John Simkin Posted May 25, 2005 Share Posted May 25, 2005 I thought it might be a good idea to post articles for discussion that highlights possible aspects of citizenship. The Guardian published an article today by Brian Brivati that argues for something called "global citizenship". http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1491417,00.html Beside reducing world poverty and global warming, there used to be a third pillar to Tony Blair's world view. It was humanitarian intervention. The mass killing in Darfur means that the question of what justifies the use of force has not gone away. During the election campaign, Gordon Brown called for the constitution to be changed so that a vote of parliament rather than the royal prerogative formed the constitutional basis for the use of force. But neither the general issue of intervention nor Brown's idea appeared in the Queen's speech. The Labour party's division was once between multilateralists and unilateralists. Now it is now between interventionists and isolationists, and the isolationists seem to be winning in the third term. Social democrat interventionists need to rally. Brown's idea could be the place to start. The constitution should be changed to include something like the US war powers act, which restricts a president's ability to fight wars without congressional approval. But it does not go far enough. It might begin to address some of the questions of legitimacy that dog the decision-making process on Iraq but it would not help with the underlying legitimacy of the decision itself. "The why go to war?" question remains harder. The justification for the use of force has traditionally been self defence. But if you think of the victim, then the bulk of the aggression and the majority of the lives lost through conflict over the last 100 years have been inside states or civilians killed by total war. Dominant amongst these victims have been the mass killings, rapes and tortures by genocidal states against their own peoples. The states killed millions with no just war rationalisation to force other states to stop them. Sovereignty, self-determination, realpolitik and indifference, mingled in about equal measure to prevent intervention. In response to Hitler's war against the Jews, the UN passed a genocide convention. A convention that has not stopped a single genocide or, arguably, altered the behaviour of a single perpetrator, because it is reliant on the decision-making processes of the UN and not the power of nation states. Sovereignty and realpolitik remained major obstacles. In contrast, the same period has seen substantial global progress through the mechanisms of conventions on the rights of women and refugees, on racial discrimination, on standards in employment, health and safety, and on and on. All designed to influence state policy. In the economic sphere the World Bank and the IMF have had no compunction about linking loans to certain kinds of behaviour by states. Aid routinely operates in this way. The sovereignty case seems to apply when states are killing their own citizens but not when they are framing agricultural subsidies. We don't think states can be left alone to implement fundamental rights. We think these rights need to be enshrined in domestic legal codes. It is time that the logic of the promotion and protection of rights through domestic legal codes be extended to the victims of state-perpetrated mass murder. The answer to the question of when Britain should go to war is contained in the text of the genocide convention: it should go to war to stop mass killing. Therefore, the genocide convention should be incorporated into UK law. If other powers followed the British lead, there would be a deterrent that was lacking in the Rwandan case and absent in Sudan. In Rwanda, the French and other powers blocked the UN security council from intervening. Today, China and Russia are blocking a proper response in Darfur. In such circumstances this act would force states to intervene. But even more importantly it would ensure that perpetrators knew that the political structures that have the capability to stop them are also bound by their own laws to do so. Genocide will not be prevented until the certainty of capture and punishment so massively outweighs the possible short-term gains to perpetrators that they do not act. These things do not happen by accident; they can be stopped. The challenge now is not to give in to the isolationism that is taking root. Beyond borders, beyond passports, beyond nationalist conceptions of citizenship, there must be a notion of a global citizen who will be protected by all the nation states of the world if their own state sets out to kill them for who they are, what they believe or where they live. Let us take at least this minimal idea of global citizenship and back it with the deterrence of inevitable intervention should governments set out to solve their political problems with mass murder. Such a policy, adopted by the Labour government, enacted through Gordon Brown's war powers/genocide convention act, would signal more clearly than anything else that the root of a truly ethical foreign policy is in actions that save life, destroy tyranny and spread democracy. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Please sign in to comment
You will be able to leave a comment after signing in
Sign In Now