Expeditionary Wars: what Legitimacy? The unstated reasons for war.
As a follow-on of my previous post dedicated to the legitimacy of expeditionary wars (here), today I will tackle the left top part of the graph, where cynicism is at the top of the considerations.
For an easier reading, here is a reduced copy of the afore mentioned graph:
Any regime, might it be a democracy or a dictatorship, needs legitimacy to pursue its goals whatever they are. In some cases, it can be the outcome of a fierce rivalry between the leading factions. A traditional way of doing is to find out an enemy, within or beyond the borders of the country. The French declaration of war against Prussia in 1870 was, to the eyes of Bismarck, a unique opportunity to pave the way to the last phase of German unification process. However, such a goal rarely meet the spontaneous support of the public opinion. Therefore the true reason for war is usually covered by messages calling for national pride, international role, etc. In no way this indirect strategy for reaching an internal goal will make mention of the need to pursue purely internal objectives.
Economic and Strategic interests:
Wealth is a key issue in political matters. The Euro crisis, has proved, if need be, that a severe economic crisis can shatter the foundations of any country. Therefore, peace within a nation requires opened markets, cheap and abundant resources, especially when considering the strategic commodities. A good example could be the current undertakings of some African countries suspected of fueling civil war in Congo in order to take control of the rare earths of the region.
Preservation of vital interests:
Waging war when the mere existence of the country is at stake is neither a matter of cynicism, nor the expression of any universalist conception of the World. This is exclusively a matter of life and death. As the very existence of a nation is at stake, No government would hesitate to largely communicate on such an issue, being sure of the overwhelming support of the population.
However such a rhetoric is pretty rarely used by democracies. On the contrary, it seems to me that totalitarian regimes use it at great length, as do almost every week Iran or North-Korea.
This way of looking for the mobilization of the people requires two major prerequisites: the people have to feel threatened at such a level that it may hear this call, and the ruling bodies enjoy a strong legitimacy.
As for Mali refers, the impression conveyed by the recent events reveals that the anger against the partition of the country was not strong enough to fuel a national awakening,prerequisite for the reconquest of the northern regions. A Malian Gneisenau is still missing.
Evacuation of nationals:
One of the main traditional tasks of a sovereign country is the protection of its nationals, wherever they are. Therefore any power which military capabilities make an evacuation operation possible has the duty to exert its right. For this reason, this neither cynical nor unversalist. It generates anyway a large support within its public opinion. The recent history contains tens of such examples.
Support to a legitimate government and fulfill an international duty:
Both would belong to the same family, very sexy in terms of public relations, as the people usually understand and accept such duties as long as they feel involved. Let's get back to the article 5 of the North-Atlantic treaty. The following has been picked up from NATO website at www.nato.int :
"The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security."
Resorting to solidarity between allies or protection of a legitimate state can cover an infinite scope. On the one hand it can reach a full scale commitment, as the UK did in 2003 in support of the US against Iraq. Or it can be downsized to a single staff officer in a HQ, whose main task is reduced to a daily show of his shoulder patch, and a strong protest...
In some cases, solidarity can be triggered by the feeling that his assistance may be needed later on, and therefore an immediate and consistent military support to his undertaking will be highly profitable. The strong level of participation of moe recent NATO countries to the war in Iraq, or to the EU operation in Chad belong to those tokens of solidarity, designed to be payed back whenever things went wrong.
I strongly believe that peoples are ready to consent huge sacrifices if they believe that this his their duty, beyond any political consideration. Visiting the British and American war cemeteries in France are appealing in that sense.
In any case, support to a legitimate government and fullfilment of international duties are closely linked with the feeling of the public opinion, which needs to be either already convinced or at least understand that war is necessary so that it provides its support to the administration willing to go in this direction.
From a more political point of view, I would say that waging war for such reasons (solidarity and legitimacy) is pretty often linked to the research of stability in a given region or country, bottom line being that democracies need peace and stability in their areas of influence so that they can thrive, both socially and economically. Therefore, both can be used either as a true and sincere justification for war, or as a pretext, in order to make sure that the opposition to war will be concealed by a massive support of the public opinion to war.
Support to democracy:
By intention, 'support to democracy', is far apart from both previous topics. Indeed, per se, any government makes business with anybody, might it be the devil, as long as its nefarious nature remains at an acceptable level and it does not risk to spoil too much beyond its borders. One can assess that 'support to democracy' belongs much more to a convenient way to get national or international support to a military operation. However, one cannot exclude that a nation believes sincerely in the exportation of democratic values even if history has proved that it needs years and years to develop and get solid enough to resist the storms.
'Nation building' can be looked at as the extreme development of 'support to democracy' and the claim of a bumptious superiority of some nations over other cultures and peoples. This is to been seen as the belief that Westernes can build a nation in a few years, while we needed hundred of years ! But a people can only believe in such a pretext for war, as it flatters the ego in such an extend that it is even indecent;
The example of Somalia in the 90' is the paradigm of humanitarian support; the rich giving a hand to the poor. So much impregnated of Judeo-Christian ideolgy that one can only approve it. However the dramatic withdrawal and the complete failure of this operation shows that such undertakings, even if giving a response to our so deep anchored sense of guilt, are of little efficiency on the long run, even if an emergency aid to starving populations remains and will always be a superb symbol of solidarity.
What should be the conclusion?
Making use of documents designed for public relations will never, or at least rarely, give a right and accurate insight of the true motivations of a government in its decision to go to an expeditionary war.