The Guardian notes that “Thirteen MPs have signed a Commons early day motion opposing military intervention in Libya”; I’m disappointed to say that Caroline Lucas, my MP, is amongst them. That’s not to say that I am in reflexively in favour of intervention (long term readers of this blog will know I’m not) but I do think there is a case for it, and we must be adaptable and energetic should that case be proven.
The motion says:
That this House does not believe that Western intervention in Libya or elsewhere will bring about the peace, justice and democracy that is being sought by millions of people in North Africa and the Middle East; and calls for a rethinking of British and European foreign policy and a more concerted effort to apply international law and its human rights clauses in any negotiations or actions relating to the historical process that is now taking place.
Jeremy Corbyn – who authored the motion – has tweeted that events in the region are a “peoples movement, not a call for occupation.” Of course he is absolutely right, but his early day motion – which Lucas signed – uses the same old methods which proponents and opponents of liberal intervention routinely employ; namely he conflates two issues. Intervention does not automatically equal occupation. And nor is it as simple as ‘Western intervention’. What we must look for here, if we decide intervention is warranted, is a global response, supported by neighbouring Arab states. Only two days ago the Greens issued a statement which said “we are not ruling out support for a no-fly zone, but it would need to be very carefully handled and would need the support of countries in the region.” So why sign this early-day motion?
How we work out whether intervention is warranted, of course, is a complex issue. In a recent column in The Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash wrote:
“A decade ago an independent international commission that elaborated on the idea of “responsibility to protect” spelled out six criteria for deciding whether military action is justified. Essentially a modernised version of centuries-old Catholic standards for “just war”, these criteria are: right authority, just cause, right intention, last resort, proportional means, and reasonable prospects. Bitter experience, from Kosovo to Afghanistan, has taught us that “reasonable prospects” (ie of success) may be the most difficult to judge and achieve.”
That’s definitely true – but there’s nothing in Corbyn’s motion which leads me to believe that all these issues have yet been weighed up satisfactorily. Garton Ash, instinctively, felt he wouldn’t support a no fly zone – yet – but he acknowledged that matters could change.
I’d like to hear Lucas’ rationale.