The West, whilst insisting that others seek peaceful solutions, has resorted to the sword on many occasions, writes Dr Strobe Driver.
The horrors recently delivered upon innocent civilians and police officers in France, and being mindful of the unspeakable multiple-traumas that would have been cast upon those involved in Australia’s Lindt Café siege, are painful in the extreme, and those concerned should be offered unconditional sympathy. With the greatest of respect – especially to those who have lost a loved one – there is a deeper malaise underpinning why these actions have taken place. In order to understand why these individuals’ were driven to this point must be cautiously brought to the fore. At its core is the way in which the West has manipulated – to its own advantage – the world’s body-politic; and the way in which this process has stirred the hatred of many.
The process of the untrammelled expansion of the ‘West’ or what is the Western ‘style’ of government and governance has been present in the body-politic of the world for several centuries. The European Westphalian ‘system,’ is what underpins the way in which the world ‘is’ and consists of demarcated borders, sovereign/national government, recognized boundaries (sea, air and land), effective governance, and the rule of sovereign law, as well as international law. This ‘system,’ has been in place since 1648 however, there was an attempt to put this ‘system’ more firmly into place after World War One – through the League of Nations – however, this failed and it was not until after World War Two (WWII), that it was formally reinforced through an institute: the United Nations (UN). In coming to terms with UN ‘requirements’ and thus, the full recognition of the ‘system’ it is necessary to differentiate between ‘government’ and ‘governance.’ Government is who ‘runs a country’ and there are many different ‘types’ and forms of a ‘government’: dictatorship, democracy, autocracy, social-democracy, benevolent dictatorship, theocracy and numerous others. To be sure, often a particular government will consist of a ‘blend’ of practices although it will form under the mantle of one ‘type’ of government. Others will be static in their representation of a ‘style’ of government, such as Cuba and Britain, both incredibly different though rigid in their representation. Whilst there were, and are, many differences in the way in which countries are governed, all countries nevertheless, conform to the system of governance which Europa – or what we now call Europe/Western Europe – devised, and then disseminated around the world. The ‘manner of governing’ is premised on the aforementioned sovereign-system of values, which all participants recognize as legitimate/legal.
There are, of course, disputes with regard to ‘who owns what’ and there always has been. Hence, in modern day times these issues are meant to be debated in the UN. This is in direct contrast to the pre-Westphalian system of immediate recourse-to-arms when a matter was in dispute. The savagery of which, was summed by Grotius circa early-1600s as:
I saw prevailing throughout the Christian world … a license in making war which even barbarous nations would have been ashamed; recourse was had to arms for slight reasons, or for no reason, and when arms were once taken up, all reverence for divine and human law was thrown away; just as if men were thenceforth authorized to commit all crimes without restraint.
There remains to this day, several current sovereignty/ownership disputes and they are China-India, (Arunachal Pradesh); Israel-Palestine, (Gaza Strip); China-Japan, Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai Islands; and the Argentine-Britain, Falklands Islands/Islas Malvinas. Nevertheless, all of the these are expected to be solved through the various mechanisms of the UN, and the mantra of the UN has always been – through their various charters – to insist that peaceful settlement is the best outcome.
Underpinning the UN is also an insistence that nations, regardless of their government to (eventually) adopt ‘democracy,’ as through this mechanism the UN believes ‘best practice’ governance – or put more succinctly, the Western European ‘model’ of governing – should be adopted, as it offers better populace representation and moreover, is the consummate expression of fairness. All else is secondary to this model. Powerful non-democratic nation-states (such as China and Russia) do exercise considerable control within the UN – both are have permanent seats on the UN Security Council and are part of the Permanent Five (P5) members on the UN Security Council (UNSC) – and as such, they do respect the rules of polity as per the Westphalian system. Theoretically all nations-states, and in particular, democratically governed nation-states respect the Wesphalian mantra that a sovereign ruler/government has the ‘supreme authority to act in a particular sphere unhampered by others …’ or in simpler terms, a ruler/government is allowed to conduct their governing/governance on their own terms without the interference of others.
Therefore, one can argue, if democracies are the best representatives of what good government and governance represents, then it is only fair that their record be examined in what they have done in order to bring about peace; and what they have accomplished in the post-WWII world, in particular with regard to the non-interference component. This needs to be done to establish whether what powerful democracies have insisted upon through the mechanisms of the UN – peaceful dialogue, negotiation and other principles of justice – has actually been carried out by those that have the high moral ground with regard to governing; and to be sure, in keeping to their Westphalian ‘ideals.’
A perfunctory observation of the post-WWII era is an excellent starting point because the UN has been firmly established and once again, powerful democracies should not, if they are true to their ideals, be inciting hatred through what Grotius called ‘a license to making war’ – the use of direct force – especially when its (read: democracy) expectations of others has not been met.
The West however, whilst insisting that others seek peaceful solutions, has ‘resorted to the sword’ on many occasions. At times this has consisted of intra-state interventions (warring with another Western nation-state), though on most occasions, it has been Western interventions colliding with non-Western nation-states and/or peoples in one form or another. The interest here however, is the degree that the West, or ‘Western-orientated’ nation-states have delivered on their adversary, whether through direct or indirect violence. Examples of the West going to war in one form or another consist of Great Britain and its dealings with Northern Ireland (The Troubles, 1968-1998); the British in Malaya (the ‘Malayan Emergency,’ or the ‘War of the Running Dogs,’ 1948-1960); the incursion and then invasion of northern Vietnam by the French (the First Indo-China War, 1946-1954); the French occupation of Algeria, in what Evans has called France’s ‘undeclared war’; the Second Indo-China War (the Vietnam War 1962-1975) in order for the United States (US) to stem the tide of Communism which it insisted would take place through a ‘domino principle,’ which would see all of Southeast Asia usurped by Communism; South Africa and the Apartheid regime which included the gaoling of the (then) terrorist Nelson Mandela; the ‘extraordinary rendition’ of citizens by the US to non-Western nation-states in their ‘War on Terror’ (2003 – ); to name only a few examples of violence which the West has approved. Less overt, however just as troublesome is the selective approval by the West of, arming and/or supporting nation-states that have brutal and repressive governments such as Saudi Arabia; and the tacit support by the West of other less-violent though highly-suspect governments’ in their deliverance of democracy to all of their citizens, such as Singapore. Whilst the aforementioned represent degrees of direct force and/or misguided political will on the part of the West, and bearing in mind Western nation-states are the ‘upholder’s of problem solving’ via the UN, the sheer ineptness on the part of Western nations in bringing about an end to the recent internal conflict in Syria, and a mutually beneficial conclusion to the long-term Israel-Palestine crisis cannot be ignored as both, it is fair to argue, contribute to the utter despair and rage of numerous non-Western nation-states. Moreover, they incite hatred toward the West; and manifest in their peoples a divide between how much the West really cares for non-Western populaces.
All of the abovementioned constitute abject and in some cases deliberate failings on the part of powerful Western nation-states in dealing with issues that are their concern – as per the tenets of Westphalia. More to the point, the West specifically addresses the notions of diplomacy through the various mechanisms of the UN, yet, and as is able to be observed, resorts to war, or a degree of violence at the earliest opportunity. The most relevant point here is, the West (and Western-orientated countries) pontificate one point of view, resort to violence, and then have the impudence it would seem, to believe their duplicity will go unnoticed and moreover, will not incite hatred and/or revenge toward the West. This is folly; and can only lead to eventual despair for the West.
The moral argument of whether attacks should take place against civilian targets is (now)an arid argument as the fact remains this is happening; and is evidence of the above duplicity in action. An alternative perspective remains to suggest that there is always another aspect to a given issue, for instance the argument that an agitator/event provoked the West into action – the most obvious in recent times being the World Trade Center disaster: A specific point needs mentioning here: it is the UN – usually the P5 – that is charged with whether an action is warranted, and whether it should be pre-emptive or post-event. Therefore, it is not a single country to decide whether it should take action, and should only take action with UN approval. The tenets of the UN remain in place: military force must not be used unless it has the official/legal backing of the UNSC.
The West has failed in following its own rules; in its duty-of-care to good governance and has treated other nation-states, in particular non-Western countries, with contempt and derision. As the actions of the West have developed and progressed in the post-WWII world the deliberateness of these actions – in some cases toward other Western nation-states, in the case of Ireland – have caused groups to come-of-age; be willing to sacrifice their lives; and execute others in the cause against the direct repression that the West has delivered. While the actions of non-state actors are reprehensible, especially when civilians and police officers are targeted, it is far too simplistic to state that the cause of non-state actors – terrorists, guerrillas and insurgents – have not been encouraged to their actions due to the abject contempt with which the West has shown toward others. Additionally, the West has fundamentally failed to stem reactionary forces through both its implementation of selective policies toward Western-friendly nations; and used direct force when other nations have sought to deviate from the course that has been ‘set’ by the West.
The above argument and the West’s attitude toward others, and indeed the ‘license to war,’ that has prevailed is able to be given a broader perspective with a cursory observation of one of the driver’s the West has used in its delivery of its body-politic. This has been through the attitude of the most powerful post-WWII actor: the US. According to Little the US, and one could argue by association Western policymakers, have been:
Influenced by potent racial and cultural stereotypes, some imported and some homegrown, that [have] depicted the Muslim world as decadent and inferior, U.S. policymaker’s from Harry Truman through to George Bush [have] tended to dismiss Arab aspirations for self-determination as politically primitive, economically suspect, and ideologically absurd.
Current interventions (Australia’s into Iraq included), suggest this attitude remains entrenched in the psyche of the West and Western-orientated governments, and to be sure, unless these nation-states embark upon a change in their body-politic the horrifying repercussions of contemporary times will continue; especially against ‘soft targets’ as per the recent sieges in urban areas.
A pertinent reminder of the rage felt toward the West is able to be traced through the actions of Britain, France and the US and numerous other Western nations, although when examining interventions the US remains the most active, and has a long history of intervening in the affairs of others. From the Caribbean, through to the Middle East, the Central and South Americas, Africa and numerous other locales – to be fair, the UN has sponsored several actions – although it is imperative to note that between 1898 and 1996 there were 93 interventions on the part of the US – this is what Peceney has called ‘democracy at the point of bayonets.’ For many reasons beyond the deaths of innocent civilians, a rethink of the West’s ‘license to war’ is sorely needed. At the very least Western and Western-orientated countries, should stop offering platitudes regarding Western and Western-orientated nation-states being the ‘upholders of the virtue of good government/governance,’ when it is obviously a disingenuous and (now) deeply-flawed position to now assume. More to the point, non-Western nation-states perspicaciously observe the dichotomy of argument, and parallel actions.
 Western civilisation and what it represents is a vast and complex subject and fraught with interpretation. A succinct reference to this is only needed here in order to instil an understanding of how it became so expansive in its mechanisms that allowed this to prosper. Western civilisation has as one of its major tenets industrialization and science as part of its formulaic, and this in and of itself required organization and the forming of standing forces. Although Stearns uses the Industrial Revolution to make a point about the West it can be applied to when the Treaty of Westphalia and the sovereign state came into being. Stearns avers industrialization, ‘extended a Western commitment to using technology as a measure of social progress. The impulse to deplore other societies as backward because they lagged behind Western industrialization represented a further step is [sic] what was already a well-established impulse…[and moreover being Western] now depended on claiming unchallenged world supremacy…’ See: Peter Stearns. Western Civilization in World History. New York: Routledge, 2003, 105-108.
 The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia. The Treaty of Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts. The most pertinent ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the Treaty of Osnabrück respectively. See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41.
 Dictionary.com < http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/governance?s=t > January, 2014.
 Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), was a Dutch philosopher and author of De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (The Rights of War and Peace), [and] wrote down the conditions for a just war that are accepted today.’ See: British Broadcasting Corporation. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ethics/war/just/history.shtml> July, 2007.
 Derek Verall. ‘The Westphalian system and its underlying normative order.’ World Order. Managing International Conflict. Editors of the School of International and Political Studies, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1996, 3.
 See: British Broadcasting Corporation <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/troubles>
 See: Noel Barber. War of the Running Dogs, 1948-1960. Cassell Military Books, 2007.
 See: Martin Evans. Algeria: France’s Undeclared War. Oxford University Press, 2012.
 President Kennedy in a UN speech in 1961, stipulated if Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam fell to the communists, this would result in the gates of defeat for liberal-democracy being ‘open wide.’ See: John Kennedy. ‘Address in New York City before the General Assembly of the United Nations.’ September 25, 1961. United States Government Public Papers. <http//www.jfklinl.com/speeches/jfk/publicpapers/1961/jfk387_61.html> Accessed 23 April, 2008.
 See: Jane Meyer; ‘Outsourcing Torture.’ The New Yorker. February, 2005. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/02/14/outsourcing-torture>
 See: Tanya Reinhart. Israel/Palestine. How to End the War of 1948. Seven Stories Press, 2002.
 See: Chapter VII. Article 39 – 43. ‘Action with Respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ Charter of the United Nations.
 Douglas Little. American Orientalism. The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, 11.
 Mark Peceney. Democracy at the Point of Bayonets. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, 16.
This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.
Dr Strobe Driver completed his doctoral thesis in war studies in 2011 and writes on International Relations; and Asia-Pacific security. He is also a sessional lecture and tutor at Federation University in the social sciences, history and international relations. The views expressed in this article are through his own research
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