Martin Shaw/Global Society and International Relations/Chapters 1/2/3/4/5/6
Towards global responsibility
Contents: The politics of global civil society; Global state institutions and their interventions; International intervention and society; Military intervention and the new wars; Towards global responsibility
We discussed in chapter 6 how the politics of war have been transformed, and historic positions outmoded, by the transformations of the international system. Although the argument so far has been informed by a global society perspective, it has not fully confronted its political implications. Nor has it addressed the issues of agency which are central to the tension between global society and traditional international relations approaches. In this final chapter, the aim is to look at these issues directly, and to draw together conclusions from the various stages of the critique in this book.
International relations has traditionally centred, as we have seen, on conceptions of state security understood as national security. Recent writers, as we saw in chapter 4, have distinguished between national and international security, the latter being understood as the security of the state-system or the society of states as a whole. This concept has, of course, its corollary in practical politics in the idea of the international community, which has been much invoked in political discourse since 1989. Like the concepts of national security, international security is however a statist concept.
International theory has also generated, however, concepts of the individual, and more radically of community in the broadest sense, as alternative foundations of international politics, as well as more limited societal translations of state or national security interests. These are important developments, but we have argued that the debate needs placing on firmer foundations, deriving from a perspective on global society. Only in this sense can we develop a sociologically secure approach to contemporary world politics. It is now time to explore the implications of this perspective.
The politics of global civil society
The emergence of global society has been, as we argued in chapter 1, an uneven and contradictory process. The development of civil society at a global level is still more problematic and uncertain. The future of world politics depends a great deal, however, on the growth of global civil society, and this must be the starting point for a new politics of the international.
It is increasingly clear that at the end of the twentieth century there is a widespread dissolution of existing state forms, as well as of the dominant patterns of the state-system. Some multi-national states like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have fallen apart in destructive and warlike ways; others like Czechoslovakia have broken up more peacefully. Within seemingly more homogenous nation-states, however, and not only in eastern Europe and Africa, but in the advanced West too (e.g. Italy, Belgium, Canada) the same pressures towards fragmentation have been felt, even if they have been managed for the most part without violence.
It is less clearly seen, perhaps, that the decline of centralised national (and still more, multinational) states is mirrored in the crisis of national civil societies. This crisis takes different forms, of course: in former Communist and Third World totalitarian states, civil society has been weak and suppressed. There the crisis is one of the character and integrity of the emerging civic culture and institutions, which are widely threatened by economic crisis and corruption as well as by the political crudeness, authoritarianism and in many cases violence of ethnic nationalism.
In the West, however, where civil society has historically been strong, it is also in crisis. Here the crisis is one of decay, as the historic traditions and institutions of national democracies atrophy. The most visible manifestation of crisis is the widely-remarked disillusion with political leaders across the Western world which has grown apace in the years since 1989. Beneath this, however, are deeper and longer-term trends, as well as a wider specific crisis of the post-Cold War years. The decline of class-based political parties and social movements, especially the labour movements, has been a feature of the last three decades, since their post-Second World War peak. It is not only political parties and trade unions which have declined, however; the other main institutions of civil society have been equally decisivefully undermined. Mainstream churches have, for the most part, continued to decay. The civic traditions of municipalities have lost much of their vibrancy. Intelligentsias have been institutionalised in universities and have lost much of their critical function.
The crisis of Western civil society has been gathering pace, therefore, for several decades and it has deep structural roots. Changes in production have dispersed the large concentrations of workers which were formed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Changes in transportation and housing have dispersed the great urban and metropolitan populations. The growth of mass communications has transformed the cultural universe, facilitating the privatisation of social life. Under the Cold War umbrella which brought Western states closer, the nationalisms which formerly held civil societies together ideologically have also declined.
The crisis of Western civil society assumes a particularly sharp form at the end of the twentieth century. The Cold War may have constituted a framework for the decay of civil society, but it least it was a framework, in which institutions and ideologies continued to function. With its removal, it is as if the ideological cement of Western civil societies has dissolved. Politicians lose their last semblance of ideological respectability and are exposed as self-seeking and ineffectual manipulators. The opinion poll ratings of governments and statesmen hit rock-bottom, while mainstream oppositions often fail to capitalise on their unpopularity. Liberal ideology quickly sheds its 1989-90 aura of triumphalism and appears incapable of managing the world crisis. Social democracy, instead of renewing itself with the demise of its communist rival, appears blighted by disillusion with all forms of socialism, and even more, irrelevant to the new times. Even the Green parties and the new social movements appear debilitated in the new situation.
With the decline of the historic institutions and ideologies of civil society, the mass media assume an even more critical role. The media become, indeed, the main fora of civil society, the means through which society is reflected and reflects upon itself. To the extent that the old institutions of civil society continue to respond at all, they are increasingly dependent on the media for their ability to project themselves. The old roots of parties, churches and unions in local, regional and national activity and organisations, while still a routine part of their functioning, are less and less significant to their success or failure. The media become the focus of fierce contestation, both from the state and civil society, and from within, as differentiations in approach and style between and within media institutions become critical reflections of the choices facing society.
The crisis of Western civil society is a central part of the problem of global civil society, but it is only one part. Certainly, the development of global civil society must depend in large measure on the ability of civil society in the West to renew itself. Although the decay is serious, there are a tradition and understanding of the role of civil society, and the general economic as well as cultural resources, which are necessary to the creation of a global civil society. The dominant role of the West in global society, economically, politically and culturally, means that its role is central. The situation of civil society in the West is profoundly affected, however, by the larger global context. The crisis of Western civil society is in part a crisis of confidence in the global role of Western civilisation and values. This aspect has been enormously magnified since 1989.
Global civil society is beginning to emerge partly as a result of the interaction of Western and non-Western civil societies in the global crises of the late twentieth century. As state institutions are thrown into crisis, especially in regions of eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, the pre-existing local forms of civil society, and indeed in some areas the very existence of society, are brought into question. Communities - families, villages and towns, ethnic groupings, their ways of life, traditions and forms of social organisation - are threatened, along with the lives and well-being of individuals. A contest begins, not just between rival nationalisms, but between exclusivist, authoritarian, ethnic-nationalist and inclusivist, globalist, democratic and pluralist versions of civil society. In some of the most brutal civil wars (e.g. Bosnia), the latter are likely to be almost extinguished, and caricatures of the historic mid-twentieth century nationalisms reinstated. Elsewhere, however, forms of civil society which - however limited - are more open and democratic than any that have previously existed may come into existence.
These vital tests of the creation or development of civil society in the former East and South are equally critical challenges to the vitality of civil society in the West. What is at stake are the values of civil society as they have developed in the Western world. Either these values are strengthened, renewed and expanded in their area of influence on a global scale; or the decay of the historic forms of Western civil society is underlined with the defeat of the new growths of civil society in non-Western arenas.
The concept of global civil society is thus proposed in an extreme critical tension with current historical developments. The formation of global civil society depends on the growth of a moral, intellectual and political culture linking the fragile and threatened civil societies of East and South with the historic but decaying civil societies of the West. It depends too on the renewal of institutions in civil society and the emergence of movements expressing the values of globalism. So far these tendencies can only be identified in very limited forms.
Just as mass media of communication constitute, we argued above, increasingly central institutions of Western civil society, so they also form foci of the globalisation of civil society. Media communicate not only information about world events, but also the debates about how 'we', as individuals, societies and states, should respond. The self-styled 'global' media - CNN supplying every national news network as well as every hotel bedroom - are less important important than the global flows between national and regional television and newspapers.
The other foci of the emerging global civil society appear more uncertain. The decay of traditional (national) forms of Western civil society has equally involved, even more sharply, the decay of international social and political movements, most notably of the international labour movement. The new global social movements, most notably the environmental movement, are still weaker in terms of sustained mass participation and institutional development than the old labour movements in their heyday. Many agencies have developed which operate within civil society and link the East and the South with the West through humanitarian, development and civil rights as well as environmental issues. Few of these agencies are organised as fully democratic movements, however, and most allocate their supporters the role of donors and their beneficiaries the role of recipients. Only very modest beginnings exist for the democratic political formations which would express the new global links of civil society, but the building of these formations is a central project of our times.
Global state institutions and their interventions
The weak institutions of global civil society correspond, of course, to weak global state institutions. As international theorists rarely tire of reminding us, the international system is a system of states, and such international or global institutions as exist are still predominantly extensions of this system. The principal international organisation, the United Nations, is - as its name suggest - a conglomerate of nation-states, in which voting takes place on the basis of states and the rights of sovereign states are recognised above those of individuals and social groups.
It would clearly be foolish to ignore or deny these realities. Any realistic analysis of the operation of international institutions - including other global and regional organisations as well as the UN - must accept the basic fact that they depend primarily on nation-states for their decisions, resources and policy-implementation. In the end, a few powerful, chiefly Western states - often ultimately the United States - determine the most crucial decisions, even if other states and non-state institutions have a limited influence.
Despite these manifest limitations, from the perspective of global society it is clearly important to underline the fact that the UN and other international institutions are more than simple extensions of states. They can also be seen as embryonic global state institutions, with growing autonomy, however tenuous this may seem at times, from nation-states. Recent developments in the post-Cold War UN may have underlined the force of the realist view which emphasises the organisation's limitations and its dependence on the major powers. These developments have also seen the UN increasingly responding, however problematically, as a global organisation to perceived global crises.
While formally the UN's various interventions have usually been based on definitions of crises in international security, seen as the security of states, in reality the UN's actions have frequently been driven by recognition of human and social crises. The UN's remit has been affected by the emergence of civil society connections, mediated by mass communications, which reverberate in the politics of nation-states. What is most remarkable is the way in which the concepts of state sovereignty and non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states have become attenuated in practice - if not yet very far in theory. There is increasingly widespread recognition that these concepts cannot be sustained, in any simple, traditional sense, in many circumstances.
It is easy to dismiss, from a realist or Marxist point of view perhaps, the significance of this shift, and certainly narrow definitions of state interests prevail sufficiently to make most UN proclamations of humanitarian or social concern seem hollow if not hypocritical. From the perspective of an emergent global civil society, however, these developments are crucial markers for the future. They indicate, perhaps only symbolically for the time being - but symbols are important - the way in which international state institutions are in the process of transformation from narrow extensions of national state interests to state organisations of the developing global society.
The crucial question here is that of accountability of the UN and other international organisations to civil society. Clearly, in the present period the UN is formally accountable only to states, and this is unlikely to change in the forseeable future (although at a regional level, the partial accountability of the European Community to the European Parliament has set a symbolically important precedent of more direct electoral accountability for international organisations). Indirectly and informally, however, it is clear that the UN is becoming responsive to what is seen as international public opinion, i.e. the pressure of views emerging from within civil society. The haphazard nature of this responsiveness, or the fact that it is mediated by the policies of the major Western states, should not mask the equally important fact that the pressure increasingly arises from common responses to commonly perceived issues, across numbers of states, increasingly made effective at a global level.
The issue which arises here is that of the international state system as a whole, and international institutions as the common forms of that system, beginning to function as the state institutions of global society and to be responsive - indeed even accountable - to that society. Clearly we are in the very early stages of the process, in which it is barely recognisable and easily overshadowed by other, more familiar tendencies. We are still very far from the old dreams (or nightmares) of world government. A historic change is taking place nevertheless, and it is important to ask where it might and indeed should lead.
It is particularly important to consider the other side of the relationship between global state institutions and global society, namely the 'intervention' of the former in the latter. This issue arises, in the mid-1990s, primarily in the form of military intervention, which is considered in more detail below. The fact that the issue arises in this form is in itself an index of the primitive nature of global state intervention compared to state intervention in the national context. Nation-states, at least where these are advanced and consolidate, rarely use military power to intervene within society, but manage their interventions through political, socio-economic, cultural and ideological surveillance. It is a reflection of the weakness of global state institutions, and the fact that they are often pressed to intervene in regions where state institutions themselves are weak and unsophisticated, that military intervention largely proceeds or displaces other forms of intervention.
The fact that military intervention is the most visible form of global intervention should not allow us, however, to conflate the two. On the contrary, it is essential to examine the issue of intervention in general, and to discuss the relationships between the military and other forms of intervention.
International intervention and society
The concept of intervention implies some form of externality of the intervener to the intervened-upon. In the discussion of international intervention, the externality in question is generally assumed to be in relation to national boundaries. What is in question is the intervention of other states, or of international institutions, in the affairs of a given state and national society.
While this dimension is by definition present in international intervention - and within the account given so far there is a large issue of the relationship between the interventions of states and of international institutions, to which we shall return - there is a more fundamental aspect to consider. International intervention is not merely a state-state relationship, but a state-society relationship, and as such should be seen as merely one form of state intervention in general.
The problem here, perhaps, is that state intervention is out of fashion, politically and intellectually. The retreat of statism from its early post-1945 high-point has left the idea of state intervention weak and discredited. There are few quarters in which it is still believed that a far-sighted and socially motivated state apparatus can remould economy and society in progressive terms. On all sides, there is a new belief in the role of 'spontaneous' social and economic forces, as opposed to state action.
This political-intellectual shift, however, is far from a simple negation of the statist momentum of the epoch of total war. On the contrary, the core of what has been known as state intervention - if not the concept itself - remains at the heart of all forms of political economy. Everywhere state management of the economy and society is now so much an integral part of established systems that while its forms - e.g. the direct state ownership of industries and services which was widely established after 1945 - may be transformed, the substance remains ever more central. If, indeed, the concept of state intervention is outmoded at the nation-state level, it is because the state is now so internal to most economic and social relations that it is difficult to see in what sense it is still valid to talk of intervention.
This takes us to the heart of the problem of intervention. The externality of the classic concept of state intervention is that of the state in relation to civil society. While the distinction can still and still needs to be made, in reality, however, the boundaries have become less and less clear-cut. The extension and sophistication of surveillance means that there are no spheres of civil society in which the state is not implicated. It should not be thought, however, that this is a one-way process. There is a corresponding civilisation of the state, in which particular branches of the state apparatus are intensively monitored by civil institutions and social groups who are implicated in their activities. In this way state intervention, while never losing the capacity for arbitrariness on which much of its bad reputation rests, is nevertheless domesticated or civilised - i.e. managed at least partially in the interests of civil society.
The problem of international intervention is that it has hardly begun to develop in this way. At base this reflects the mutual and symbiotic weakness of global state institutions and global civil society. Whereas nation-states have developed over many centuries, international institutions are of comparatively recent growth and are still very much weaker than nation-states. International institutions are still overwhelmingly dependent on the system of nation-states for their legitimacy, and even more on a relatively small number of powerful states for their resources. It is not surprising that international intervention is still regarded - in many quarters across the globe and across the political spectrum - as archetypically external in a doubly negative sense.
In the critics' eyes, international intervention compounds the problems of externality, imposition and arbitrariness associated with state intervention in general because, of course, of the additional dimension of extra-nationality. It is manifestly true, of course, that international institutions are generally at one or more further removes than nation-state institutions from the face-to-face social relationships and the lived culture of most people. These institutions are notorious for their quintessentially remote bureaucracies and difficulties of multi-linguistic communication.
International institutions, whatever their inherent problems and current inadequacies, have however developed for good reasons. These reasons are, in essence, all to do with the globalisation of social life which we have discussed. Indeed, it is manifestly the case that the globalisation of state organisation is very weakly developed in comparison to that of society in general. This weakness may, to some eyes, be a virtue, but there is a strong case to be made for the necessity of their further development. The schemers for world government, much derided though they have been in recent decades, had a very real point, the validity of which is increasing apace. A global society necessarily implies global institutions, global regulation, global surveillance. We know now that a single global state will not spring onto the scene in one bound, but we are all equally surely aware of the rapid and unavoidable extension of state organisation at an international level.
We have also learnt to avoid evolutionary perspectives on social life. We may say by way of analogy, however, that we are now in some ways (if not all) at a comparable stage in the growth of global state organisation and intervention to that reached, say, 100-150 years ago in terms of Western nation-states and their interventions. What I mean is that there are the same depths of social crisis; the same potential for state intervention as a means of tackling them; and the same fundamental refusal of those holding state power to envisage transformation. There are also, therefore, some of the same difficulties in developing and implementing change.
The global crises of economy, environment and human rights - not to mention war - are on a monumental scale. No one can seriously believe that they will be resolved spontaneously as a result of market forces, purely local political settlements and bilateral agreements among states. In those cases in which progress has been made towards a resolution of longstanding conflicts - South Africa, Israel/Palestinians, etc. - these processes have only succeeded so far as they have through sustained international involvement at both state and civil society levels. Where modest steps have been taken to tackle fundamental environmental problems - global warming, ozone depletion - it has been by global political agreement. Such limited steps as have been taken to tackle deepening global economic inequalities depend intimately on the regimes of global economic regulation - on GATT, on the decisions of the Group of Seven, etc.
It is enough to mention these cases, however, to realise that while the development of global political, environmental and economic management is needed, it has so far been very little developed in comparison to its potential. The reasons for this are clearly to do with the limited interests - or conceptions of interests - of the great powers both in tackling such problems and in developing international institutions. It is sometimes argued that the lesser, Third World states could use international fora such as the United Nations to further this case, but they often have even stronger interests than Western states in blocking the development of international institutions - fearing for example the extension of monitoring of individual and minority rights and inhibitions on the development and use of military power.
Within global society, therefore, we need a conception and a programme of global responsibility, in which it is accepted that there is both interest in and moral obligation towards the well-being of fellow human-beings across the world with whom we share an increasingly common social life. First of all, we need a programme of economic responsibility, to attack the global recession, to tackle the fundamental issue of global redistribution, to put aid and development politics into first place, to address the economic transition in the former Communist states, and to ensure that economic development is compatble with environmental safety. Secondly, we require a programme of political responsibility, to uphold democracy, minority and individual rights across the world, and to require states to match the pious declarations which they have signed with real guarantees of freedom. Thirdly, we require a programme of responsibility in international relations, to ensure that states behave towards each other in terms of rules which respect each others' rights and those of their peoples.
To institute such a programme requires comprehensive and sustained intervention by global authorities in regional and national affairs. It is clear, however, that such global authorities hardly exist, and that to the extent that they do, neither they nor the states on which they depend envisage their role in these terms. A programme of global responsibility requires the development of a new global consensus, but this can hardly be a consensus of states alone. Although it must work through the existing international institutions, and involve the transformation of those institutions, it must primarily arise through the development of global civil society.
This perspective can only be centred on a new unity of purpose among Western peoples and governments, since only the West has the economic, political and military resources and the democratic and multi-national institutions and culture necessary to undertake it. The West has a historic responsibility to undertake this global leadership, not because it should impose itself on the rest of the world, but because so many people in the rest of the world look to it for support.
This perspective poses a particular challenge to the Western left. The left has long advocated intervention by the state in the national economy; it should now grasp the nettle of international intervention, and work out the programme of global responsibility, and the development of global institutions, around which such intervention should be formed. It is a curious anomaly that many radicals, who have little sympathy for 'laisser faire' as an economic principle within states, should uphold it so vigorously in international politics, often making a totem of the fact that the UN Charter specifically forbids any violation of national sovereignty. It is testimony to how far the left in its present defensive mode remains wedded to nationalism - whether home-grown or in the case of the 'solidarity' left that of others - rather than to genuine internationalism or globalism.
Military intervention and the new wars
One of the reasons for resistance to the principle of global intervention is that is that it has been raised first and foremost in a military form. This is, however, an index of the weakness of international institutions and of their legitimacy. Like Western nation-states in the nineteenth century, late twentieth century international organisations lack a developed capacity for surveillance and hence depend too much on military intervention. The answer is hardly to prevent international military interventions, but to elaborate the international political, economic and social mechanisms which will make military action less necessary. In every case, the cost of effective political intervention to resolve crises short of war will represent an enormous saving, in financial as well as human terms, compared to the results of armed conflict.
When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, the mechanisms for such political interventions hardly existed and the political will and experience necessary for them were certainly not available in the great powers or in the United Nations. The crises generated a new wave of wars - the results of the breakdown of empires and alliances - of which only the first major test, in the Gulf, drew a major international military response. Subsequent wars, from Croatia and Bosnia to Armenia-Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, to Cambodia, Somalia and Angola, have attracted varying levels of response, but all at a far lower level than that in the Gulf. The clear differentiation in the Gulf case is that there, uniquely, major United States and other Western economic and strategic interests were at stake.
The Gulf war involved three major social crises: the terrorisation of Kuwaiti society by Iraqi troops; the impoverishment of Iraqi society as a result of the Western destruction of its physical infrastructure, together with sanctions; and the decimation of Shia communities, and threatened genocide of the Kurds, in the aftermath of unsuccessful revolts inspired by the Iraqi defeat and Western propaganda. The international interventions overcame the hardship of Kuwaitis, although not of many non-Kuwaiti citizens (as a byproduct of restoring the state); actually caused the impoverishment of Iraq; and finally responded partially and temporarily with 'safe havens' to the plight of the Kurds (but not the Shias).
The unevennesses in response to the suffering of different groups of people in this context can stand as a sign of the current situation as a whole. The Western powers rescued the prosperous Kuwaitis but did little for their poor South Asian and Palestinian servants. They spared Iraqi civilians from deliberate, direct bombardment but exposed them to the effects of blowing up their water, sewage and electricity systems as well as to 'collateral damage' from attacks on 'military targets'. They ignored the plight of the Shias and, initially, the Kurds, but turned to protect the Kurds when they were extensively depicted in the global media - only to wind down their operations, leaving the Kurds surviving precariously, when media attention subsided.
What this balance sheet shows is clearly that the terms of military intervention were dictated primarily by the strategic and political interests of the powers involved, rather than any consistent concern to protect society. At the same time, society was at times protected, partly as a byproduct of other interests, and partly because (in the Kurdish case) its survival itself became a political issue within Western states. The Kurdish case raised the fascinating spectre of 'humanitarian intervention' which has haunted subsequent crises.
These later crises have posed the relationships between humanitarianism and military action, and between Western state interests, international institutions, media and civil society, in even more acute forms. Western media have been relatively full in their coverage of Bosnia - but only in comparison with the almost total neglect of the brutal wars in Azerbaijan and Angola. Western political intervention has also been much more extensive in ex-Yugoslavia than in any of the other cases, but military intervention, much heralded, has been limited (at the time of writing) largely to the protection of humanitarian aid convoys. That protection has been interpreted, moreover, in minimalist terms, not even entailing a determination to force a passage through Serbian and Croatian roadblocks. The UN-proclaimed 'safe havens' of 1993 have made a mockery even of the very limited concept applied in the Kurdish case, with no attempt to halt the ceaseless bombardment of these areas.
In Bosnia, genocide has been carried out on a scale previously unimaginable in post-1945 Europe. International intervention has been limited to an attempt to mitigate the effects of genocide, not to prevent or halt it or undo its results. On the contrary, the mediation process has ratified the effects of the mass explusions and killings of civilians. Bosnia has been, by any standards, a dismal, indeed criminal failure of the 'international community' to uphold its professed goals and values. It has not been a failure of a military intervention carried out (as might be argued of Somalia in 1993), but a failure to intervene militarily when a discriminating use of military force might have protected hundreds of thousands of lives, saved multi-ethnic communities, and maintained a state which - despite undoubted weaknesses - was attempting to uphold pluralist and democratic principles.
The Bosnian case has been so critical, not because its European location makes it instrinsically more important than crises in the Caucasus, southern Africa or south-east Asia, but because the extent of media and political intervention has made it a test case. It has been a failure of global civil society as much as of the 'community' of states. No forces of sufficient strength have emerged in Western civil societies to connect the mediated violence of the war with a political will to protect Bosnian society. Old political parties and new social movements alike have failed to find effective means of connecting with the crisis. Successive mediated crises - the outbreak of war itself; the exposure of conditions in Serbian concentration camps; the siege of Srebrenica; 'Operation Irma' and the evacuation of wounded children from Sarajevo - have failed to generate the decisive political impact which occurred in the Kurdish case.
The reasons for these failures lie centrally in the narrow interpretation of Western strategic interests by the European powers and the United States. They have been magnified by governments' and media's projection of the Bosnian war as an 'inter-ethnic' conflict and the Bosnian government as just another 'ethnic' faction, together with the understandable lack of enthusiasm of people and governments for involvement in UN-authorised war against Serbian and Croatian forces which would entail Western casualties. In addition to these factors, there were undoubtedly military difficulties in any operation in Bosnia, particularly one on the ground which aimed to protect civilian populations threatened by Serbian and Croation forces without causing large casualties among Serb and Croat civilians.
It is difficult to argue, however, that these constitute sufficient reasons for absention from international military intervention. Even if there are not strong particular Western interests in ex-Yugoslavia of the kind which lay behind the intervention in the Gulf, there is a larger Western interest in global stability, and a particular West European interest in wider European regional stability. If it was dangerous to allow Iraq's aggression against Kuwait to stand, so must it be to allow Serbia and Croatia to succeed against Bosnia. The incitement to others - Armenia, the Khmer Rouge, UNITA in Angola, and doubtless more to come - is obvious. Even at the narrow level of state interests, the Western powers may yet pay dearly for their and the UN's weakness in Bosnia.
In broader terms, the scale and the depths of the genocide in Bosnia represent the fundamental fragility of the integration of global society. They are basic affronts to the values upon which the West has claimed to base its post-Cold War reconstruction of the international order. They strike a very large blow at the 'European ideal' and account for a good deal of the pessimism which has surrounded the project of European integration in the 1990s. It is impossible to believe that military measures could not have been taken to relieve beseiged cities and towns and protect their inhabitants, and to lay the basis for a process - undoubtedly a long and difficult one, but necessary nonetheless - of restoring a democratic state respecting individual and minority rights of all kinds.
Bosnia has been a case - and there are undoubtedly others - where international military intervention would have been justified. Ideally, of course, adequate prior political intervention would have made military action unnecessary. In making a case for military intervention it is essential to underline that it should be seen in the context of the development of global state intervention as a whole, not as a substitute for it. Every case of military intervention represents, at root, a failure of political and other forms of intervention. As global state action develops and becomes more sophisticated, military power should eventually become less fundamental as a means of that action.
In the short term, military intervention will undoubtedly be a major part of international intervention, and the situations in which it used, the forms it takes, and its perceived success or failure will clearly be of major significance for the process as a whole. It is important to define the goals of this form of intervention: the simple goals of stability and peacekeeping must be balanced with the upholding of human rights and democracy and peacemaking. It is also necessary to formulate the criteria by which operations are formulated and assessed. Clarity of political purpose, organisation and command must replace ideas of a quick military 'fix', such as have predominated in the US/UN operation in Somalia.
A fundamental issue is clearly the institutional structure for international intervention. The UN has become far more pivotal than many would have imagined at the beginning of the decade. It has clearly re-established some of its authority as the centre of legitimate international decision-making and intervention. It is obviously important than an institution-building process shuld take place in which the UN must have a central place, with adequate resources, reformed structures (although that is a large subject beyond the scope of this chapter) and greater authority vis-a-vis individual states. There should be a bias in favour of UN-authorised rather than freelance regional operations, and of UN-organised rather than sub-contracted operations. In this way the UN can itself be built up. At the same time, it must be recognised that the UN is not a global state, that there are very severe limitations on its power, and that in the short run it cannot but be dependent on the great powers.
The requirements of global institution-building must always be balanced, moreover, against those of effective action in a given situation. In the absence of permanent UN armed forces, it is inevitable that the UN will depend on states, and it is more important that action should be successful in protecting people than that it should be undertaken by particular institutions. In the absence of a global state, it is unavoidable that global state action will be undertaken largely by states, ad hoc coalitions of states and more permament regional groupings of states acting in particular contexts. The pattern of global state intervention will be complex and messy, probably for decades to come. While we should do what we can to simplify and improve it, and make it more accountable to and legitimate in society, we cannot argue away the complexity.
The fact that global state action is undertaken by groups of states in which major Western powers - above all the sole surviving superpower, the USA - are dominant undoubtedly gives rise to particular difficulties. These states will certainly pursue their own interests, not act neutrally as agents or conduits of international power. The development of global institutions and intervention will therefore be coloured by these interests and may seem at times blatantly self-interested or partisan. There will undoubtedly be continuations, implicit and sometimes explicit, of historic colonialism and imperialism. These are unavoidable, given the realities of world power which dictate that the Western powers will provide the main basis for global state action. This does not mean, of course, that such distortions should simply be accepted, but that we should see the process of correcting them as a part of the process of developing international intervention, rather than finding in this factor a reason for rejecting intervention as such.
Towards global responsibility
The development of global society requires a new politics of global responsibility. Our discussion has shown that we can hardly expect such a politics to come, well formed or consistently, out of the miasma of existing international institutions as they intersect with state interests. Such a politics requires us to address issues of global inequality, poverty, and environmental stress, as well as of human rights, minority rights, democracy and individual and group security, which cut hugely across dominant interests on a world scale as well as within just about every state. A politics of global responsibility is overwhelmingly a politics which will find its basis in civil society, in the articulation of interests and solidarities, rather than directly in the arena of states. It is a politics which will be characterised, sometimes disparagingly, as utopian, although it is based, I hope to have demonstrated, on real trends and possibilities.
A major problem in developing such a politics in civil society is its necessarily double-edged relationship to the embryonic forms of global state power. The sorts of politics which work best in civil society, as the bases for social movements, are the simple and elemental politics based on strong positives - for humanitarian aid to the starving, for example - or negatives - such as the rejection of nuclear weapons. Such politics often assume, in practice, a simple relationship to the state: either demanding a change in policy, or rejecting a particular part of the state (e.g. its nuclear arms and by implication its military activities as such) altogether.
A more developed, all-embracing politics of global responsibility cannot embrace such relatively simple positions. It has no alternative but to explore the tension between civil society and the state, and within state institutions at a national and global level, in a more complex way. It is not a statist politics, as it recognises very fully the limitations of state action. It is however a politics which recognises the necessity of state-building, of developing state activity, as well as of keeping this very much in balance with the needs of society.
In the rapidly developing global society, nation-states and other nationally based institutions are not outmoded, but change their functions and purposes. They monitor each other as well as the functioning of the growing number of global systems. In this sense, surveillance develops within global society as a process of mutual recognition by segmental bodies. At the same time, global systems require global monitoring and regulation, and global institutions develop accordingly. The late twentieth century has seen a proliferation of international organisations, regulating or coordinating different systems within the developing global economy and society. At the apex of this network are the global state institutions themselves, coordinating and increasingly regulating the system of states. Just as state institutions constitute the ultimate authoritive institutions within the national context, so global state institutions are beginning to be consolidated as the highest authoritive institutions on a world scale.
The paradox of the new global politics is that, given the reluctance of nation-states to cede authority upwards, global state-building needs the assistance of forces in civil society. The increasing authority and accountability of international institutions must go hand in hand, and they will only be established through an alliance of globally-minded elements in state institutions (including international organisations) and globally-minded forces within civil society.
The difficulty of this task is that the new global politics raises the most problematic forms of international intervention, such as military action. The Bosnian crisis can be seen as symbolic of this problem. The crisis brought together issues which have enormous popular resonance - resistance to racism and genocide; opposition to war; and support for humanitarian relief - and yet it has been impossible to develop a strong popular consensus, or a social movement, largely because all these issues were deeply entangled with the issue of UN military intervention. As we have seen, there were powerful reasons why this option was blocked.
The issue of military intervention can hardly be avoided, however, and can only be come to terms with by developing a larger politics of global responsibility and intervention. This politics is now beginning to emerge, and will become an increasingly critical trend in the final years of the twentieth century. As nation-states - including the most powerful - turn in on themselves, with the collapse of Cold War rivalries and ideologies, the global crises of the new era are being posed with new force. The new politics is needed if these crises are to be answered and the world is to move forward. It is in civil society that we must look to develop and popularise new ideas.
Copyright ©Martin Shaw 2000. Chapters are available to download for personal study only. Any unauthorised reproduction, electronic or printed, is an infringement of copyright.