The Bush/Blair Nexus: Recognising the violence of liberal internationalism
The bonds of common purpose that unite British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush have been evident for many years now. It is no longer surprising – if it ever was – to find Blair wholeheartedly supporting the embattled President on controversial foreign policy matters, particularly in relation to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the broader war on terror. While some efforts have been made to explain the deep affinity between these two seemingly disparate politicians, most scholarship on the foreign policy of the two leaders has focused solely on either the neo-conservatism of the Bush administration or the third way politics of Blair. In doing so, critiques of the foreign policies of these two contemporary powers have neglected the central role of liberal internationalist theory in the propagation and justification of their belligerent approaches. The purpose of this paper, in this context, is to establish the commonalities of these two ideological positions and to illustrate the profound attachment to violence that both exhibit. It is obviously insufficient, in undertaking this task, to conceive of Blair's foreign policy as beholden to American whims, just as it is unhelpful to focus wholly upon neo-conservatism as a new, belligerent force in U.S. foreign policy making. Rather, what is required is a recognition of the violence entailed by the liberal internationalist discourse that both leaders espouse, whether the focus be on free markets, democratic institutions, or human rights. Stemming from the argument that liberal internationalist discourse has always (and necessarily) been accompanied by belligerent foreign policy, I will argue that there is nothing unusual or unique about the desire of both leaders to inflict violence upon rogues, and that the path toward infliction of such violence follows a similar and familiar pattern in the foreign policy doctrines of Blair and Bush. Hence, it will be argued that the justifications for violence in the Blair and Bush doctrines emerge through the linking of three major themes - globalisation, humanitarianism, and democracy – with their justifications for war. This triumvirate, I will argue, is utilised in the establishment of an inside and outside of a global 'human' identity. In this regard, the theme of globalisation is repetitively articulated in indicating the rapid change and progress that characterises the contemporary world. This sense of radical transformation is definitively proposed in the Blair doctrine with the statement that, 'We live in a completely new world'. Consequently, anyone who has failed to come to terms with or accept the reality of this new global world is excluded from all the benefits that it has to offer. A similar discourse is established in the Bush Doctrine, with a definitive link being established between the free trade that symbolises acceptance of globalisation and human freedom in general. In short, those who accept the neo-liberal tenets of globalisation are on the right side, while those who refuse to take part – the so-called closed societies, or globaphobes – will either ruin themselves or be ruined in the natural course of future world developments. Likewise, humanitarian concern, with a particular focus on the spread of human rights and democracy, forms the basis for another defining characteristic of the international community. This humanitarianism was central to Blair‘s foreign policy even before the arrival of Bush as U.S. President, and is clearly enunciated in the Doctrine of the International Community speech that forms the basis of the analysis to follow.7 Such a commitment to humanitarian ideals is also clearly evident in the speeches and policy documents that establish the Bush Doctrine. According to the National Security Strategy of 2002, for example: America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property. Like the discourse on globalisation, the humanitarian concern underlying the Bush and Blair doctrines serves as a divisive tool, demarcating the democrat and the despot, the human rights advocate and the human rights abuser, and, ultimately, the human and the sub-human. A similar tendency is readily noticeable in the antagonism established between the democratic and non-democratic or anti-democratic nations of the world. We do not need to carry out much reading or research to notice this discourse, which is particularly built around the proposition – or 'fact' as many would have it - that democratic states are peaceful states and vice versa. Indeed, it might be said that this discourse of democracy has come to form the centrepiece of the justifications for the war on terror, regularly raised in response to those who have criticised the horrors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this is precisely the issue at stake here, for perhaps none of this would matter so much if these discourses did not terminate in acts of war, in attempts to eliminate the deviants and outsiders that plague the moral universe that Bush and Blair claim to represent. But this, as we shall see, is precisely where the open (yet closed) principles of globalisation, humanitarianism, and democracy lead in the Bush and Blair Doctrines. War, while seen as undesirable, is articulated as the 'final solution' to the problems of the anti-globalist, the anti-humanitarian, or the anti-democratic remnants that inhabit the world. Now, of course, these outsiders are generally represented as terrorists or the rogue states that harbour them, saboteurs who recklessly and irrationally attack the symbols of a universal order under Western hegemony. It is at these unstable frontiers that the warriors for the perfect world, Bush and Blair, stage their humanitarian interventions and their wars on terror, playing out a violence that we must recognise as stemming directly from their liberal internationalist discourses. The significance of this recognition should be noted: this paper does not simply seek to launch another attack against the flawed, brutal and arrogant policies of the Bush and Blair administrations, it also aims to highlight the weaknesses in the arguments that have been raised against them. In particular, I seek to demonstrate that any attempt to argue that Bush and Blair are simply using the language of humanitarianism to cover their self-interested or strategic policies is bound to lead to a repetition of the same problems. In short, I aim to show that there are some fundamental problems in the discourses of liberal internationalism, and that those who seek a less violent world would do well to consider other ethical paths that deviate from the constant battle over human rights and human wrongs. It is through this analysis that political principles that are claimed to be universal, including human rights and globalisation, reveal their particularity and their tendency toward repetitive and ultimately futile violence.