PEACE STUDIES AREN'T
WHAT THEY USED TO BE
years ago, someone might have opened up a journal of "peace studies"
with some hope of finding useful analysis or information. At worst,
he might confront some well-meaning Norwegian or Swede going on
about imperialism, oppression, inequalities in the international
state system, and the like. Even so, there was some chance of learning
something worthwhile, even if theoretical flaws marred the treatment.
however, one is as likely to
run into calls for humanitarian
intervention by Good States
to unseat and sideline the Bad;
that is, one is likely to find
the ghost of Woodrow Wilson
stalking the pages of the putative
peace journal. A case in point
is the July 1993 issue of Peace
& Change. There we find
Thomas R. Gillespie sketching
out a program of general armed
intervention in the name of
seeks to prove that "the more
influential states" have claimed
a right to intervene to rescue
oppressed minorities for several
hundred years. True enough.
They have doubtless said
that. He goes on to argue that
a concert of today's nicer states
should develop a body of doctrine
and rules under which they may
intervene at will, whenever
they espy an emergency. This
comes down to a concert of Good
States empowering themselves
to run the world the
Wilsonian project all over again.
does not flinch from what this
means: "This view of humanitarian
intervention includes traditional
U.N. peacekeeping endeavors
but further encompasses the
possibility of combat operations
to suppress internal warfare."1
What this might mean
aside from the John Birchers
having had a point is
rather interesting. The bad
old South Africa is mentioned,
along with Chile under Pinochet,
as possible candidates for intervention.
One might think that is it regimes
seen as right-wing which
are to be targeted.
the Kurds, Palestinians (in
1982), and Kuwaitis turn up
as further examples, one begins
to suspect that all outstanding
cases of human rights violation
requiring international intervention
are an exact mathematical function
of US foreign policy interests
based on rather different considerations.
It would be cynical to think
that. Eppur si muove
("and yet it moves").
RETURN OF LIBERVENTIONISM
Gillespie has mentioned the
Gulf War. That calls to mind
a peculiar ideological deformation
of the early 1990s, which I
call "liberventionism," or libertarian
interventionism. The occasion
was the debate in Liberty
about the merits of the Gulf
War. This featured several liberventionists
lined up against a rather outnumbered
Richman, with the magazine's
editor straddling the fence.
sought a rationale for intervention
(only once in a while of course)
compatible with libertarianism.
This amounted to Goldwaterism
with a human face, or a right-wing
Wilsonianism. I shall only discuss
one of these writers, James
Robbins, who made perhaps the
one essay, published after the
fracas in Liberty,2
Robbins managed to endorse the
whole Cold War, blame "isolationists"
for the outbreak of World War
II, and downplay the standard
as yet unrefuted
claim of anti-interventionists
that all wars strengthen our
state vis-à-vis us
and that this outcome might
be undesirable. I don't agree
Robbins's analysis, but those
things are beside the present
point. What is striking is Robbins's
underlying premise that "if
the United States can promote
political and economic freedom"
that is, through overseas
intervention "doing so
may well serve the cause of
peace, which is indisputably
a state purpose."3
Intervene militarily to achieve
peace! Something strange happens
to the meaning of "peace" in
meditations of this kind. One
might as well say, kill now
and avoid the rush.
would like some evidence that
US intervention actually promotes
"political and economic freedom"
evidence better than
State Department White Papers.
I realize, of course, that self-named
classical liberals have had
decades of practice at resolving
the wage-war-for-peace paradox,
and I leave that to one side.
I suppose they mean we should
fight small wars now, which
presumably prevent the bigger
one down the road. I do not
see how this can be said to
be even an inexact science.
insidious, is the phrase about
peace once it is preserved,
or whatever being "indisputably
a state purpose." Surely this
is not so ironclad. Textbook
states may have purposes; real
ones permanent bureaucratic
apparatuses claiming a monopoly
of security provision within
given territories mostly
have interests. One would think
that sometimes states find peace
to be in their interest and
that, at other times, they find
war to be in their interest.
A libertarian would like to
know how often the state's interest
will coincide, even by the happiest
of accidents, with people's
interests. I wouldn't think
that would be very often.
suppose when Quinn the Eskimo
gets here, it will be different.
can now be found at National
Review Online, reassuring us
as to how precise the precision
bombing is. He is now in league
with the plain brown wrapper
Derbyshire, Lowry, and the gang
and why not? New defectors
and born-again warriors have
lately broadened the ranks of
WE ALL GLOBAL DEMOCRATS NOW?
unseen, the "peace and freedom"
cards begin to dovetail with
the "humanitarian" card. Across
the spectrum of respectable
opinion, all God's children
can espouse permanent, endless
US intervention. The "Right"
can do it for managed, neo-mercantilist
"free trade"; the Center-Left
there being not much
of a real Left, anymore
can throw in a few social programs.
They can all agree on Global
Democracy, when exported early,
often, and with overwhelming
firepower, will guarantee eternal
peace in some foggily distant
post-millennialist Radiant Future.
We can't just sit there, when
there's so much imperfection
in the world. And when we do
experience "blowback" from these
exercises, why that is nothing
but a good reason to do even
more of the same. For these
reasons, we can and must make
present war for future peace,
pending the secular Second Coming.
we shall be free, prosperous,
or happy, as we go further down
this road, seems a bit doubtful.
It seems that in the present
situation, the ideological realm
has risen up in might to overwhelm
mere political power and mere
economics. Or it might be
as seems likely that
the wielders of state power
and their state-connected business
friends have simply retreaded
the reigning ideology of the
Empire to make it more palatable.
For many people Randians,
fair-weather libertarians, and
others the new ideological
brew is 90 proof.
brew is appealing on some levels,
but in the end it is quite deceptive.
Some of its makers stress how
seldom we would actually intervene
under their doctrine. Others
allow that we shall necessarily
do it all the time until the
world is remade in the fullness
of time. I think we should take
the latter at their word
and reject their program. On
the record, liberventionism
the understated, modest
form of interventionism
is a mere fig-leaf for the more
robust strain of the disease.
George is in the basement mixing
up our medicine, and I'm on
the pavement, thinkin' 'bout
Thomas R. Gillespie, "Unwanted
Military Intervention to Advance
Human Rights," Peace &
Change, 18 (July 1993),
pp. 223, 221 (my italics,
as if they were needed).
James Robbins, "Towards a
Orbis, Fall 1991, pp.