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.
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