Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Humanitarian Intervention Gambit

In NRO Stanley Kurtz, author of Radical in Chief, argues that President Obama's Libyan efforts are a product of a doctrine advanced by academician Samantha Power, "a powerful member of Obama's foreign policy team." Power believes in a doctrine call "humanitarian intervention." This doctrine is described in the lefty Multitude by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.

In the view of Hardt and Negri the human-rights doctrine represents an effort to undermine the legitimation of nation-state violence both outside and within nation states. Thus,

The majority human rights position now advocates violence in the service of human rights, legitimated on its moral foundation and conducted by the blue helmets of the UN military.

Everyone agrees--or at least everyone left of center--that the nation state is a problem. So the human rights doctrine of violence legitimation represents an effort to do an end run around the legitimacy of nation states.

Hardt and Negri aren't happy with the new concept because, they notice, it only gets applied to the weak. If Libya is a human rights problem you can send in the US Air Force. But if the US is a human rights problem you can do... nothing.

It seems clear that, contra the conservative notion of President Obama as a ditherer, the president is acting consistent with his principles, that of a somewhat lefty multinational elitist. That's why his intervention has not provoked the opposition that President Bush's actions provoked. The international elite of the educated class is the entity that has advanced the human-rights doctrine of violence legitimation, so on that view President Obama seems to be doing the right thing in a difficult situation.

The problem is that our liberal friends have never dared to involve the American people in the development of this doctrine. In fact the president has been circumspect about the advertising of all his principles. That's because, as Rush Limbaugh says, liberals can't admit who they really are. If they did, the American people would kick them out of power.

Going forward, the president has two problems. The first is whether his vision will actually work. In the conservative view his domestic policy will fail because the administrative model of governance with its administratively controlled benefits and eligibilities and deliveries simply does not work. His foreign policy will fail because it fails to understand that foreign policy, whether conducted under the banner of a nation state or a supranational authority is still a contest of power. The idea of supranational authority is still a concept rather than a reality. There are no sovereign supranational authorities. Not yet, anyway.

The second problem is that our liberal friends have not persuaded, not even attempted to persuade, the American people to follow their policies. They imposed ObamaCare by legislative trickery and profoundly misleading rhetoric. They imposed their human-rights-based foreign policy over a people that thinks in terms of America as the exceptional nation state.

No good can come of governance without persuasion. Which is why I think that we ain't seen nothing yet when it comes to the decline and fall of liberalism.

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