Dear Jean; in your article, “The
Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy,” you write of
the justifications the imperial powers come up with in order to
rationalize their military expeditions around the world.
Isn’t a hawkish foreign policy an advantage
for the politicians in the Western world, particularly the United
States, to attract the vote and supporting of the public? Will the
American people elect a pacifist President who openly vows to put an end
to all the U.S. wars and refrain from waging new wars?
I am not sure that it attracts the votes. In
Europe, certainly not.
The most hawkish politicians, Blair
and Sarkozy were not popular for a long time because of their
foreign policy. In Germany the public is systematically in favor of a
peaceful foreign policy. As the American pacifist A.J. Muste
remarked, the problem in all wars lies with the victor - they think
The defeated, like Germany, and to some extent the rest
of Europe, know that war is not so rosy.
However, I think that, except in times of
crisis, like the Vietnam or the Algerian wars, when they turned badly
for the U.S. or France, most people are not very interested in foreign
policy, which is understandable, given their material problems and given
the fact that it looks like being out of reach of ordinary people.
On the other hand, every U.S. presidential
candidate has to make patriotic statements, “we are the best”, “a light
at the top of the hill”, a “defender of democracy and human rights” and
so on. That, of course, is true in all systems of power, the only thing
that varies are the “values” to which one refers (being a good Christian
or Muslim or defending socialism, etc.).
And, it is true that, in order to get the
votes, one must get the support of the press and of big money. That
introduces an enormous bias in favor of militarism and of support for
The imperial powers, as you have indicated
in your writings, wage wars, kill innocent people and plunder the
natural resources of weaker countries under the pretext of bringing
democracy to them. So, who should take care of the principles of
international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty?
Attacking other countries at will and
killing defenseless civilians recklessly is a flagrant parade of
lawlessness. Is it possible to bring these powers to their senses and
hold them accountable over what they do?
I think the evolution of the world goes in
that direction; respect for the principles of international law,
territorial integrity and sovereignty.
As I said before, the European populations
are rather peaceful, both inside Europe and with respect to the rest of
the world, at least, compared to the past. Some of their leaders are not
peaceful and there is a strong pressure from an apparently strange
alliance in favor of war between human rights interventionists and
neo-conservatives who are influential in the media and in the
intelligentsia, but they are not the only voices and they are rather
unpopular with the general public.
As for the U.S., they are in a deep crisis,
not only economically, but also diplomatically. They have lost control
of Asia long ago, are losing Latin America and, now, the Middle East.
Africa is turning more and more towards China.
So, the world is becoming multipolar,
whether one likes it or not. I see at least two dangers: that the
decline of the U.S. will produce some crazy reaction, leading to war, or
that the collapse of the American empire creates chaos, a bit like the
collapse of the Roman Empire did.
It is the responsibility of the Non-Aligned
the BRICS countries to insure an
orderly transition towards a really new world order.
seems hypocritical in the Western powers’ attitude toward the concept of
human rights is that they ceaselessly condemn the violation of human
rights in the countries with which they are at odds, but intentionally
remain silent about the same violations in the countries which are
allied with them.
instance, you surely know that how the political prisoners are
mistreated and tortured in Saudi Arabia, Washington’s number one ally
among the Arab countries. So, why don’t they protest and condemn these
Do you know any power that is not
hypocritical? It seems to me that this is the way power functions in all
places and at all times.
For example, in 1815, at the fall of
Napoleon, the Tsar of Russia, the Austrian Emperor and the King of
Prussia came together in what they called their Holy Alliance, claiming
to base their rules of conduct,
“on the sublime truths contained in the
eternal religion of Christ our savior,” as well as on the
principles, “of their holy religion, precepts of justice, charity
and peace,” and vowed to behave toward their subjects “as a father
toward his children.”
During the Boer war, the British Prime
Minister, Lord Salisbury, declared that it was “a war for
democracy” and that “we seek neither gold mines nor territory”.
Bertrand Russell, citing these
remarks, commented that “cynical foreigners” couldn’t help noticing that
“we nevertheless obtained both the mines and the territory”.
At the height of the Vietnam War, the
American historian Arthur Schlesinger described U.S. policy there
as part of,
“our overall program of international
At the end of that war, a liberal
commentator wrote in the New York Times that:
“For a quarter of a century, the United
States have tried to do good, to encourage political freedom and
promote social justice in the Third World”.
In that sense, things have not changed.
People sometimes think that, because our
system is more democratic, things must have changed. But that assumes
that the public is well informed, which it is not true because of the
many biases in the media, and that it is actively involved in the
formation of foreign policy, which is also not true, except in times of
The formation of foreign policy is a
very elitist and undemocratic affair.
Attacking or invading other countries under
the pretext of humanitarian intervention may be legalized and
permissible with the unanimity of the Security Council permanent
members. If they all vote in favor a military strike, then it will
But, don’t you think that the very fact that
only 5 world countries can make decisions for 193 members of the United
Nations while this considerable majority don’t have any say in the
international developments is an insult to all of these nations and
their right of self-determination?
Of course. You don’t need unanimity
actually, except for the permanent members.
But now that China and Russia seem to have
taken an autonomous position with respect to the West, it is not clear
that new wars will be legal. I am not happy with the current
arrangements at the Security Council, but I still think that
the United Nations is, on the whole, a good thing; its Charter
provides a defense, in principle, against intervention and a framework
for international order and its existence provides a forum where
different countries can meet, which is better than nothing.
Of course, reforming the UN is a
tricky business, since it cannot be done without the consent of the
permanent members of the Security Council, who are not likely to be very
enthusiastic at the prospect of relinquishing part of their power.
What will matter in the end will be
the evolution of the relationship of forces in the world, and that is
not going in the direction of those who think that they now control it.
Let’s talk about some contemporary issues.
In your articles, you have talked of the war in Congo. It was very
shocking to me that the Second Congo War was the deadliest conflict in
the African history with some 5 million innocent people dead, but the
U.S. mainstream media put a lid on it because one of the belligerents,
the Rwandan army, was a close ally of Washington.
What’s your take on that?
Well, I am not an expert on that part of the
But I notice that the Rwandan tragedy of
1994 is often used as an argument for foreign intervention, which, it is
claimed, would have stopped the killings, while the tragedy in Congo
should be taken as an argument against foreign intervention and for
respect of international law, since it was to a large extent due to the
intervention of Rwandan and Ugandan troops in Congo.
Of course, the fact that the latter argument
is never made shows, once more, how the discourse about humanitarian
intervention is biased in favor of the powers that be, who want to
attribute to themselves the right to intervene, whenever it
Just a few days ago, the UN Secretary
General Ban Ki Moon condemned Iranian leaders for their supposedly
“inflammatory and hateful” remarks on Israel. However, I never remember
him condemning the Israeli officials for their frequent repeating of
dangerous war threats against Iran.
What’s the reason behind this hypocrisy?
As you know, the hypocrisy with respect to
Israel in the West reaches staggering proportions and Ban Ki-moon,
although he is
the United Nations Secretary General, is very much on “pro-Western”
While I myself have doubts about the wisdom
of the Iranian rhetoric about Israel, I think that the threats of
military actions against Iran by Israel are far worse and should be
considered illegal under international law. I also think that the
unilateral sanctions against Iran, taken by the U.S. and its allies,
largely to please Israel, are shameful.
And, although the people who claim to be
anti-racist in the West never denounce these policies, I think they are
deeply racist, because they are accepted only because so-called
civilized countries, Israel and its allies, exert this threat and those
sanctions against an “uncivilized” one, Iran.
This will be remembered in the future in the
same way that slavery is remembered now.
There are people like you who oppose the
U.S. militarism, its imposture and hypocrisy in dealing with the human
rights and its attempts to devour the oil-rich Middle East, but
unfortunately I should say, you’re in the minority.
It’s the Israeli-administered Congress and
hawkish think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations and
National Endowment for Democracy that run the United States, not the
anti-war, pro-peace progressive thinkers and writers like you.
How much influence do the progressive
thinkers and leftist media have over the policies which are taken in the
Well, I think one has to make a difference
between support for Israel and the desire to “devour” oil. The two
policies are not the same and are, in fact, contradictory.
As, I think, Mearsheimer and Walt have
shown, the pro-Israel policies of the U.S. are to a large extent driven
by the pro-Israel lobby and do not correspond to or help their economic
or geo-strategic interests.
For example, as far as I know, there would
be no problem for our oil companies to drill in Iran, if it weren’t for
the sanctions imposed on that country; but the latter are linked to the
hostility to Iran from Israel, not from any desire to control oil.
The second remark is that the anti-war
people are not necessarily on the left. True, there is a big part of the
Right that has become neo-conservative, but there is also a big part of
the Left that is influenced by the ideology of humanitarian
intervention. However, there is also a libertarian Right, Ron Paul
for example, that is staunchly anti-war, and there are some remnants of
a pacifist or anti-imperialist Left.
Note that this has always been the case: the
pro and anti-imperialist position, even back in the days of colonialism,
do not coincide with the Left-Right divide, if the latter is understood
in socio-economic terms or in “moral” terms (about gay marriage for
Next, it is true that we have very little
influence, but that is partly because we are divided, between an
anti-war Left and anti-war Right. I believe that a majority of the
population is opposed to these endless and costly wars, mostly, in
Europe, because of the lesson they drew from WWII, or from their defeat
in the colonial wars, and, in the U.S., because of war fatigue after
Afghanistan and Iraq.
What we do not have is a consistent anti-war
movement; to build the latter one would have to focus on war itself and
unite both sides of the opposition (Right and Left). But if movements
can be built around other “single issues,” like abortion or gay
marriage, that put aside all socio-economic problems and class issues,
Although such a movement does not exist now,
its prospects are not totally hopeless: if the economic crisis deepens,
and if the worldwide opposition to U.S. policies increases, citizens of
all political stripes might gather to try to build alternatives.
What’s your viewpoint regarding the U.S. and
its allies’ war of sanctions, embargoes, nuclear assassinations and
psychological operation against Iran? Iran is practically under a
multilateral attack by the United States, Israel and their submissive
Is there any way for Iran to get out of the
dilemma and resist the pressures? How much do you know Iran? Have you
heard of its culture and civilization, which the mainstream media never
I do not know much about Iran, but I do not
think I need to know very much about that country although I would
certainly like to know more, in order to oppose the policies you
mention. I was also opposed to Western interventions in former
Yugoslavia or in Libya.
Some people think there are good and bad
interventions. But the main issue for me is: who intervenes?
It is never really the “citizens” or the
“civil society” of the West, or even the European countries on their
own, meaning without U.S. support, it is always the U.S. military,
mostly its Air Force.
Now, one may of course defend the idea that
international law should be disregarded and that the defense of human
rights should be left to the U.S. Air Force.
But many people who support “good”
interventions do not say that. They usually argue that “we” must do
something to “save the victims” in a particular situation. What this
viewpoint forgets is that the “we” who is supposed to intervene is not
the people who actually speak, but the U.S. military.
Therefore, support for any intervention only
strengthens the arbitrary power of the U.S., which, of course, uses it
as it seems fit, and not, in general, according to the wishes of those
who support “good” interventions.
And finally, would you please give us an
insight of how the corporate media serve the interests of the imperial
powers? How do they work? Is it morally justifiable to use media
propaganda to achieve political and colonial goals?
The connection between “corporate media” and
war propaganda is complicated, as is the relationship between capitalism
Most people on the Left think that
capitalism needs war or leads to it. But the truth, in my view, is far
more nuanced. American capitalists make fortunes in China and Vietnam
now that there is peace between the U.S. and East Asia; for American
workers, it is a different matter, of course.
There is no reason whatsoever for oil or
other Western companies not to do business with Iran, and, if there was
peace in the region, capitalists would descend upon it like vultures in
order to exploit a cheap and relatively qualified labor force.
This is not to say that capitalists are
nice, nor that they cannot be individually pro-war, but only that war,
in general, is not in their interests and they are not necessarily the
main force pushing for war.
People are driven to war by conflicting
ideologies, especially when they take a fanatical form - for example,
when you believe that a certain piece of land was
given to you by God,
or that your country has a special mission, like exporting human rights
and democracy, preferably by cruise missiles and drones.
It is both sad and ironical that an idea
that is largely secular and liberal, the one of human rights, has now
been turned into one of the main means to whip up war hysteria in the
But that is our present situation and a most
urgent and important task is to change it.