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Tony Blair's Doctrine of International Community
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A friend e-mailed me a link to this 1999 speech given by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Chicago. In it he outlines "The Doctrine of International Community", hammering home the idea that global interdependency is increasing, not decreasing, and that no nation can afford to be isolationist as the world becomes more and more interconnected.

I don't know how widely this speech was linked to in the blogosphere back then...there wasn't much of a blogosphere back then, actually. But I think it's a milestone in international politics. It's especially relevant right now, and will become even moreso in the future.

Some excerpts. First, Blair talks about Kosovo, in conflict with NATO forces at the time:

While we meet here in Chicago this evening, unspeakable things are happening in Europe. Awful crimes that we never thought we would see again have reappeared - ethnic cleansing. systematic rape, mass murder.

I want to speak to you this evening about events in Kosovo. But I want to put these events in a wider context - economic, political and security - because I do not believe Kosovo can be seen in isolation.

This will lead in to his overarching point, that no country's troubles are detached from any other's. But first, he also says this about Kosovo:

No one in the West who has seen what is happening in Kosovo can doubt that NATO’s military action is justified. Bismarck famously said the Balkans were not worth the bones of one Pomeranian Grenadier. Anyone who has seen the tear stained faces of the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming across the border, heard their heart-rending tales of cruelty or contemplated the unknown fates of those left behind, knows that Bismarck was wrong.

Hmm...Bismark's remark sounds incredibly familiar. From Gene Healy: "[T]he 'sovereignty' of Kuwait wasn't worth a single American life." What compassion, Gene!

But Blair makes the point that it's not simply a matter of morality (though that alone would justify intervention in either Kosovo or Iraq).

Twenty years ago we would not have been fighting in Kosovo. We would have turned our backs on it. The fact that we are engaged is the result of a wide range of changes - the end of the Cold War; changing technology; the spread of democracy. But it is bigger than that

I believe the world has changed in a more fundamental way. Globalisation has transformed our economies and our working practices. But globalisation is not just economic. It is also a political and security phenomenon.

Exactly. Now this speech was given before 9/11, and yet it is prescient with regard to the way troubles that seem isolated really are not.

Many of our domestic problems are caused on the other side of the world. Financial instability in Asia destroys jobs in Chicago and in my own constituency in County Durham. Poverty in the Caribbean means more drugs on the streets in Washington and London. Conflict in the Balkans causes more refugees in Germany and here in the US.

And political instability in Afghanistan provided a haven and terrorist operational base and launching ground for radical Islamic terrorists to attack American centers of political and economic power. We ignore the thuggish, theocratic dysfunction of regimes like the Taliban at grave risk. And in the case of 9/11 we paid the price.

Today the impulse towards interdependence is immeasurably greater. We are witnessing the beginnings of a new doctrine of international community. By this I mean the explicit recognition that today more than ever before we are mutually dependent, that national interest is to a significant extent governed by international collaboration and that we need a clear and coherent debate as to the direction this doctrine takes us in each field of international endeavour. Just as within domestic politics, the notion of community - the belief that partnership and co-operation are essential to advance self-interest - is coming into its own; so it needs to find its own international echo. Global financial markets, the global environment, global security and disarmament issues: none of these can he solved without intense international co-operation.

All true. But this doctrine is going to continue to be difficult to implement because many others do not think the same way. If, for example, the international community cannot come to even provisional consensus that Saddam Hussein has delegitimized his own rule and should forcibly be removed from power, then it is unlikely we'll be able to agree on less clear issues.

And oh yes. Blair brought up Saddam Hussein, as long ago as 1999. This issue, as many seem to keep falsibly crowing, did not pop out of thin air.

Many of our problems have been caused by two dangerous and ruthless men - Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. Both have been prepared to wage vicious campaigns against sections of their own community. As a result of these destructive policies both have brought calamity on their own peoples. Instead of enjoying its oil wealth Iraq has been reduced to poverty, with political life stultified through fear.

This again exposes the idiotic assertion that Blair and Bush only became interested in ousting Saddam Hussein recently.

But according to this more interventionist doctrine, wouldn't we be overwhelmed with trying to right every wrong?

The most pressing foreign policy problem we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should get actively involved in other people’s conflicts. Non -interference has long been considered an important principle of international order. And it is not one we would want to jettison too readily. One state should not feel it has the right to change the political system of another or forment subversion or seize pieces of territory to which it feels it should have some claim. But the principle of non-interference must be qualified in important respects. Acts of genocide can never be a purely internal matter. When oppression produces massive flows of refugees which unsettle neighbouring countries then they can properly be described as "threats to international peace and security". When regimes are based on minority rule they lose legitimacy - look at South Africa.

Looking around the world there are many regimes that are undemocratic and engaged in barbarous acts. If we wanted to right every wrong that we see in the modern world then we would do little else than intervene in the affairs of other countries. We would not be able to cope.

He makes a good point, but then goes on to try to set some guidelines as to exactly when internvention would be legitimate:

First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators. Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo. Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers. And finally, do we have national interests involved?

Blair himself notes that these are not perfect guidelines, but they do provide a measure of guidance for determining when action should be taken. Do we know the answers to all of these questions regarding Iraq? Yes, I think so.

And further, I agree completely with Blair's assessment of the growing internationalism and interdependence of the global community. He's right. More should have listened then, and more should listen now.

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