Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 174
14th August 2008
Another Neocon Farce?
by Sean Gabb
Foreign policy is an open issue among libertarians. Some of us are isolationists. Others are pacifists. Others take a more belligerent line, believing that there are threats to the admittedly imperfect liberal democracies of the West that must be countered, and even that the intelligent use of force can increase the amount of freedom in the world.
I am an isolationist. Though I incline to anarchism, I accept that for the moment, the world is ruled by various states, and that there will always be disputes between states, some leading to war. This being so, I believe that the best way to minimise the threat of war is to have our own state keep out of any dispute that does not immediately concern the integrity of its own territory.
I am a citizen of a country that was a principal actor in the two big wars of the twentieth century. I believe that these wars were unnecessary for the security of my country and killed unimaginable numbers of people. They also destroyed British primacy in the world and were the means of transforming Britain from genuine liberal democracy to politically correct corporatism. That is why I was so opposed to to our role in the wars of the past decade in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And that is why I am now opposed to any intervention in the war between Russia and Georgia.
I am told that Russia is an aggressive power that must be resisted in the Caucasus before it is able to threaten other places. The newspapers are filled with the usual talk of Munich and appeasement, together with claims that a new Cold War is beginning. I deny this.
Russia may be an aggressor in this war. Or it may not be. I will not enter into the details of who moved first, or with what provocation. But, even assuming that Russia is the aggressor, I fail to see what business this war is of the British or American Governments. The implied deal at the end of the 1980s was that the Soviet Union would evacuate its European colonies, in return for which Russian security would be respected. Every former republic of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic States, were to be regarded as part of the Russian sphere of interest. That included the Ukraine and Georgia.
It was unwise to recruit the former East European colonies of the Soviet Empire into NATO, and to move Western armed forces right up to the old Soviet border. But that was something the Russians at the time were in no position to resist, and that they might, given intelligent diplomacy, be brought to accept was no threat to them. Now that Russia is again a first class power, it would be madness to intervene in what used to be a core part of the Soviet Union.
Yes – Russia is again a first class power. This may be founded on the high price of oil and gas. The demographic trends in Russia may point to a longer term weakness. But Russia will for perhaps the next decade be again a first class power. This is no threat to the west. I was against fighting the Cold War. But it was then arguable that the Soviet Union was a danger to the west. What we had then was the largest country in the world, with the largest armed forces, both at the disposal of a murderous and expansionist ideology with intellectual sympathisers in every country in the world.
First class or otherwise, Russia today is a normal power. It is no longer interested in conquering France and Australia and Argentina. The present ruling class in Russia legitimises itself and its efforts in terms of Russian nationalism and Orthodox Christianity. This makes Russia a danger to some of its immediate neighbours, but not to us. It is rightly annoying to the British Government that Mr Putin seems willing to have his political enemies murdered in London.
In the longer term, indeed, Russia is at least a potential ally of the West, if not part of the West. If there is to be a contest in this century – and I hope there will not be – between the West and Islam, or the West and China, Russia must reasonably be counted as on our side. With two lost wars in the Islamic world, and growing American impotence in East Asia, now is not the time to antagonise Russia.
I have, in the past day, read statements by David Milliband, the British foreign Secretary, and by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, that strike me as almost childish in their failure to understand the realities of international politics. There is nothing we should do to help the Georgians. There is nothing we can do. Russia is not an enemy of Britain.
Sadly, London, just like Washington, has been captured by the neoconservatives. These are not conservatives, new or old. They are simply warmongers. They have misread the history of the twentieth century. For them, national greatness is measured by military power. They are allied to business and other interests that benefit from war. They had a fine time during the Cold War. They were disappointed when this abruptly ended. They have since then been lying us into smaller wars all over the world. They want a permanent war with Islam. They look forward to a cold war with China. Of course, now that Vladimir Putin is in charge of Russia, they are in love with the idea that the original Cold War never really ended, and that the warm certainties of their youth can now be revived.
I could say more. But I think I have said enough. I hope the Russians and Georgians will come to terms before too many more people are killed. In the meantime, I am resolutely opposed to any intervention of any kind in the dispute by the British Government. And, since Britain is regrettably for the moment part of the American Empire, I oppose involvement by the Americans.
© 2008 – 2017, seangabb.
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