Sunday, December 07, 2008

Clothes for Chaps kicks the living shit out of a strawman in the way only he can

Take that, you strawy bastard! Apparently the ruling ideology of Bashir's Sudan, Mugabe's Zimbabwe and Myanmar/Burma is "anti-imperialism". The British Army totally stopped the civil war in Sierra Leone, despite the best efforts of that shadowy group "some people". The reason that "some people" don't like wars is that they're all feeling guilty about the Empire.

Which isn't to say that Andrew Anthony's in favour of wars, oh no. Only in specific situations and places, like the country of "maybe Rwanda". It takes a pretty stunning gift of ignorance to write an entire column about the fucking Mau Mau, and specifically the influence of the British repression in Kenya on global leftwing politics, without using the phrase "Mau Mauing" or referring to Tom Wolfe's article, but C4C manages it.

It's only when Nick Cohen takes a holiday that one realises how easy he makes it look - I am still sure that churning out 500 words of Decent horseshit a week is not rocket science, but it's clearly a task beyond the abilities of Andrew Anthony.

48 Comments:

Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Curses! Beat me to it. Kudos to Emmanuel Goldstein in the comments. I'd like to note this:

What matters in the first instance is that a light has been shone on the brutal nature of colonialism - in this case British colonialism - and no one should attempt to conceal or dress up what took place.

The bibliography on the Wikipedia page on the Mau Mau uprising lists 11 books published between 1958 and 2005. All Clothes for Chaps can possibly mean by 'a light has been shone' is "I didn't know about this: why wasn't this dinned into me at school? am I expected to read books and newspapers now?"

Colonialism is brutal is hardly news. And I think he made the "speculation that what happened to Obama's grandfather will negatively affect the 'special relationship' between the US and Britain" up. The special relationship is cooler now because Brown is a less ardent transatlanticist than Blair. It will probably cool further when Obama takes office because we supported the Iraq fiasco. America needs better friends.

12/07/2008 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Slightly OT, but the New Statesman had an interesting piece on reports that Obama had apparently called David Cameron a 'lightweight' after their meeting in July.

It's interesting for Decentologists because it looks as if Cameron thought that Obama would be impressed by the Decent hard-sell (rightist variant), including commitments to unquestioning pro-Americanism and attacks on decadent Europeans, but Obama didn't take to it at all.

Perhaps quite instructive as to the type of relationship Obama will be hoping to develop with the UK - that is, one of something other than unquestioning subservience on our part.

12/07/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Ooops, Believing-Your-Own-Propaganda warning...

...one of the reasons it's essential to take stock of the violence that was committed by the imperialists is that similar atrocities are being committed today in the name of anti-imperialism.

Now, I'm a bit slow and don't keep up with events much, but surely Al Qaeda, for example, are pretty blunt about their motivations - their propaganda is all crazy religion, "clash of civilisations" and Wouldn't It Be Nice If We Had a Shiny New Caliphate.

There are plenty of people in the west with a lot to say about anti-imperialism, but in my experience they tend to spend far more time typing dull blog posts than they do waging genocidal aggression upon the Not-Yet-Murdered.*

Do let me know if I'm being daft here.

*copyright, Professor Norm, 2008

12/07/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous William Burns said...

Actually, Chardonnay Chap, so far it looks like hostility to people who supported the Iraq fiasco is not going to be a characteristic of the Obama administration.

12/07/2008 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Actually my opinion, FWIW and I'm not setting out to be a deliberate contrarian here, is that today's article was one of AA's more defensible pieces.

I think he makes a series of pretty reasonable points.

British colonialism was/is terrible.

Its history is largely unknown amongst the general public because it is not taught in schools and this should be changed.

Tyrants use anti-imperialism as a PR tool and some Western 'anti-imperialists' are pretty myopic about some instances of humanitarian suffering.

Ah I hear you shout 'But isn't this just the standard rhetorical positioning and/or soap-soaping for the Decent policy on interventions?'

But he is fairly clear that such criticisms shouldn't be taken as implying that he thinks interventions are desirable except in the most dire circumstances:

None of which amounts to a charter for post-colonial interventions. The occasions on which outside force alleviates more suffering than it causes are rare, though not non-existent, and it should only be undertaken in the most extreme circumstances (perhaps Rwanda fits the bill).

12/07/2008 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Tyrants use anti-imperialism as a PR tool and some Western 'anti-imperialists' are pretty myopic about some instances of humanitarian suffering.

Hmm, it'd probably make me look less of a tit if I noted that I am aware that your Mugabes etc. do use anti-imperialism as PR to cover their appalling actions. I didn't really think it worth mentioning though, since pretty much everyone in the UK, for example, recognises this as PR to cover their appalling actions and disregards it.

No doubt there are some jokers somewhere defending Mugabe and others of his ilk on anti-imperialist grounds, but as I've noted elsewhere (Kerching!), this kind of Oh why must the dreadful white guilt-riddled liberals defend Robert Mugabe/say nice things about the Janjaweed argument tends to fall apart when it becomes clear that said liberals usually amount to Some Guy With a Website.

12/07/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Fair point Rodent we are talking about a relatively small number of individuals who hold these strange views. And of course one of the more disreputable debating tactics of Decentism is to generalise from the wingnut few to the broader liberal-left.

However although I am utterly opposed to imperialism and I have a lot of respect for much of what Karl Marx wrote I shy away from describing myself as an 'anti-imperialist' or 'Marxist'. Partly its because some (but by no means all!) of the people I know who adopt these labels have a tendency to substitute slogans for deeper contemplation of what are sometimes fiendishly complicated moral issues. Its also because if you tend think about issues though a particular fairly narrow conceptual prism (Decentism is particularly bad on this score) there is a danger you will box yourself in intellectually. You will also be unable to see that sometimes the world moves on and what was applicable yesterday may be less useful today.

12/07/2008 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

It's of course the usual Decentist trick of excluded middles, but let's also mention that much of the anti-imperialistic propaganda of a Mugabe is not aimed at us, but at the Zimbabwian people for whom imperialism is largely still a living memory.

12/08/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

much of the anti-imperialistic propaganda of a Mugabe is not aimed at us, but at the Zimbabwian people for whom imperialism is largely still a living memory

I was goign to say much the same thing. Mugabe as an anti-imperialist is still a fairly credible image over there.

What's worst about C4C is that he genuinely considers himself an intellectual heavyweight, but his writing is symptomatic of the broadsheet hack of all trades he really is (witness his recent scattergun pieces - on how Spurs fans are longsuffering, a review of a book on linguistics he didn't understand, and a boring TV review this week).

The article makes no sense - at root it's another recourse to his deeply unsatisfactory idea that liberals are all stewing in their own guilt. But he doesn't seem to have ever decided what being 'anti-imperialist' actually is. He says:

anti-imperialism is little more than an excuse for tyrants to visit misery and terror on their own populations, every bit as bad as - and sometimes worse than - that handed out by the colonial powers.

It's a bit more complicated than that, isn't it? Mugabe isn't popular among some sections in Zimbabwe purely on the basis that he pays lip service to anti-imperialism.

The notion, for example, that the depraved violence inflicted on Liberia by Charles Taylor up to 2003 is in some way more palatable than that endured by Kenyans

et voila, we have our straw man. Wouldn't be an AA column without one...

Apart from anything else, to be anti-imperialist must mean that one is opposed to the sorts of inhumanity suffered by the Hussein Onyangos of this world.

well - maybe. Anti-imperialism might be, at root, about being anti-cruelty, but it's an opposition to a very specific kind of cruelty isn't it? To oppose one and not the other (though i'm not sure who actually does this) might look hypocritical, but it's a position that needs to be understood to be dealt with instead of denounced and rubbished. There's a very good reason why a British intervention in Zimbabwe is one of the worst ideas imaginable.

The thing about this article is that it pulls almost all its punches. AA clearly wants to berate some imaginary liberal strawman for loving Mugagbe because of guilt, or some such, but he can't quite bring himself to do it. It looks at times like an apologia for intervention but again he backs off from that with the utterly useless 'maybe Rwanda'.

This is the problem with AA. He is clearly impressed by strident, unequivocal writing, but he's inept at it because he doesn't really have the necessary convictions, aside from REALLY HATING Chomsky. So when they occasionally let him loose on serious subjects, what we're left with are some pieces which are at least impressive in their wrongheadedness and Decent militancy; and pieces like this which he's clearly spent less time on, which read like a series of backtracks from hardline Decent positions. I think he writes the latter pieces to make himself look liek a nuanced thinker - but instead he just looks like he can't make up his mind.

12/08/2008 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Mugabe isn't popular among some sections in Zimbabwe purely on the basis that he pays lip service to anti-imperialism

Quite, and it's worth remembering that still, even after everything, these "some sections" amount to around forty per cent of the population according to credible MDC polling. Granted, as Saint George knew, "do you want Jones back?" is a powerful rhetorical device, but Mugabe's main attraction to his voters is land reform.

Of course, the process of separating white Zimbabwean farmers from their land and giving it to black Zimbabweans is the big issue of "anti-imperialism" and it's rather ignored here, but that's perhaps for another post.

12/08/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

at the Zimbabwean people for whom imperialism is largely still a living memory

Probably not, statistically, if we take it as having ended in 1980, though of course your point is taken.

12/08/2008 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

There's a long article about this in the LRB last week, don't know whether it's any good.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n23/mamd01_.html

12/08/2008 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Well Andrew Anthony wouldn't be seen dead reading that 'arts council funded inksheet'... The article is balanced and neutral but ultimately a bit 'so what' - it's a good overview of the history and present situation, as far as i can tell, but offers little sense of a way out of the problems.

The 40% support thing is a problem for people like AA. it's easy for Decents to dismiss British straw men for their kneejerk anti-imperialism, since it looks a bit outdated, a lot of British people like to pretend that imperialism ended in roughly 1900 and most Decents and their peers are in their 40s or 50s and were thus educated in what could roughly be termed a postcolonial education system.

We can all admit that imperialism was bad. But it's still a very raw wound in an awful lot of places in the world, regardless of how long ago it might have been and how 'stupid' that might look to some people. Equally, no amount of Niall Ferguson books will convince Africans that Britain had their best interests at heart. It's easy to mock Mugabe for blaming everything that goes wrong in Zimbabwe on the Queen. But people - not all of them stupid - do still support Mugabe based on his past actions which they saw, and ocntinue to see, as liberation.

12/08/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

the New Statesman had an interesting piece on reports that Obama had apparently called David Cameron a 'lightweight' after their meeting in July.

gods, can you imagine what Bush would have made of him? Churchill Churchill Churchill.

12/08/2008 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Equally, no amount of Niall Ferguson books will convince Africans that Britain had their best interests at heart.

LOL. It's one of the unfortunate tendencies of Decents (but not exclusively Decents) that they live in their bubble world, take themselves too seriously, and don't think enough about the opinions of those they seek to defend.

12/08/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I notice the Times, in this instance AKA Oliver Kamm (but might it be Aaro?), has called for an invasion of Zimbabwe, with British troops if need be.

12/08/2008 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

God, that's quite extraordinary. The middle of a cholera epidemic - a great time for chucking all aid workers out of a country. And with the MDC negotiations making slow progress and Mugabe beginning to lose the support of the army. The anonymous Times leader-writer appears to be prepared to sacrifice anything at all, no matter what the cost in Zimbabwean lives, to ensure that there isn't a successful peaceful settlement.

Bonus points for the pious invocation of "Fantasy Rwandaland", and the endorsement of Desmond Tutu and John Sentamu, who only pedant would say a) didn't actually endorse military intervention and b) are not actually Zimbabwean. But they're "good men", apaprently, presumably unlike those feckless, 'anti-imperialist' hippy peaceniks in the MDC and their stupid pre-9/11 mentality. Gahhhhhhhhhhhh

12/08/2008 07:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

For some reason the Times have already put up tomorrow's leaders, including something called Let's you and him fight (or possibly "Zimbabwe: The next steps").

Reading this, I felt a definite pang of nostalgia for diplomatic doublespeak and pious handwringing - for insincere disclaimers ("while of course no one would wish...") and passive-aggressive not-quite-endorsements ("few tears would be shed if..."). Of course, this kind of position would be the diplomatic equivalent of a bouncing cheque, but in diplomacy that's a feature, not a bug.

Decency places a lot of emphasis on sincerity, and on governments sincerely wanting to remake the world - but governments can't; they don't have the resources, or the time for that matter.

12/08/2008 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

At least that's talking about sanctions rather than invasion (although I am pretty sure that the MDC is not actually asking for an oil blockade). Alan Mendoza was just on Radio 4, giving it with the "we must intervene ... a short sharp shock would allow Zimbabwe to get back on track ... removing this monster would mean we could quickly restructure this country ... South Africa won't do anything ... Iraq was quite different (he actually said this)".

"Of course we mustn't rush into things and must have a plan" is apparently the new Decent throat-clearing noise to make at the start of these loopy rants. Half of me wants to take the high road and hold off until they have been given a chance to genuinely put their invasion on hold pending a plan. And the other half of me wants to coin a phrase like "Mendozacious crap" to describe it. Since I am still shuddering at Norman Geras' arch coinage of "mbunderstand", for the time being the better angels of my nature are in charge.

12/08/2008 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I've asked him whether he believes the UK should intervene unilaterally if the African Union doesn't agree. It seems to me -with an appropriate increase in taxes and call ups - we could just about do it, or at least make some weak bombing runs. But if that is all it will take...

12/08/2008 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Aaro's Tuesday column is up. (Conservatives (capital 'c' including Michael Gove) and capital 'l' capital 'd' Lib Dems are wrong about education. I'm largely sympathetic, but I don't think he's convincing anyone.)

And that Times leader:

It should start with South Africa. Years have been wasted by the former President Mbeki's pusillanimous diplomacy and refusal to condemn the tyrant across the border.
...
There is something shameful in the contrast between Kenya's calls for Mr Mugabe's overthrow and South Africa's reluctance still to turn its back on the old dictator.


Kenya has no borders with Zimbabwe; Tanzania is in the way, and you'd have to go through Zambia or Mozambique as well. However, Kenya does have borders with Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, all of which are in trouble.

Somalia a nation in ruins, says rights group: NAIROBI, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Somalia is a shattered nation, the most dangerous place on earth for aid workers and the scene of horrific abuses by combatants on all sides of the conflict, a U.S.-based human rights group said on Monday.

The Somali government is based in Nairobi (god, African politics is hard). Somali MPs at the Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi where they discussed when they would return home. ... fellow African Union member states have let Ethiopia down by their reluctance to send their troops to Somalia to bolster the war against the extremists. The AU has only 2,600 troops in Somalia of the recommended 8,000.

Does anyone think they're going to find an army to take on Mugabe?

The Times doesn't have any proposals regarding who they're going to replace Mugabe with. And while I agree that he's a nasty bastard, his supporters seem to be well placed to form an insurgency. But we've been here before.

12/08/2008 10:40:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

If you think AA's piece is bad you should read Hitchens's latest. The Hitch has already made up his mind about Mumbai- no need, of course, to do any real digging or fact checking?

He also makes a series of fairly dubious statements, including the contention that the Lebanese Communist George Hawi was murdered by the Syrians. Hawi's son incidentally is sure he was murdered by the Israelis and Hawi's website features him posing with Hassan Nasrallah as well as a lot of anti-Israel material. But who cares about the facts if you can place an enemy in the frame?

He also suggests that Hezbollah may have access to nuclear material. Truly barmy stuff. Hic!

12/09/2008 01:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long before the decents recognise that their arch-enemies, the SWP, support Mugabe _so much_ that one of their Pomintern comrades was elected on an MDC ticket? My money's on 'never'.

Chris Williams

12/09/2008 01:39:00 AM  
Anonymous fallhammer said...

Mendoza's vision of a future government of Zimbabwe, after the magical intervention and the "short sharp shock" (like the last five-1/2 years in Iraq?), seems to be a coalition of the MDC and a de-Mugabized Zanu PF. Cue calls for a decapitation strategy.

Also, "Nobody would seriously argue we should not have gone into Kosovo". Shurely "nobody whose opinion I give a toss about"?

12/09/2008 04:17:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Mendoza's vision of a future government of Zimbabwe, after the magical intervention and the "short sharp shock" (like the last five-1/2 years in Iraq?), seems to be a coalition of the MDC and a de-Mugabized Zanu PF

yes, it's tantalisingly like the government of national unity that they are actually negotiating over, except with a war. Mendoza and his wars are like Jools Holland and his fucking boogie-woogie piano; he just can't seem to shake the belief that nearly everything would be improved by a bit of war.

12/09/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Frankly, what is there in Zimbabwe now to sanction? A couple of years ago that would have been "more than you think", but now - the state actually consists of Government House and not much else.

12/09/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what is the Aaro Watch (I'Wod) consensus on the proper Foreign Policy response to the political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe?

I mean it's all well and good to mock Andrew Anthony and "Decents" in general at the mere hint of a suggestion that a military option should be considered - afterall, this site's raison d'etre is to identify and stamp all over the very concept of Interventionism.

And you have every right to do so - and feel you must continue to do so - given the bitter division and fall out from the Iraq war.

However, the elephant in the room is the fact that there won't be any Western military intervention in Zimbabwe.

It simply won't happen. You know it. "Decents" know it. Mugabe knows it. The only people who still have hope for Western military intervention are Zimbabwean refugees.

Even John Sentamu must know this. Must know that his call for Mugabe to be forced from power is irreconcilable with his opposition to the Iraq war. He knows it won't happen - so he can call for it without ever having to be burdened by the consequences.

At least AaroWatch (I'Wod) is more honest and consistent. Except, perhaps, how it's not acknowledged that, in this debate, you've utterly defeated "Interventionism".

You've won. Condi Rice and Miliband can bluster - but we all know it's diplo posturing. We all know China and Russia have rejected UNSC action.

You've won - so completely that it's hard to imagine any scenario where Western Intervention would or could take place in Zimbabwe.

So, having won this argument, what is AaroWatch's (I'Wod) consensus on policy going forward?

Because, having won the Intervention argument (and having won it long long ago) don't you, at some point, have to discuss the consequences and outcomes of non-intervention in Zimbabwe?

At what point does the death toll, or utter implosion of Zimbabwe's most basic institutions begin to burden those who have insisted on non-intervention?

Was there no flutter of doubt when Mugabe simply cancelled the election results and set his thugs upon civilians who'd voted against him? Openly and without shame in the full glare of the global media?

No hesitation as the Zimbabwe economy - once the "bread basket of Africa" - collapsed into anarchy?

And even now - a Cholera epidemic?

All of this is the expected and accepted price of non-interventionists? Fair enough, I suppose - but it's clearly a price that John Sentamu is finding hard to defend. So hard, in fact, that he's calling for an intervention he knows won't happen, largely because it's a cause he campaigned against when it was Iraq.

He's clearly unable to accept the burden of the growing body count.

What is the acceptable body count?

Hawkforce

12/09/2008 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

AW(i'WoD') doesn't have party lines for the most part, but most of the editorial staff are implicitly or explicitly signed up to a program of endorsing interventions "if and only if there is a credible plan which can be reasonably expected to make things better rather than worse". Since, as you note (along with Andrew Anthony and Alan Mendoza) that no such plan exists, the only real issue for discussion here is whether it's helping matters to try and pin this whole thing on "anti-imperialism" (I think that on the whole it probably isn't; Andrew Anthony apparently thinks it is[1]), and whether sabre-rattling diplomacy in the absence of a plan is a good idea (my view is that it pretty obviously isn't as it gives Mugabe loads of chances to play his "colonialism" card and runs a solid risk of impeding the aid efforts; Alan Mendoza, seemingly, thinks otherwise[1]).

I note, in case you're considering doing your own cost-benefit analysis (which I'd love to see if you get it worked out) that simply decapitating the Mugabe state would not make it rain, nor would it cure cholera. Also, Mugabe still has the support of around 40% of the country.

I'd also note that the actual diplomatic issue to be considered here is whether the humanitarian crisis ought to be used to put pressure on the MDC to compromise on control of the Home Affairs Ministry and enter a coalition government. I don't actually think that the MDC should allow themselves to be blackmailed in this way, but I do, profoundly, believe that a peaceful and diplomatic solution should not be jeopardised when it's so close, particularly as it is not really true that the current government is impeding humanitarian relief.

Finally, John Sentamu is not Zimbabwean and as far as I can tell hasn't ever visited Zimbabwe. He's a conservative Anglican clergyman who has been calling for intervention in Zimbabwe for at least a year. I don't understand why you expect me to be so impressed by what John Sentamu says.

[1] Here I am giving both Anthony and Mendoza the benefit of the doubt; while I would only be prepared to make the more serious accusation (that they are unseriously or unscrupulously engaging in rhetoric that they know to be counterproductive in order to raise their domestic political profiles) on the basis of much better evidence than I have, there is something of a pattern of behaviour in both cases, so neither will I rule it out. For the time being though, I think they're just delusional about practical consequences - I have direct experience of arguing with Andrew Anthony and my impression is that he's very resistant indeed to thinking about the real world rather than political slogans.

12/09/2008 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a very effective British intervention against a much tougher African opponent than Mugabe: Britain contributed to the fall of the apartheid regime. they didn't do this with spurious calls for "intervention", or by military adventures. Indeed it wasn't done by the Foreign Office at all, it was done in spite of them: By offering support and exile to the opponents of the South African regime, Brits helped that opposition gather its strength. However, our current government, while it makes nosies about Mugabe , also harasses Zim exiles, and rather than allowing them asylum and a chance to organise in the UK, it expels them. My modest proposal would be that defending Zim exiles here, and supporting them is the most effective contribution we can make to the future of the country. I also recall that the opponents of Apartheid usually tried to base their policy on calls from South African's themselves. I don't think prescriptions for Zim that are not based on some specific call from the MDC or similar opposition figures are worth much
Ann On

12/09/2008 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Openly and without shame in the full glare of the global media?

At this point my Rhetoric-O-Meter started flashing red and my Cliché Counter sent me a mobile text alert.

(Useful note: it's not actually been "in the full glare of the global media" because Mugabe has actually made it very hard for journalists to cover events in Zimbabwe.)

12/09/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

defending Zim exiles here, and supporting them

yes, although "critical, qualified" support is appropriate in some instances, as the Iraq experience shows us how many problems you can get into if you take expat politicians at face value even when the regime they are refugees from is genuinely hideous, and the British community of Zimbabwean democracy activists is quite heavily leavened with a lot of white-farmer advocates and a smaller but still significant amount of actual Smittyists (who can sometimes be seen poppping up on Harry's Place). Obviously anyone facing actual deportation ought to be supported though.

12/09/2008 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Was there no flutter of doubt when Mugabe simply cancelled the election results and set his thugs upon civilians who'd voted against him? Openly and without shame in the full glare of the global media?

By the way, this isn't actually quite what happened, but I'm not really in the mood for a discussion of the ins and outs of the 2008 Zimbabwean election, or at least not in the absence of some fairly definite assurances of good faith.

12/09/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I'd suggest ignoring the troll.

12/09/2008 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but most of the editorial staff are implicitly or explicitly signed up to a program of endorsing interventions "if and only if there is a credible plan which can be reasonably expected to make things better rather than worse".

Okay... Sorry - I didn't realise that. Although, I must ask - has there ever been any Intervention that has fit your criteria?

I note, in case you're considering doing your own cost-benefit analysis (which I'd love to see if you get it worked out) that simply decapitating the Mugabe state would not make it rain, nor would it cure cholera.

That's not the point - and you know it. The point is - if there'd been Intervention would there have been a Cholera outbreak at all?

Even then - I'm not condemning you; I have no right...

All I'm asking is whether you ask yourselves these questions?

Also, Mugabe still has the support of around 40% of the country.

A very crucial point.

But don't you sometimes wonder if you use this statistic to absolve yourself of any responsibility - "%40 of Zimbabweans support famine, death squads, and Cholera - so fuck you Andrew Anthony"

but I do, profoundly, believe that a peaceful and diplomatic solution should not be jeopardised when it's so close,

And you're absolutely right.

But what if that peaceful solution isn't really "so close"?

What if it's like the peaceful solution that led to last April's election?

Which led to the peaceful solution of a powersharing agreement (after terror squads had been let loose on MDC supporters)

Which led to... Chaos and Cholera...

particularly as it is not really true that the current government is impeding humanitarian relief.

For fuck's sake Daniel - this is Zimbabwe. This is Cholera.

Finally, John Sentamu is not Zimbabwean and as far as I can tell hasn't ever visited Zimbabwe. He's a conservative Anglican clergyman who has been calling for intervention in Zimbabwe for at least a year. I don't understand why you expect me to be so impressed by what John Sentamu says.

I never expected you to be impressed by what John Sentamu says.

In fact I made it very clear that I was impressed how Aaro Watch (I'Wod) hadn't joined Sentamu's cowardly and hypocritical call for military intervention in Zimbabwe when he'd so vociferously campaigned against the idea of humanitarian intervention in Iraq - a nation where even you must admit the Incumbent leader didn't have anything like %40 support of his people.

The analogy is, say... Johann Hari. He supported the Iraq war until the body count and chaos overwhelmed his conscience...

Similarly, John Sentamu, who opposed Intervention much like yourself, can no longer accept the burden of the dead, dying and future dead in Zimbabwe - apparently a Cholera epidemic is his tipping point.

The only thing about Sentamu that you should take note of is the fact that he feels the responsibility of the lives lost while non-intervention triumphed.

Don't you ever ask yourself the same questions?

Hawkforce

12/09/2008 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

if there'd been Intervention would there have been a Cholera outbreak at all?

One wonders why an intervention would be expected to make cholera less likely, since it is, in fact, a disease much associated with war and the consequent destruction of infrastructure.

But as it's an imaginary intervention, presumably we do not need to imagine the disease that it might bring with it?

12/09/2008 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Although, I must ask - has there ever been any Intervention that has fit your criteria?

Yes, the American Civil War.

12/09/2008 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

But what if that peaceful solution isn't really "so close"?

What if it's like the peaceful solution that led to last April's election?

Which led to the peaceful solution of a powersharing agreement (after terror squads had been let loose on MDC supporters) ?

Which led to... Chaos and Cholera...


You simply don't know what you're talking about, and as I noted above I'm not really in the mood to conduct an evening class on the subject.

The only thing about Sentamu that you should take note of is the fact that he feels the responsibility of the lives lost while non-intervention triumphed.

However many times you try to shove this dog out the kennel, it ain't gonna hunt.

12/09/2008 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

So when, then, was this intervention to have happened? In 1999 - before even the constitutional referendum campaign had happened? In 1999-2000, when the British Army's total expeditionary forces were committed to the Balkans? (You realise we mobilised the 275(V) Railway Operating Squadron RE(TA) for that one?)

In 2001? Perhaps a window, and I was pushing "Support the Zimbabwe News", but literally no state with a border with Zimbabwe would have provided host-nation support. No airfields, no railways, no ports.

2002? 2003? 2004? 2005? 2006? 2007? 2008? IRAQ FAIL.

12/09/2008 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Hawkforce, for a start Anthony is not calling in his article for military intervention in Zimbabwe. Even Sentamu has not to my knowlege specifically called for military intervention by the West.
For you to say that the people here have "won the argument" against intervention in Zimbabwe is not really accurate because there hasn't been any serious proposal for intervention. There has certainly never been any prospect of military action by our government and I don't recall seeing even the most head-banging Decents arguing for it.
OK, so we haven't intervened and the situation is very grim. How do you know though that intervention would make things better rather than worse? Certainly, as ejh points out, the cholera epidemic would still have happened.

12/10/2008 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I was Mugabe, I'd be ghost-writing Decent opeds calling for the UK to invade Zimbabwe. That's about the best thing that could happen to him now.

Chris Williams

12/10/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

If I was Mugabe, I'd be ghost-writing Decent opeds calling for the UK to invade Zimbabwe. That's about the best thing that could happen to him now.

Indeed. Despite looking liek a madman to outsiders he's played the 'British influence' card fairly well. I'm still yet to work out how a war against an army far more motivated and popular than, say, the Iraqi army in 2003 would improve the Cholera situation.

12/10/2008 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Just to point out that if you're genuinely concerned about cholera in the world, invading Zimbabwe is just about the least sensible way possible to use your cholera-prevention budget (there is, in fact, a mini-cholera epidemic in Iraq right now).

Which leads me to the sensible answer to Hawkforce's rather strident moral question - I don't feel any worse about cholera deaths in Zimbabwe as a putative result of the UK's failure to invade Zimbabwe, than I do about cholera deaths in Bangladesh which happen every year, which could also have been prevented by a large application of UK government cash.

In actual fact, I feel quite a bit worse about the thousands of preventable deaths from famine and diseases of poverty which happen every day, than I do about the alleged consequences of hypothetical and impossible interventions not taking place because of my blog.

12/10/2008 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still yet to work out how a war against an army far more motivated and popular than, say, the Iraqi army in 2003 would improve the Cholera situation.

It would improve it because for the Decents all of the freshly-bombed dead would be in the name of a free and independent Ira-- sorry, Zimbabwe, which of course is much better than dying under sanc-- sorry, under a dictatorsh-- sorry, of cholera. Plus Halliburton get a do-over to see whether they really can rebuild a country's infrastructure on time on a reasonable budget.

[redpesto]

12/10/2008 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hawkforce

"a nation where even you must admit the Incumbent leader didn't have anything like %40 support of his people."

Fuck off troll

12/10/2008 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops, sorry, work intervened.

Thanks for the replies BruschettaBoy and others (well... those who didn't simply say "fuck off troll").

There's still some rather odd insistence that I'm advocating an "invasion". I'm not advocating anything at all. My whole point is that we all know there will never be any Western military intervention in Zimbabwe. So why pretend that this is the argument you need to fight?

Anyway - my actual question (not meant to be "morally strident" but on reflection can hardly be taken otherwise) was - at what point, if any, does an "anti-interventionist" begin to doubt their policy or become open to the same accusations of moral responsibility that are, rightly, levelled at those who advocate intervention?

And I thank Daniel for his answer which I think is a good one.

12/17/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

at what point, if any, does an "anti-interventionist" begin to doubt their policy

It would depend what their policy is. If it's a dogmatic position that no nation should ever intervene in another nation's affairs under any circumstances, I would hope it was held very lightly and subjected to repeated reality-checks. But if the position is "no nation should intervene in another nation's affairs without having a well-founded belief that the intervention is likely to make matters better rather than worse - and any intervention for which this belief does not in fact appear to be well-founded is open to criticism on those grounds"... then I'm not sure where the doubt would have room to creep in.

12/18/2008 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"no nation should intervene in another nation's affairs without having a well-founded belief that the intervention is likely to make matters better rather than worse - and any intervention for which this belief does not in fact appear to be well-founded is open to criticism on those grounds"...

That's exactly the position of every humanitarian interventionist I've ever met.

then I'm not sure where the doubt would have room to creep in.

The moment you write something like that is the moment you need to doubt yourself.


Hawkforce

12/18/2008 01:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

That's exactly the position of every humanitarian interventionist I've ever met.

Then we're in violent agreement. Good-oh.

12/18/2008 08:44:00 AM  

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