Monday, March 21, 2011

Airshow's moral duty

Airshow comes out with a stunner today.

"We are compelled to intervene," MacKay said, both by a moral duty and a duty to the United Nations. "Canada's very fortunate to be in a position to respond."
We're bombing Libya because we can. It is as about a clear cut case for immediate intervention to prevent further massacres by a government against its people as we've seen of late. It is also, as Dyer points out, a comparatively low risk venture (at least in the very short-term) if one were to compare the capabilities of Libya's anorexic armed forces with those of Syria or maybe needed gas station Saudi Arabia.
So what about the Syrian regime? The same crude calculation applies. If it’s not too tough and powerful to take on, then it will not be allowed to murder its own people. And if it is too big and dangerous, then all the UN members will express their strong disapproval, but they won’t actually do anything. Consistency is an overrated virtue.
I wonder how Pete (contingent on the Cons overcoming their questionable morals here at home) will explain our moral duty toward Syria should the Bashar regime starts dropping 122mm high explosive on crowds of demonstrators. Perhaps he has other morals he could use.

4 comments:

CathiefromCanada said...

I'm not clear -- are you saying that the UN should not have approved this action at all and just let thousands of Libyans be killed?
Or that if the UN declares action justified for one country, then it is obliged to approve military action against a dozen other countries even though the Arab League only requested the action against Libya?
I do not think any course of action against Libya has a clear and compelling mandate.
But I would also put forward the argument that the world found itself in the situation that making war on Gaddafi was its worst choice except for all the others.

Boris said...

Cathie,
I have another post on the topic of Libya planned. I am in support of UN approved military action against the Gaddafi regime in the very short-term. To be clear, I think the air campaign is absolutely necessary to prevent the rebels' defeat and protect remaining Libyans from their dictator.

However, I take issue when terms like 'moral duty' are thrown into the fray. Syria, Burma, or Iran, or any other oppressive states wouldn't receive the same attention for a number of reasons, but mostly because they are too powerful to easily take on. Our 'moral duty' evaporates there. Moreover, the Syrian regime is at least friendly to US and Allied interests in the darker aspects of this post 9/11 world. We were happy to have the US send Maher Arar there. Again, our moral duty gets a little fuzzy.

Moral duty might be better phrased as 'responsibility to protect (where feasible)', but there are also problems with this phrasing. First, that's a liberal and Liberal idea. Our Cons couldn't choke the words out if their political life depended on it. Second, 'responsibility' is an allergen to politicians. Things have a habit of not going to plan when the bombs start dropping. It remains to be seen what happens in Libya and there is no guarantee of stability or cohesion now. Bomb dropping for any reason is still an escalation of war.

Boris said...

I'll sum up and say that it is a good thing to help where possible, while recognising that we can't always do so, and be frank about it.

I'm not sure we have a duty to do so, but ought to if we have the means. Duty is an absolute concept and can lead to disaster in international affairs.

CathiefromCanada said...

Yes, I can see your point now. I agree that it is important not to start talking in terms of Forces of Light and Forces of Darkness.