Does support Liberal Interventionism?
After its inception in the 1980’s, the principle of liberal intervention has now become widely accepted and practiced by dominant (democratic) states and international organizations—such as the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The deployment of peacekeeping forces, armed forces or any foreign policy geared towards intervening in the domestic affairs of state in conflict have become frequently practiced by dominant democratic states such as the United States of America, France, United Kingdom or even UN. Although intervention as it is explicitly manifested by crossing borders is already understood as a violation of state sovereignty, states have become no longer reluctant to engage in such act for the sake of promoting human rights.
As the principle of ‘liberal intervention’ has already been established in the 1980’s by Paris-based intellectuals—Mario Bettati, an international law professor and physician-activist , its adoption happened during the Bosnian conflict Kouchner, as a believer of such principle, explicitly expressed it by saying, “…the day will come…when we are able to say…‘Mr. Dictator, we are going to stop you preventively from oppressing, torturing and exterminating your ethnic minorities” (MacArthur 2003). On the other hand, Bettati, as one its proponents, defined it as “the ‘right to intervene’ to stop mass murder and prosecution” (MacArthur 2003).
Although liberal interventionism has become popular with democratic countries, it is not devoid of criticisms and doubts. As for the promotion of human rights, the intervening states, with or without permission—which is no longer necessary, enter the territory of the state in conflict. Doing so, they have violated the state’s sovereignty and hence, under international law. Furthermore, although the intervening parties already have the knowledge of it, they justify it as something of their obligation to promote “universal freedom, and as a revolutionary project for universal liberation by bringing about political revolutions in remote corners of the world” (Sauer-Thompson 2006). However, having these interventions resulted to greater casualties—as what happened to the NATO bombing where it led to the “death of more Albanians than would have died from nonintervention—–by sowing panic and granting the Serbs a pretext for settling scores with the KLA” (MacArthur 2003). With this, intervention has greater risk of killing bystanders, those who are not armed-than not intervening at all. But contrary to this, the interventionists—for instance in person of Koucher that such unforeseeable circumstances really happen but the situation is still much better off because they were still able to save lives—as what he have said pertaining to the Bosnian conflict when France came to rescue in 1992, “the Bosnians were surely better off with the airlift than they would have been without it” (Traub 2008).
Furthermore, the core principles of liberal interventionism as criticized by Howard (2006) in his book are delusional because liberal interventionists are not only “apt wholly misjudge a foreign mindset, but they are also inadvertently responsible for fuelling mistrust with rival states - at the very time when this ought to be avoided”.
Hence, those are the reflections of past events in the twentieth century; but how about if, we are going to ask Machiavelli? Does he support the so-called “liberal interventionism”?
Analyzing it based on his works—Tony Blair said that, their war is “a struggle about justice and tolerance as well as security and prosperity” (Sauer-Thompson 2003). Moreover, since it promotes human rights—it values individual even to the point of violating state sovereignty. With this, it is apparent that it serves contrary to Machiavelli’s view that the state must be prioritized, as he stated that “when the safety of our country is absolutely at stake—there need be no question of what is just or unjust, merciful or cruel, praiseworthy or disgraceful that course alone is to be taken which may save our country and maintain its liberty” (Allen 1928, p. 474). With this, he believes in struggle for liberty, however, for his country to attain it against the foreigners, it has to procure its native armies. This procurement of native armies, according to Allen (1928), is a manifestation of Machiavelli’s belief that the stability of the state depends on the patriotism of its people; and that the patriotic republic is the strongest of all possible states. Hence, Machiavelli believes on that the patriotism of the people is the strongest foundation of the state. Furthermore, although Machiavelli believes that tyranny is worst form of government, in the same way as that of liberals, he did not raised the question about who is going to oust such tyrant—is it the people themselves or foreigners? Moreover, Machiavelli also purported—as he stated in the Discourses under Chapter 1of the Third Book—that in restoring the kingdom, it should be done by the people rather than “to have an extrinsic force do it”. and the Discourses…, Machiavelli—for several points—do not support the principle of “liberal intervention”. First, let us consider—what does liberal interventionism promotes? According to liberal interventionists or those who believe in it—for instance,
Furthermore, Machiavelli believes that people has the capacity to fight for their liberty, as he stated in The Prince, “the people are more concerned about, and more willing to defend, liberty than either princes or nobles (Machiavelli 1965, 204-205 as cited in Nederman 2005). With this, there is no need for foreign or external forces to intervene in the domestic affairs of the state or to help oust the tyrant or the oppressor because the people can do it for themselves. And besides this will only foster their patriotism, hence, intervention will just spoil the development of such in the state. Moreover, another point is that, liberal interventionism involves purely foreign efforts which will stand contrary to Machiavelli’s views and sentiments against foreigners—whom he believed to be hindrance to the unity of Italy . Another point, why Machiavelli does not support liberal interventionism is that the fact that he does not support individual human rights especially in the realm of international relations in which, for him there is only amorality. As based on the explanation of Erb (2005) in his paper, Machiavelli as an archetypical realist reflects the theory in international relations—realism. As a realist, he views human nature the same way as Hobbes. Moreover, as he believes that the conduct of human relations should be amoral, one should only think about power and national interest, rather than on other things such as individual human rights. Furthermore, when going to war, the realist only thinks about power and self-interest—hence, he only thinks about winning the war, gaining dominance against its rivals and maintaining order or status quo, shunning anarchy (Erb 2005). According to Erb (2005), realists are not concerned about people—as we pertain to international relations—and he does not the consider the fact that politics affect people In contrast to liberals, they believe that international relations should not be separated from morality. However, this does not mean that Machiavelli ignored morality. It is just that, in The Prince, morality is set aside whenever there are more important things that would secure you in power or would be for the benefit of the state.
Therefore, all those arguments only lead into one conclusion: Machiavelli does not support liberal interventionism. He will go to war if it promotes national interest. Other than that—like capitalism or human rights, he will not participate in war. Hence, this stands in contrast to liberal interventionism, for which the state goes to war for the promotion of individual human rights. Moreover, Machiavelli also believed that those unfortunate consequences in war or even not winning the serve as “dismal failure” as Erb puts it.
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