Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Zimbabwe Question

Further to B2's post on Andrew Anthony, Norman Geras applauds calls for intervention in Zimbabwe. (He was born there; I'm not questioning his knowledge of Zimbabwe or its politics.)

Or one could follow the Guardian and conclude that since threats of intervention are empty, '[n]egotiation remains the best hope'. Note that this means the Guardian is against intervention, period, not just because it looks unlikely right now.


I don't see any support for the second sentence above from the Guardian editorial. (Noted in passing: the Guardian dissents from an emerging consensus in the other former broadsheets. The perfidy!) 'Negotiation remains the best hope' came after the alternatives had been ruled out, thus:

Indicting Mugabe in the international criminal court may be justified but it might postpone rather than hasten the end. Threats of military intervention are empty, since western countries have never seriously contemplated it, still less African states, who in any case lack the means. South Africa could certainly make things worse in Zimbabwe, by cutting off or reducing fuel supplies or by closing the border, perhaps on the basis that it must guard against the spread of cholera. But what if that did not bring about a swift collapse of the regime but only an intensification of the sufferings of ordinary Zimbabweans?


That's a perfectly rational argument. Geras:

The threat [of intervention] wouldn't be empty if it weren't empty, and one way of making it cease to be empty would be to try to build global public pressure to a point where the world's governments felt an obligation to act.


Isn't there still a 'how'? Would South Africa grant the UN/Coalition-of-Michael-Ingnatief-fans military bases? If not, where would an invasion force invade from? 'Act' above clearly means 'do something other than negotiate' which rather supposes that negotiation isn't the quickest (and least lethal) of all possible solutions and that military intervention actually does some good. I don't think the writer of the Guardian leader is "against intervention, period," but she clearly isn't sold on the arguments for it.

19 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

All right, so we've switched from plucking invasion forces out of our faces to picking worldwide campaigns for invasion forces out of same.

How long does the professor think it would take for such a worldwide campaign to gain the necessary momentum? A year? Ten? twenty?

At the end of the day it's precisely the same idea - blaming the nasty Stoppers because they won't get behind interventionism - as if that were the reason for one invasion being a disaster and another a non-starter.

To be honest, isn't this Bad Rhetorical Habits agin? In this instance, instead of you arguing your case among the general public and relying on its worth, you blame the Other Lot for not putting your argument instead of theirs?

12/11/2008 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Do I remember that someone did come up with an invasion plan, which was covered here? Presumably the US could do it without bases, could they?

Norman Geras did have a campaigning platform, the Euston Manifesto, which although presumably never destined to fulfil the hopes of its authors, certainly would have done a bit better if any of them had been a bit more bothered.

12/11/2008 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Further to B2's post on Andrew Anthony, Norman Geras applauds calls for intervention in Zimbabwe. (He was born there; I'm not questioning his knowledge of Zimbabwe or its politics.)

I am. Geras left Rhodesia (as was) in 1962 and has never demonstrated that he knows much more about the current state of Zimbabwe than he does about countless other wretched governments whose military overthrow he has advocated over the years. Maybe he does, but if that knowledge exists I've never seen it utilised on his weblog.

He does know a lot about making cheap shots at the Guardian to please his diminishing audience of belligerent American rightists, but I wouldn't want to give him any more credit than that.

12/11/2008 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous IslingtonSet said...

Doesn't the British Army have an agreement with Botswana it could call in? I know British forces sometimes train there. If there was a global (US) will to invade Zimbabwe, one or more of Zimbabwe's neighbours would provide the base I'm sure.

12/11/2008 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

The US could possibly bully some poor neighbour of Zimbabwe into providing access, but they'd have to work hard at it because who would want to become Syria to Zimbabwe's Iraq?

And I agree with Simon. Just because somebody was born a certain place doesn't mean they have a clue about it. That's the ex-pat falalcy, the idea that just because they swanned about the East for a couple of years they know these people don't really want or need democracy or whatever.

12/12/2008 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Another one:

The 'responsibility to protect' might as well be so much hot air - or indeed an empty principle - for this Guardian of the radical traditions of British liberalism.

I really do need to find out what the name for this figure of speech (the one where you say something that's quite obviously true, in a context in which the reader is meant to pick up that you're being sarcastic, much favoured by Melanie Phillips) is.

Matthew : No, the plan that was discussed here was for the distribution of food aid out of the back of Hercules transports - it would obviously be the legal equivalent of an invasion but it's a bit different from what Geras (following Oliver Kamm in the times and Alan Mendoza) is thinking of. As far as I can understand this, the idea is for a "decapitation"; a small invasion with the sole objective of killing or capturing Mugabe personally, plus the assumption that doing this would make it rain and stop people getting cholera[1]. After all, Zimbabwe has few ethnic tensions and no history of conflict.

[1] IIRC, in the Alan Mendoza version, Zimbabwe ends up with a government of national unity based on power-sharing between MDC and ZANU-PF moderates, minus Mugabe's personality cult. In other words, the same outcome that they are currently working towards in the negotiations, but because imposed by an external invasion, it would be less gay.

12/12/2008 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

the idea that just because they swanned about the East for a couple of years they know these people don't really want or need democracy or whatever.

Or, nowadays, they know these people do really want and need democracy, but they're not too fussed about the country being bombed, invaded and occupied.

12/12/2008 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous John Fallhammer said...

Botswana's a little tricky in being landlocked. Everything would have to be flown in over South Africa, Namibia or Angola. I have no idea what Namibia's current diplomatic tendencies are, but I imagine any of those countries would demand a hefty price for their co-operation.

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

Meanwhile further north

12/12/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

There is possibly a good case that the Mugabe government doesn't really extend outside State House any more, and that rather than tyranny it's now state failure that is the problem for most of the country. In which case yer Decent Dogs of War 2.0 plan might work, for tactical values of "work".

However, unlike the joint in Dogs of War, it's not on the coast.

The Americans could kindasorta theoretically drop a lead airborne element somewhere, build up there and then stage the attack out of this location; but this would obviously need overflying rights or some entirely separate military operation, and would require the commitment of the entire USAF transport fleet. It would also be risky; what happens if it all goes pear shaped in the interior of Africa without a real, i.e. land or sea, supply route?

If the 82nd Airborne isn't already deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, that is, and I think you'll find much of it is. Meanwhile, the British army has an airborne/air assault capability, but the RAF air transport fleet is in such a state we couldn't get to Zimbabwe, let alone seize the airport (hooah!) and give Comrade Bob the ol' sturm und drang, even if we pulled out of Iraq.

12/12/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Freshly Squeezed Cynic said...

"the one where you say something that's quite obviously true, in a context in which the reader is meant to pick up that you're being sarcastic, much favoured by Melanie Phillips"

A Phillipic?

12/12/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I should have said before that Alex Massie is really rather good; but Alex Massie is really rather good.

12/12/2008 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I know its a bit OT but the CDM verdict was announced today and it surely makes NC's comments look rather silly.

12/12/2008 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how the debate about military intervention has been "won" by the “anti imperialist left” as some decents argue.

Before the nutters took power in america, US/western elites understood that:

a) their armed forces can't actually win against anyone but the demoralised or defenceless and
b) their population won't tolerate anything but a short, sucessful war (ie the vietnam syndrome)

The nutters thought that iraq/afghanistan would be defenceless against the might of the US army. It was a gamble that didn't pay off because the nutters underestimated the potential strength of the sadrist, sunnis, taliban insurgents.

US/western elites are now understandably very wary of embarking on another military adventure. Aside from the fact that they have a lot on their plate at the moment, this is because they've been painfully reminded of constraints a) and b).

It's not that they don't want to invade other countries/start wars etc - it's just that they don't think that they can get away with it. IMHO the “anti imperialist left” had little to do with this “change of heart”.

Why do Decents blame "the left" for the fact that their government isn't as keen on military action as they are?

12/12/2008 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous IslingtonSet said...

Afghanistan is also landlocked and quite remote, chaps.

If the US wanted something done, they could find a way to do it.

12/12/2008 11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous John Fallhammer said...

Like getting into bed with the military dictator of Pakistan and damn the consequences? Certainly they could but these things come at a price, which they may be less inclined to pay now they've stopped flailing around in self-pitying rage.

(Oh, and scrub Angola. The sticky-out bit at the top of Namibia goes all the way to Zambia.)

12/13/2008 01:05:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

...their armed forces can't actually win against anyone but the demoralised or defenceless...

Much as I hate to say it, I suspect that the USA versus Scotland would be a short-lived conflict, and America vs. the UK wouldn't be much better.

Let's not all pop huge boners over the Americans leaving Iraq, shall we? I never wanted them in and wanted them out from the first, but - call me Cassandra if you will - I'm expecting some seriously nasty consequences from this, most of which we probably haven't even considered yet.

Give me a massacre-free five years, and I'll join in the circle-jerk.

12/13/2008 01:43:00 AM  
Anonymous IslingtonSet said...

I believe the Americans call it a Pan-handle, John, but then again, the Americans would.

Oh and exactly. For the invasion of Afghanistan required the co-operation of not just Pakistan but several other Centrasian 'Stans' and even Iran. There'd have been no Iraqi invasion one presumes without the help of staging posts in Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar...

If Zimbabwe was to be intervened in/upon; Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia could all find themselves the Wests' bestest mates in the world all of a sudden.

I leave it to Bruschetta to decide how palatable that would be in each case.

12/13/2008 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Exile said...

The world of decency tends to overlook Zimbabwe's landlocked status, so it is good to have them reminded of that. There is one other problem when it comes to holding Zimbabwe: the monsoons.

Now, they run from November to March inclusive and by January the elephant grass will be as high as the creature that it is named after.

The roads are crap and a brigade hiding in that grass could butcher an army. If the invasion was by air, then all the invaders have are the main cities - the Zimbabweans keep the countryside.

This idea is a no-hoper.

12/16/2008 05:51:00 AM  

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