Friday, February 13, 2009

Does Machiavelli 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 Bernard Kouchner, 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—The Prince 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, 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”.
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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Erb, Scott. "Machiavelli and Power Politics." Paper presented at the University of
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Howard, Roger. (2006).What's Wrong with Liberal Interventionism: The Dangers and
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“Justice and the Harmonious Society: Platonic and Contemporary Ideas”

As one of his profound works, The Republic manifest Plato’s proposal of an ideal society. Notwithstanding the emphasis on man, it presented justice as a “‘universal principle’ laid down at the foundation of the commonwealth” (Ebenstein 2000, p. 50). Hence, the focal discussion of The Republic revolves around questions on justice—‘what is it and why one should be just’. However, going beyond Plato’s ideas, there are also contemporary ideas on justice—for which some stand in contrast with the kind of justice purported in The Republic, such as Rawls’ Theory on Justice and Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice.

As to substantiate his own theory, Plato presented the conventional theories of justice for which he all rejected. These were represented on the views espoused by Cephalus—that “justice means honesty and rendering what is due to gods and men”, Polemarchus—that “it is helping one’s friends and harming one’s enemies”, Thrasymarchus—that it serves the interest of the stronger, and Glaucon—that it is ‘unnatural’ and serve for the interest of the weaker (Ebenstein 2000, p. 29). All were debunked, indeed, as they are not satisfactory for Socrates and as the definition, specifically, Polemarchus’ view, satisfy that of a despot’s moral standards. Moreover as explained in Bhandari’s (1998) article, all of their views treat justice as something external and unnatural. In contrary, Plato argued that “justice is internal as it resides in the human soul”; and it is natural as it is “the right condition of the human soul by the very nature of man when seen in the fullness of his environment” (Bhandari 1998). This is further supported in the latter part of the discussion in the Republic—“justice is not a matter of external behavior, but of the inward self and of attending to all that is, in the fullest sense, a man’s proper concern” (Ebenstein 2000, p.56). Hence, with this, Plato proceeded to discuss the real nature of justice and injustice. To aid the inquiry, justice is examined relative to the state before the individual.

To further explain Plato’s ideas on justice and the harmonious society, it is necessary to discuss how the commonwealth is established. Since, the commonwealth is formed due to the fact that no man is self-sufficing; then, the provision of the various needs of man—primary of which are food, shelter and clothing—prompted a larger population. Thus, it was first proposed that there is the need for producers—farmers, builders and weavers. As luxuries expand the need for more producers and craftsmen who are only keeping one trade for themselves—markets are necessary to keep the enlarging population. Thus, along with the complete formation of the commonwealth, in which the composition brought first the producers, war becomes inevitable; hence there is the need for an army to fight for them. With this, all they need is someone or few people to govern them, who are basically free from doing things other than ruling—the Guardians. With this, the established commonwealth consists of three classes—the guardians, the auxiliaries and the producers (farmers, artisans and traders). For the rulers, they have to possess the virtue wisdom in order to rule. Auxiliaries, on the other hand, possess courage, while the producers are only left with instinctual desires or appetites. Thus, there will be four virtues in the state—wisdom and courage to be both possessed only by the few; temperance and justice. Furthermore, according to Plato, temperance reside in both governed and the governors (Ebenstein 2000, p.50). Temperance is defined as “the kind of orderliness—the control of certain pleasures and appetites” (Ebenstein 2000, p.49). As being temperate means being the master of oneself, according to Plato, then the control of certain pleasures will prevent conflict.

Furthermore, justice, as being explicitly characterized by Plato, is a “universal principle that everyone is ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suited him.” This means that for those who possess wisdom, they should rule the commonwealth, but for those who do not possess such virtue, should contain himself with what is according to his nature. Moreover, justice also means “minding one’s business—concerning oneself with what properly belongs to him, and not meddling with other men’s concern” (Ebenstein 2000, p. 50). Hence, these statements, it is apparent that producers, for maintenance of justice, should not question the decision of the guardians. Moreover, aside from that, to make a just society—the three classes should do its own work.

Therefore, this implies that justice leads to a harmonious society. If each class would fulfill its own obligations and minds its own business, then the dynamics within the relationships among the classes will be smooth and devoid of conflicts. Furthermore, since the one given the right to rule are wise—and since being just, the two classes were subordinated and ruled by the guardians—then it also becomes a harmonious society.

Similar with Plato, John Rawls—a contemporary moral and political philosopher of the second half of the 20th century—sees justice as the “first virtue of all institutions”. However, their theories stand in contrast to each other, as Rawls’ principles of social justice are liberal-egalitarian in nature, Plato’s justice is tied to an internal state of the person rather than to social norms (Slote 2002). As discussed and argued by Slote (2002) in his article, Rawls’ conception of justice is a non-virtual ethical approach while Plato’s Republic is a virtue ethical approach because it treats justice as an “overarching virtue of individuals”. Furthermore, Rawls conception of society is “defined by fairness: social institutions are to be fair to all cooperating members of society, regardless of their race, gender, religion, class of origin, reasonable conceptions of the good life” (Garett 2005). With this, he treated justice as fairness. Moreover, his conception of justice has been developed based on the perspective that individuals are free and equal (Garett 2005). According to Rawls, as discussed in Garett’s (2002) article, there are two general principles of justice to structure society in the real world: ‘the principle of equal liberty’ and the ‘difference principle’. The principle of equal liberty, states that “each person has an equal right to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for all,” (Garett 2005). These ‘equal basic liberties’, as provided by Rawls in Garett (2005), include: freedom of thought, liberty of conscience, political liberties, freedom of association, freedoms specified by the liberty and integrity of the person, and the rights and liberties covered by the rule of law. On the other hand, the difference principle, states that “(1) social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both, to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons and (2) attached to the offices and positions open to all under conditions of equality of opportunity” (Garett 2002). The first part means that through society’s projects, the lives of the least advantaged will be better-off—as the community’s living standards will be raised, and they will be empowered as consistent to their well-being. And the second part means that no irrelevant criteria shall discriminate access to privileged positions.

Aside from Rawls, another contemporary political theorist is the American Michael Walzer, who proposed a pluralistic theory of justice in 1983 which is the Sphere of Justice. In this theory, the focus is on distributive justice—the determination whether who will receive benefits and particular burdens within society. As briefly discussed by Van Til (2005), Walzer argued that “burdens and benefits are distributed differently according to the sphere of justice to which they pertain”. According to Walzer, goods are “culturally produced and socially defined products that gain both their meaning and their value within a particular cultural setting” (Van Til 2005).

As contrast to Rawls, Walzer argued that there is no one norm of justice because it cannot sufficiently address the plurality of institutions and relationships in various societies (Van Til 2005). Furthermore, according to Van Til (2005), that a single standard of distributive justice does not work, especially across cultures. Hence, it is argued that for Walzer, justice should become a ‘local affair’.

Furthermore, justice, according to Walzer, occurs “when goods are distributed according to these locally appropriate criteria of distribution” while injustice, on the other hand, occurs “when the criterion for distribution is not appropriate to the sort of good being distributed, or when one type of goods can be garnered with resources that cross the borders of its sphere” (Van Til 2005).

Thus, with all those ideas of Walzer, of Rawls and of Plato, one can observe that they have different basis of conceptions of justice. Plato based it on the composition of the soul—as presented in his analogy state’s justice and of the individual—justice occurs when all the classes or the elements set itself in accordance with its own nature and when it fulfills its duties in the state, which also imply a harmonious society. Moreover, Rawls, on the other hand, based his conception of justice on the perspective that all are free and equal. Hence, all should be given the opportunity, benefits—especially for the least advantaged, and particular burdens in the society. Furthermore, Walzer in his pluralistic theory considers culture as a factor and that there should be no one norm of justice.


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