26 March 2011

Edmund Burke on the Libya situation

Highly topical: Burke talking about the attitude of the Revolutionary French government to peace negotiations in 1796, from the first "Letter on a Regicide Peace"
The first paper I have seen (the publication at Hamburgh) making a shew of that pacific disposition, discovered a rooted animosity against this nation, and an incurable rancour, even more than any one of their hostile acts. In this Hamburgh declaration, they choose to suppose, that the war, on the part of England, is a war of Government, begun and carried on against the sense and interests of the people; thus sowing in there very overtures towards peace the seeds of tumult and sedition: for they never have abandoned, and never will they abandon, in peace, in war, in treaty, in any situation, or for one instant, their old steady maxim of separating the people from their government.
It is impossible for a democracy to make peace with a non-democracy. Overthrowing non-democracies is a permanent foreign policy aim of any democracy.

Compare with John Redwood, taking a moderate position, this Wednesday:
"We would all like the Libyan government to behave better, and would like democratic forces to be allowed to protest and to seek peaceful change" (my emphasis).

Obviously I'm not specifically having a go at Redwood, his blog happened to be the next one I read. Almost nobody would disagree.

If our governments make peace, or even alliance, with a non-democratic regime, it goes without saying that they will still wish to overthrow it given an opportunity.

Gadaffi thought he had a deal in 2003: he made a whole lot of concessions to the "international community", and the US would stop trying to overthrow him. And it did, really. Until the moment when he appeared to look weak, and the entire democratic world went in for the kill.

Sandeep Baliga points out the obvious lesson of these events for the likes of North Korea. It is a simple fact, so obvious to us that we don't ever see it spilled out, that the democratic world will never cease to wish to remove the NK regime, whatever if offers, whatever it does, short of calling elections to abolish itself.

No peace is possible; only a ceasefire that will vanish the moment that the regime's grip on power is weakened. Not even allies like Egypt or Pakistan are safe.

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