In 2002 a little known former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair named Robert Cooper wrote a now infamous article The Post Modern State and the World Order justifying a ‘new kind of imperialism.’ Cooper, who went on to to become a Special Advisor at the European Commission and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations argued that there is the postmodern world of the EU, NATO and the other big powers and what he referred to as the ‘premodern world’ which included Africa. According to Cooper:
‘The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle.’
For Cooper the ‘premodern world’ was an area of ‘failed states’ which posed a danger to the ‘postmodern world.’ Such states, he asserted, might be become bases for drug barons and terrorists. In order to prevent this possibility, Cooper argued, there was a need for a ‘defensive imperialism,’ a new colonialism allegedly designed to avoid chaos and bring order to the world. Cooper argued that military intervention in Afghanistan was an example of this new imperialism. Cooper’s thinking was put into practice by the New Labour governments of Blair, which intervened with particular zeal in Africa, as well as elsewhere. Blair referred to Africa as the ‘scar on the conscience of humanity’ as if this was in itself a justification for intervention by Britain and its allies. Never did he explain that this ‘scar’ was the consequence of previous intervention in Africa by the colonial powers, exploiters and slave traders, nor that they too justified their intervention on the most noble and humanitarian grounds, the ‘civilising mission’ and the ‘white man’s burden.’
Now the demand for a new kind of imperialism, for extended foreign intervention has been taken up by the Britain’s former Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In a recent article Hague attempts to counter any opposition to the government’s plans to intervene further in Libya, to train and manage that country’s armed forces, to bolster the weak government in order to further the interests of the monopolies and enhance Britain’s geo-political influence in the region. In order to do so he argues that the chaos and anarchy that now exist in Libya are not a result of NATO intervention and the destabilisation that has followed regime change in that country but rather a consequence of the fact that allegedly Britain and its NATO allies did not intervene effectively enough and for as long as was necessary. Moreover, he argues that there is a need for prolonged intervention not only in Libya but elsewhere in Africa and western Asia if the continuing exodus of migrants and refugees, also a consequence of foreign intervention, is to be halted. According to Hague:
‘If European countries, including Britain, think they can get by without intervention in that region over the next few decades they face being overwhelmed by a movement of humanity that they have never before contemplated or experienced. Intervention – to try to prevent conflict, end wars, stabilise governments and create economic improvements – will be a completely unavoidable necessity for many Western nations.’
Hague suggests that NATO intervened in Libya on the basis of the so-called ‘right to protect’ civilians, a notion that has no basis in international law and was merely a fig-leaf to cover up plans for regime change. It is now well established, not least from Hilary Clinton’s leaked emails, that there were no endangered civilians in Benghazi to ‘protect.’ The NATO bombing of Libya continued until Muammar Gaddafi was assassinated and regime change occurred, since this was always the aim. What is more, NATO intervened in Libya in such a way as to be certain that the affiliates of the so-called al-Qaeda, Daesh and other sinister forces would be assisted both to carry out racist murders against African civilians and to strengthen their own military and political positions. NATO intervention therefore led not to the protection but to the murder of civilians. Combating these same sinister forces is now presented by Hague and others as another justification for further intervention.
Hague’s views regarding Libya turn truth on its head as do his comments relating to ‘instability’ in parts of Africa and Western Asia. The revolutionary events that took place in Egypt and Tunisia were precisely directly against the regimes that had been supported militarily and economically by the intervention of Britain and the other big powers. The people of North Africa and other parts of the continent are struggling to empower themselves not live forever under various forms of foreign domination. As a result of NATO intervention in Libya the whole of North Africa and beyond was destabilised. But political and economic instability in those parts of Africa that produce so many migrants is also a consequence of the failed economic and political prescriptions, neo-liberal globalisation, the various forms of foreign intervention emanating from the imperialist system of states that has Hague and others as its champions. Even Hague is forced to admit that foreign intervention in Libya, as in Iraq and elsewhere has created instability and chaos but the conclusion that he seeks to draw is that ‘such situations often need a more forceful, insistent and long-term foreign presence to make them into a success.’ Hague even claims that in Libya elections were held too soon, before Britain and its allies could establish the ‘democracy’ that they require.
There is little difference between the colonialist logic of Cooper and Hague and both seek to provide justifications for the actions of the British government and its allies. It is an open secret that the current British government is preparing to send troops to Libya under one guise or another, as part of a wider multinational force, as soon as it can pressure the government in that country to issue an invitation. Hague struggles to provide such a justification precisely because there cannot be one. Britain and the other big powers must cease all intervention in Libya. There must be an end to foreign intervention in Africa.