tell private sports clubs who they can and cannot play cricket and rugby with is stepping well outside the bounds of its lawful authority.

If one wants to harm and hurt people then hurt those who are guilty, send in the troops. If one cannot justify this then one cannot justify harming innocent third parties by depriving them of aid and support and preventing others freely giving it to them.

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  • “I believe that a state has the right to wage war only to defend those living with in its boarders from attack. A state’s authority to use coercion to uphold justice is limited to its borders.”

    So Australia could have its own little holocaust against their Aboriginal population (hypothetically of course) and you would be against another state using force to stop it? We should just try to reason with the Australian government?

  • Richard, thats an interesting point I have often wrestled with from time to time. I am inclined to think there is an issue of legitimate authority here. Suppose I commit a crime in France, the NZ government cannot prosecute me for it, they can only extridate me to france. Similarly if a child misbehaves I can report it the parent but I can’t ground the child, or if a member of another church is a serial unrpentant adulterer and wife beater the edlers of my church can’t excommunicate him and so on.

    These examples suggest that to function of enforcing justice is limited to the geographical area over which you have authority.

    I do wonder however wether, there mights be some exception clause in situations like the one you mention but I am not entirely sure.

  • What theorist do you base your opinion here on?

    I think you have to remember that the boundaries of a state are fairly flimsy things, they are not set in stone-they do not have either devine commandment or natural origins. Humans have made them, they have changed over time and will continue to do so in the future. It is my belief that our duties/responsibilities to our fellow human beings is should not be restricted by arbitory lines on a map.

  • Richard

    What I am talking about is the standard legitimate authority requirement for waging a just war.

    I agree with you that our duties to other humans are not limited by a map, however the authority of a government is, and the authority of a government is constiuted in part by certain rights and obligations which the government has in virtue of its office this has moral implications.

    Take my example, the NZ government prosecuting an american citizen for activities done solely in the US which are contrary to NZ law this would clearly be illegitimate even if content of the NZ law was just.

    I agree that the boundaries of states are somewhat arbitrary, however this does not negate the point. In the case I mention above the fact that the boundaries are arbitrary does not entail that the NZ government we can legislate for Texas.

  • Along these lines do you have any thoughts on the kidnapp, arrest, trial and execution of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann by Israel in the 1960s? He committed his crimes in Germany, was arrested in Argentina and went on trial in Israel, so could be a rather interesting example to ponder over.

  • Richard, I think Eichman got what he deserved, however there are moral problems you highlighted, the crimes were commited in Germany and he was tried in Isreal, moreover the nation Isreal did not exist at the time of the offence.