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Internationalism is Dead: Boneparte’s Descendants

March 24th, 2011 by John Tertullian

OK, so we thought that you would want to hear it here first. Internationalism–the idea that nation states are subject to a higher “sovereignty”– is dead. The corpse is rotting. The Libyan “adventure”, called for by the UN, is growing madder than a March Hare. All the problems and faults of internationalism are now clearly displayed. We hear Joan Baez in the background, intoning “when will they ever learn?” Not in a hurry would be our bet.

Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi

Though internationalism may be dead, the foolishness that is bound up in the heart of unconverted man is likely to keep flogging that particular equine corpse for decades to come.

Consider the mess that the internationalists are now in. The UN has passed a resolution directing that a no-fly zone be established in Libya. The internationalist community has spoken. Man, the universal overlord of the globe, has determined that what was happening in Libya ought not to be; some kind of nebulous higher ethic was appealed to which mean that “humanity” or “the international community” had to step up and into Libya to sort things out.

The echoes in the UN Security Council chamber had not died away before they were drowned by arguments between those who voted over what the meaning and application of the resolution. This from Al Jazeera:

International criticism of the coalition enforcing the no-fly zone has continued to grow, with India joining China in publicly calling for an end to the airstrikes. Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said on Tuesday that the government opposed “the wanton use of armed force leading to more civilian casualties and more humanitarian disasters”. China had already called for a ceasefire.

S M Krishna, the Indian foreign minister, called for a “cessation of armed conflict”. His office had previously issued a statement on Monday expressing “regret” for the military intervention. Pranab Mukherjee, the country’s foreign minister, said in a speech to parliament that “no external powers” should interfere in Libya. “Nobody, not a couple of countries, can take that decision to change a particular regime,” he said

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Brits cannot even agree amongst themselves as to what the resolution means: can they take Gaddafi out or not? Some say yes; others nay-say. Neither can the French agree amongst themselves. Does the resolution mean that Gaddafi can legitimately stay in power. Yes. No. Maybe. All of the above. Meanwhile, Turkey a member of NATO has announced that it will not allow its airspace to be used in enforcing the no-fly zone, if it goes beyond the UN resolution–whatever it might mean, and no-one knows.

The announcement came after Turkey, a member of the NATO, warned on Tuesday that it could not agree to the military alliance taking over the enforcement of the no-fly zone if their mission went “outside the framework” of the UN decision.

Meanwhile in the US, President Obama, a committed internationalist, appeared deeply reluctant to get involved. But when the UN Security Council resolved, he had no choice. How could the Internationalist-in-Chief not support internationalism? Suddenly the humanitarian disaster was a siren summoning all good men to come to the aid of the rebels. He committed the US, but forgot to seek the approval of Congress. Internationalism overrides one’s national constitution, don’t you know. Now he is being hammered by both the left and the right in the US for his hasty oversight or arrogance–take your pick.

No-one knows what the “end-game” is. Regime change, or not? And the more the internationalist community pontificates upon the illegitimacy of the Gaddafi regime as a justification for his removal, the argument proves way too much. A list of equally pernicious regimes is published, with the damning interrogative: “well, if Gaddafi, what about these tyrants”? The deafening silence or the attempt to distinguish between cases on the list are so blatantly self-servingly tortuous that sceptics conclude that it must not about moral principles at all–it must be something else, like oil.

We are told that there are twelve tribes in Libya and tribalism is very strong. Like the Balkans, brute force alone can maintain an artificial unity. If Libya stays as a single nation it will only be because of an authoritarian government keeping tribal divisions suppressed by force. And in that case, why not Gaddafi? One tyrant is as good as another. Appeals to human rights by the internationalist community are fatuous at best, incoherent at worst.

Internationalism is rotting corpse; we in the West are just olfactorily dense and so are very, very slow learners. There is no such thing as abstract universal, international human rights. It is a pretentious fiction developed out of the French revolution, which in turn issued from Enlightenment gall. Human rights can only be spoken of meaningfully and helpfully if they are understood to be granted by the Living God, as Creator to His creatures. Attempts to abstract human rights out of this explicit covenantal Creator-creature nexus become bloody and destructive and hopelessly confused and compromised.

Human rights cannot hang suspended in mid-air. To be a blessing to man they have to be grounded in the truths revealed by the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Creator, and they must be understood to be a gift to man, His creature, within the frame of His covenant. If not, then notions of universal human rights rapidly devolve into some (stronger) nations shedding blood in other (weaker) nations. Napoleon Boneparte was a bloody revolutionary. His armies marched throughout Europe and the Near East. But it was OK. It was all for the establishment of liberty, equality and fraternity of Mankind. So the blood was well worth shedding, non?

Obama, Bush, Cameron, Sarkozy, and all the other internationalists, stand “together” at the UN in the name of universal human rights. They are little more than pretentious Corsicans, madder than the March Hare, pirouetting on a thousand contradictions, inconsistencies, and confusions. What did that resolution mean again? Whatever you want it to mean, my dear, whatever you want.

Cross posted at: Contra Celsum

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13 responses so far ↓

  • There are areas where John has some expertise. Then there area areas when Johns expertise can be called into question. This area would be one of the latter.

    The only missing item would appear to be the overtly end of days Christian aspect, so perhaps John needs to revise his article.

  • At least, there is intervention happening in parts where governments are oppressing their own citizens demands of a democracy. God can’t even step in and stop the atrocities from being committed to his believers by non-believers.

    Suffice to say, John’s point is correct, there’s a double standard. Western nations would be willing to send troops to help people crying out for democracy, but they tend to ignore or pay lip service to people being persecuted for their beliefs. It really reeks of democratic tribalism and does a disservice to their own egalitarian creed of human dignity for all.

  • Right on. That America and other countries think they can impose themselves on another country is barbarism and akin to the warfare of ancient days.

    That Obama attempted to do this with complete contempt for the Constitution proves that he is a puppet and having his strings pulled. This is such a disaster on so many fronts.

    Have you seen the video of Biden being interviewed during the Bush administration and calling for Bush to be impeached for the same exact thing Obama is doing now? It’s causing quite a stir; youtube turned off the counter to the video!

  • JT I think most of us have figured out you are generally anti Obama. What I would like to know is what you would have done in the same situation. Instead of tearing down why can’t you provide your solution for once.

  • Just in regards to:
    “There is no such thing as abstract universal, international human rights.”

    Does this mean you don’t believe in the existence of natural law altogether? – or were you being sarcastic or something…
    what about the inherent dignity of the human person – do you believe this to be made up as well?

  • “what about the inherent dignity of the human person – do you believe this to be made up as well?”

    Dignity for all really means dignity for some. Majority of the irreligious would either blame-the-vicitm or won’t care if christian prosyletzers get killed in Islamic countries, or they wouldn’t go out of their way to help causes that are under the radar. Case in point, there was a terrorist attack committed by the secular LTTE against the government in Sri Lanka that happened a 2-3 years ago. Most Tamil Canadians took to the streets to protest human rights atrocities to the Canadian government, because they felt that no one was listening to what they were saying.

    There’s truth to that. The average canadian cares more about hockey and getting to work on time than issues not on the media spotlight or related to the cause of the year. Suffice to say, even Christians suffer from “if I don’t relate with this problem, i’m not going to bother mentality”. Its really the inherent selfishness and cliquishness of human nature that’s really to blame and perhaps the reason why “universal human rights and dignity” is pliable and weak. Pliable meaning strong nations would use this as an excuse to take over countries congruent with their national interest and then suspend it in all other cases.

  • but no one stands up for human rights universal international or otherwise.
    where are the western armies protecting Zimbabweans from Robert Mugabe? or the Irian Jayans from the Indonesians in East Timor?
    Its in the West’s self interest to “free” Libya, got nothing to do with democracy or rights.

  • Matt, I invite you to join the modern world or go back to the Middle Ages, which is apparently where you came from. If you think that the international community and the UN will abandon over 200yrs of secularism and fall back on the notion that human rights are a ‘gift’ by Yahweh, you are sorrily mistaken.
    It seems that only theistic philosophers can be so confused as to think that “human rights can only be spoken of meaningfully and helpfully if they are understood to be granted by the Living God”. As S.Wienberg once wrote: “One has to be very learned to be so wrong”.
    Your Living God has been Dead for some time now anyway (at least in the West), and it seems no ammount of resuscitations on the part of theists like yourself can change that fact

  • JT I used to read your blog but it’s clear you don’t like humanity much. I agree that human nature is deeply flawed but even those who do not share a Christian revelation are capable of making moral choices. Deciding to bomb a sovereign country is not something embarked upon lightly. This time the US went to great pains (some say too slowly) to make sure they had a solid alliance.

    War is a terrible thing but some things are worse, ie. genocidal tyrants who hold the world oil supply to ransom, blow up civilian aircraft, murder their own citizens, and subject UN delegates to 90 minute speeches.

  • Age of Reason, I am always intrigued how some people who overtly tie there identity to reason and the enlightenment so little understanding of either.

    First, you’ll note the post above was from JT not me, its good to read an article before you criticise it.

    Second, the notion that “rights” are a gift, from God does not go back to the “middle ages” while its true that one can find the beginnings of the concept of natural human lights in middle ages natural law theory. But this was predominately based on Aristotelian ideas. The emphasis on natural rights grounded in God, was in fact proposed during the enlightenment. John Locke for example and Sameul Pufendorf both appealed to God and his will to ground human rights. Locke in fact stated people were born evil because they were created by God. The American declaration of independence appealed to them being endowed by God, in 1776. The French declaration of the rights of man in 1789 proclaimed the rights of man “under the auspices of the Supreme Being”. Moreover the leading moral philosopher of the enlightenment Immaneul Kant, claimed God was a necessary assumption of morality. The other leading moral theorist of the time Bentham, considered human rights to be nonsense of stilts.
    Third, you suggestion that only “theistic philosophers” are confused as to think the idea of rights can be based in God also seems off. After Richard Rorty himself suggested this. Jeremy Bentham considered rights to be “nonsense on stilts” similarly A J Ayer considered claims about rights to be meaningless under his verficationist principle. J L Mackie one of the leading atheist philosophers of the 20thc century argued that in a secular or purely naturalistic world all moral claims are false, being both ontologically and epistemologically queer.
    I don’t what the 200 year tradition of secularism you are talking about, as I noted the many of the great natural rights theories of the 17 century were theistic. The 18th and 19th centuries saw scepticism about rights through Burke, Bentham, Mill and Marx. The UN’s charter is only a few decades old and it ground rights in the fact that it appears to ground the idea that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity” in the claim that “They are endowed with reason and conscience” does not display confidence, given its patently false that all human beings have reason and conscience, new born infants do not, reason and conscience is aquired by human beings after a requisite level of maturity. And the claim that the “international community” embrace secularism and have done for 200 years is obviously false. Unless of course you exclude most of the Islamic world from the “international community” and probably most countries outside of Europe.

    As to your last comment, I applaud your honesty, you have stated that no argument can ever be successful to convince you that God is not dead, in other words you are not commited to reason at all but are dogmatically close mined on this topic. Which is why all you can do is appeal to fashion and cite cliché,s . Good like with being a protagonist of the age of reason.

  • Matt,

    I’m curious, is there anything from scripture or christian philosophy that says people can rebel against a corrupt and unjust government? Based on Paul’s letter to the Romans with his explanation of the drawn sword of authority to punish the wrong doer and be submissive to the elect powers of God. Would you say he was advocating blind obedience to any form of government just or unjust as long as such a gov’t does not intrude on God’s jurisprudence?

    Also, I think Wolterstorff has a point that social rights and justice can be linked to the Prophets and Wisdom exhortations to protect the vulnerable and to avoid perjury and judicial bias. But there seems to be a disconnect to how God expects people to treat people and God’s own sovereignty. He has this arbitrariness aspect that even some prophets like Habakkuk and Job find discomforting such as sending evil-doers to punish his people, being the source of human injustice and of natural calamities. Even paul said that Yahweh is no respecter of persons, how can God then be a perfect example if he seems to act like an evil puppet master?

  • How about no rights, but rather responsibilities.

    “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”
    “Love thy neighbour as thy self”

  • Nice rebuttal addressed to “Age of Reason” Matt !

    I wonder where this conversation would have headed if the various nations had sat on their hands and let Gaddafi slaughter his fellow countrymen and women.

    And just to make it more emotionally shocking, let’s say that it was also caught on camera and plastered all over the internet and TV for all to see.