International Security

There was a period when, with the Cold War over, politicians looked forward to the “peace dividend” that would come from a period of international peace and prosperity. That hope now looks woefully naïve. Worse than that, it ignored the many signs of trouble to come that – even as the Berlin Wall was coming down – pointed to a future of insecurity and conflict.

If that view was naïve (or worse) back in the 1990s, it is positively destructive now. There is no case for assuming the best intentions of states like Syria, Iran or North Korea. We in the West have certainly made mistakes in the past but one of our biggest mistakes has been to look the other way as certain regimes have oppressed their own people, spread terror to their neighbours and engaged in the illicit production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. It has been our unwillingness to intervene that has enabled problems to proliferate. However tempted we may be to withdraw and leave them all to their own devices, isolationism is not and never has been the right answer.

If that view was naïve (or worse) back in the 1990s, it is positively destructive now. There is no case for assuming the best intentions of states like Syria, Iran or North Korea. We in the West have certainly made mistakes in the past but one of our biggest mistakes has been to look the other way as certain regimes have oppressed their own people, spread terror to their neighbours and engaged in the illicit production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. It has been our unwillingness to intervene that has enabled problems to proliferate. However tempted we may be to withdraw and leave them all to their own devices, isolationism is not and never has been the right answer.

We must also act wherever possible against rogue states that threaten international stability (by, for example, illicit proliferation of nuclear technology) and states that lose all legitimacy by serial abuse of human rights (or in extreme cases genocide). Arguments about respecting sovereignty are spurious when, in the case of many of these regimes, the people have little or no say in the governance of their country. Some states are nothing more than the private fiefdoms of a corrupt leader; their governments are illegitimate and sovereignty has been usurped.

We must also act wherever possible against rogue states that threaten international stability (by, for example, illicit proliferation of nuclear technology) and states that lose all legitimacy by serial abuse of human rights (or in extreme cases genocide). Arguments about respecting sovereignty are spurious when, in the case of many of these regimes, the people have little or no say in the governance of their country. Some states are nothing more than the private fiefdoms of a corrupt leader; their governments are illegitimate and sovereignty has been usurped.

We must recognise that some of our allies and trading partners have corrupt and vile regimes. In the short-term we should offer encouragement and incentives towards progress, but with a clear focus on the direction in which we wish to see change.