On this edition of Parallax Views, modern wars in which the U.S. and Western powers invade nations like Iraq and Afghanistan are often waged under the pretext of being necessary "humanitarian interventions". Pro-peace activists and critics of U.S. foreign policy have long argued, however, that claims of "humanitarian intervention" are cover for more sinister motivations From this perspective, U.S. wars are fought for control of resources or for strategic reasons related to the maintenance of Western powers on the geopolitical "Grand Chessboard".
For example, many antiwar activists who marched in opposition to George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq would chant, "No More Wars for Oil!" In other words, the activists believed that war was not fought over WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) or to liberate the Iraqi people, but instead that the invasion was a way to secure resources. The invocation of "humanitarian intervention" in this context, activists claimed, was nothing more than a cynical ruse.
Dr. Philip Cunliffe, a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, however, takes a different, and perhaps even more provocative, approach to critiquing U.S. foreign policy. In his book Cosmopolitan Dystopia: International Intervention and the Failure of the West, Cunliffe wills himself to take the claims of humanitarian interventionists at face value rather than questioning whether they have ulterior motives. In taking this tact he argues that humanitarian intervention, however nobly conceived, has led to a dystopian scenario of "Forever Wars" that have caused more harm than good. Put another way, Cunliffe chooses to question the proposed logic of humanitarian intervention itself and uses examples like the fallout from the U.S.-backed overthrow of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya (which has led to the unintended consequence, or "blowback", of sexual slavery and human trafficking making a comeback in the region) to make his case.
Although Cunliffe's argument is controversial, and perhaps even unnerving, it does provide an alternative way of looking at Western wars in the 21st century. As always we attempted to hear our guest out rather than have a shouting match. With that in mind this episode is sure to stir the pot in regards to international relations discussion, but Parallax Views is all about providing listeners with an unconventional viewpoint they may have not considered before. And it is our belief that this conversation with Dr. Cunliffe will certainly provide that in spades.
Also be sure to check out Dr. Cunliffe's podcast Aufhebunga Bunga.