It was during the Kosovo action, in 1999, that Tony Blair first articulated the doctrine of intervention for which the neocons would one day became famous, and which (if France’s new Socialist foreign minister is any guide) is now enjoying a resurgence among the European left:
Now our actions are guided by a more subtle blend of mutual self interest and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish. In the end values and interests merge. If we can establish and spread the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society then that is in our national interests too. The spread of our values makes us safer.
Blair went on to argue that the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of states “must be qualified in important respects” because in the increasingly integrated “international community,” acts of genocide and oppression are never purely domestic matters. He went on to offer a coherent set of principled restraints on the right of humanitarian intervention:
Looking around the world there are many regimes that are undemocratic and engaged in barbarous acts. If we wanted to right every wrong that we see in the modern world then we would do little else than intervene in the affairs of other countries. We would not be able to cope. So how do we decide when and whether to intervene. I think we need to bear in mind five major considerations:
First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators. Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo. Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers. And finally, do we have national interests involved? The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in such a combustible part of Europe.
As he spoke those words, Blair had one eye on Slobodan Milosevic, and another on Saddam. And earlier today, during Prime Minister’s Questions (his last) Blair went out with fire in his belly on the issue of Iraq. Eulogizing British troops recently fallen in Iraq, Blair said:
I know some say that they faced these dangers in vain. I don’t, and I never will. I believe they are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world, against people who would destroy our way of life.
Here, here. Thanks to those who serve. And thank you, Prime Minister Blair.