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Belmont Club

Responsibility to Protect

April 11th, 2011 - 2:08 am

The Arab League has asked the UN to impose a “no fly zone” over Gaza. The League said “it would ask the United Nation Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli aggression over Gaza to lift the siege and impose a no-fly zone against the Israeli military to protect civilians.” The Tatler at PJ Media featured this story earlier.

Through the Security Council, the Palestinians want “international sanctions on Israel to force it to stop escalation in Gaza and the campaign of terror in the West Bank,” said Saleh Ra’fat, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization on Sunday.

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The Los Angeles Times argues that no matter who is right or wrong, it’s time to stop the violence. And that means stopping the “counterproductive Israeli response”.

You can argue forever about who is right and who is wrong. Or how far back to go to determine who started the hostilities. Or how much worse it is or isn’t to kill civilians on purpose than it is to kill them as collateral damage. Those are questions for philosophers to wrestle with. But to deny that there’s a cycle of violence seems pointless.

Of course there’s only country in the world whose Air Force and Naval Aviation have any chance of remotely imposing a “No Fly Zone” on the Israeli Air Force. It isn’t Britain, France, Italy or Spain. It isn’t even Syria, Russia, Egypt, or Iran. Most certainly it isn’t Saudi Arabia or Turkey.  But there is one country that might be able to do it. So why doesn’t it “do the right thing”? You know, like use the UN mandate to disarm the Hezbollah in Lebanon of its 36,000 missiles. Oops. Wrong subject.

Let us get back on track. Why doesn’t the UN save Israel from itself? Break the cycle of violence with F-22s flying the UN flag.  There is a some support for the idea.

Come on, Security Council – the children of Gaza deserve better. Declare a No-Fly Zone for Palestinian Territories immediately.

(1) The killer/s of five members of the Fogel family earlier this month has yet to be positively identified, let alone as Palestinian – several sources suggest a disgruntled unpaid migrant labourer from Thailand who had made previous death threats as the prime suspect. Nevertheless, Netanyahu, and the Israeli (and world) media immediately trumpeted accusations of “Palestinian terrorists”, without presenting one shred of evidence, let alone an actual suspect.

The Democratic Underground, which can be a leading indicator of opinion on the Left in fact anticipated the Arab League. As early as late March, its posters were writing:

The few surface to surface missiles Palestinians fire have no chance of doing real military damage to Israel. And every casualty those missiles inflict on Israelis is repaid about a hundredfold on Palestinians. Wouldn’t a no-fly zone over the occupied territories expedite a real peace process?

Once an idea starts within the Left, no matter what its content, a political process begins whereby it may attract support. Once such support is attracted then the idea, whatever its practical or even factual merits, becomes a rallying cry and eventually a call to arms. While the declaration of an “no fly zone” is improbable in the near future, it is by no means improbable over the long term. The campaign to regulate light bulbs, declare blasphemy a crime, and to impose an “international veto” on the sovereign affairs of nations would have once been unthinkable but are now either actual or imminent.

The root of the problem lies in the fact that it is far easier for special interests and well-connected incumbents in the United Nations system to manipulate the political process than it is for the Global Citizenry to pass judgment on it. For example, we do not even know whether the voters of world, assuming they existed in the member countries of the UN, would polled as a whole be willing to endorse the principle that the Security Council has a right to impose a No Fly Zone over another country.  We are always told that Israel is a “pariah state” yet the issue has never been put to the global vote.

There are probably very few “democratic” countries in the Arab League; indeed many of them are busy putting down dissenters in their respective streets, so how is it possible for such a body to speak of using the air forces of a certain democratic country to put down the air forces of about the only democratic country in the Middle East?  They can do this because unelected advisers can advance this agenda. They can do this because some political leaders can claim they do not need the approval of their voters because they already have international ‘legitimacy’. It is a self-licking ice cream cone.

This is a fundamentally undemocratic process. A network of NGOs, special interest groups, influential activists and ideologues, in alliance with actual tyrants, are able to advance a proposal with greater facility that the voters in their respective countries oppose it.  They can just invent the authority and if they are not stopped, eventually it becomes “legal” and “consensus”. Just as at some point the UN realized it could “tax” the citizens of the United States, for example, there is now the possibility it can have free use of their armed forces, if not now then eventually.

Interestingly, the UN system of insider politics is precisely what is being undermined by the Arab revolt. The despots are clinging to the rungs above them as the ground crumbles beneath. The idea that transnational institutions should have the power to impose things from the top down may already be doomed by the the global economic crisis and grassroots rebellions all over the world. It is an idea whose time has passed even before it came.

It is hardly possible to understand the full irony of the Arab League’s proposal without realizing it comes at a time when the Sunni world is at its lowest point. Not only has it proved impotent against Israel, but its historical rivals the Persians and their allies the Arab Shias are in ascendancy. The shock in Riyadh of Washington abandoning Mubarak must have been enormous. The attempt of Obama to be on “both sides of history” is interpreted with justifiable concern as being neutral in the contest between the Sunnis and Iran.

It cannot be helped by the fact that the “Resistance” — i.e. Hezbollah — is largely supported by Iran, unctuously assisted by its Alawite minion, Syria. And thus, the League’s pitiful call for a “no fly zone”, rooted as it is in the idea of a woman, Samantha Power, represents several courses of crow. The Arab League is down to gimmicks. It cannot get to Washington, not really, not to this self-absorbed bunch of know it alls. And so it plays the clown.

But it also highlights the bankruptcy of the R2P concept itself. Samantha Power’s notion is rooted in a world that is rapidly passing away; destroying itself in fact. Her End of History ethos is under attack from a region seeking to regain its role in history; one faction through freedom and the other faction through a return to the eighth century and there is no room in it for impositions from the top. For who shall determine what shall be protected against whom? Those ready to supply the answer have never even heard the question. If there is a responsibility to protect, who protects the world from Samantha Power?


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