Home > Human Rights in the News, International Law/International Human Rights > Tony Blair and the Doctrine of International Community

Tony Blair and the Doctrine of International Community

One of the interesting discussions today at the Chilcot Inquiry was on Tony Blair’s Doctrine of International Community Speech which he delivered in April 1999. In this speech Mr. Blair asserted

‘[t]oday the impulse towards interdependence is immeasurably greater. We are witnessing the beginnings of a new doctrine of international community. By this I mean the explicit recognition that today more than ever before we are mutually dependent, that national interest is to a significant extent governed by international collaboration and that we need a clear and coherent debate as to the direction this doctrine takes us in each field of international endeavour. Just as within domestic politics, the notion of community – the belief that partnership and co-operation are essential to advance self-interest – is coming into its own; so it needs to find its own international echo. Global financial markets, the global environment, and global security and disarmament issues: none of these can he solved without intense international co-operation.’

This, together with his assertion in his interview before Christmas with Fern Britton – where Mr. Blair asserted that had there were alternative bases other than weapons of mass destruction to bring down Saddam Hussein- alludes to the possibility of humanitarian intervention to bring about regime change as another legal justification for going to war.

The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is a very controversial basis for the use of force  in international law and though the more recently developed doctrine of responsibility to protect has developed since the invasion its remit would not seem to immediately cover the situation in Iraq at the time of the invasion.

One of the more most recent uses of humanitarian intervention as justification for the use of force was in Kosovo in 1999. This was undertaken by NATO to stop the increased abuse by the Serbian Government of Kosovar Albanians.  It resulted in  cases against individual members of NATO at the ICJ and much debate as to whether a right of humanitarian intervention had emerged. Whether or not it did contribute to the establishment of humanitarian intervention it did set a political precedent for action outside of the United Nations where sanctions were not forthcoming. This precedent, which was not argued at the time of the Iraqi invasion, certainly seems to have echoes in claims now made that there were humanitarian reasons for invading Iraq and that these aims have largely been achieved and thus the War was justified even if it was outside the UN and in breach of Article 2(4).  While the lack of weapons of mass destruction have made the self-defence argument less sustainable, the move towards justification on the basis of community values or humanitarian interests is troubling.

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  1. Darren
    January 29, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Nice one, Aoife, there was so much today on the how outsiders regard international law, and how actors regard it. I thought the classic statement of the day, embodying his confusion re the doctrine was: “There could have been a major debate about the legality of Kosovo. But there wasn’t because there was public support for the mission. The law and the politics follow each other quite closely.” As my long suffering students suffer with their sources of law essay perhaps Mr Blair needs one assigned!

  2. Aoife O'Donoghue
    January 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks Darren, it always worries me when politicans who are also lawyers come out wiht these kinds of blanket statements and everyone seems persuaded that this is then authoritative!

  3. January 30, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    its called liberal imperialism, yes how do we tell the difference between humanitarian intervention and invasion,

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