Right now it is impossible to watch the News on TV, to open a newspaper, or to go online, without coming across discussion about the merits or otherwise of international intervention in Syria and Iran. In the case of Syria the main driver is human protection in response to the government’s brutal crackdown on its citizens, whereas in Iran the issue revolves around the threat to international peace and security posed by the government’s continuing refusal to meet IAEA demands for transparency about its nuclear programme. Nevertheless a common element is an acceptance in Western policy, academic, and media circles that coercive intervention is a perfectly legitimate subject for discussion; one may be strongly for it, strongly against, or somewhere in between, but there is little if any questioning of why we are discussing this at all. Is this not rather odd?

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Our perceptions of the future of the Middle East and the ability of western states to influence events therein have shifted radically over the course of these historic months. President Obama proudly proclaimed after the fall of Mubarak that Egyptian citizen’s rights must now be irreversibly recognized and fair elections should be a priority. In the interim NATO has launched a significant intervention on behalf of anti-government rebel forces in Libya. These actions do however lie in stark contrast with existing policy in Afghanistan and raise interesting questions about NATO’s current approaches to state building operations. Continue reading »

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