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Mary Kaldor: Social Democracy and Human Security

10 décembre 2009

In spite of the disastrous consequences of the Iraq war, there is still a need for maintaining global capabilities for human security.

Social democracy has to rediscover its internationalist and humanitarian roots. I do have more general views about the future of social democracy, which I will summarise in the first half of this article. But my focus here is on the implications of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in Britain.

If social democracy is to be relevant for the twenty-first century, it has to be green, global and bottom-up.

It has to be green not only because of the catastrophic implications of climate change, but also because it is only through the widespread introduction of green technologies that economic development can be both environmentally and economically sustainable; it is the only way to achieve continuing increases in productivity. A social-democratic model for this kind of development is needed because regulation and pricing are not enough to secure it; there has to be direct public investment as well.

It has to be global because no single country can on its own address climate change, let alone poverty, security and other contemporary risks. That means a social-democratic strategy for all levels of governance – international, European, national, regional and, especially, local. Indeed, climate change and other global challenges are probably best addressed by cities.

It has to be bottom-up because the task is to mobilise innovation – ‘animal spirits’ as Keynes put it. We know that top-down statist solutions do not work unless they are the culmination of bottom-up pressures.

There is particular task for European social democrats in reinvigorating support for the European idea. The left, for example in the social forums, have often opposed the European Union because they see it as neoliberal and militaristic, and allied with the chauvinistic right. If we are to confront this view, we need to have a discussion about a green social Europe, and about human security as an alternative to a traditional military defence policy. And this discussion has to be held across the continent; we must not allow the Europe debate to be hijacked by individual national debates. One way this might be done is through organising primaries for the new European president under the Lisbon Treaty.

For us in the British Labour Party, however, we cannot even make a start on thinking through such a programme without first coming to terms with the legacy of Iraq. We have to acknowledge the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, as well as the displacement of some 4 million people, as a consequence of the US-UK invasion of Iraq. Any apology for this tragedy will be inadequate. But at the very least we have to be able to admit responsibility, to express shame, and to reflect deeply on what it means for the Labour Party and for democracy in Britain.

Even if we take the view that this was the personal adventure of Tony Blair, we have to explain how Labour MPs voted in favour of the war. Did they do so because, despite personal doubts and pressures from their local constituencies, they did not want to bring down the government and they put party politics before conscience? If so, we need to rethink the relation between parliament and the prime minister. Or were they convinced by the prime minister about the weapons of mass destruction, or about how the intervention would bring human rights to Iraq? If so, why were more questions not asked about how and why they were misled? It is, above all, the war in Iraq that explains the profound public lack of trust in politicians in Britain – and in Labour politicians in particular. The MPs’ expenses scandal can be seen as an expression of something far deeper.

This huge scepticism is evident in the debate about Britain’s role in Afghanistan. There have been tragic failures in Afghanistan – the failure to provide security throughout the country immediately after the intervention in 2001, and the support given to warlords in the ‘war on terror’, which has made it so difficult to dislodge them from the Karzai government. There is a case for our presence in Afghanistan, to help and protect Afghans after all that has gone wrong; and British and European people are, I hope, decent enough to understand this case. But instead of being straight about the reasons for being in Afghanistan, the argument is being spun once again. We are there, it is said, to make our streets safer, which nobody believes; on the contrary, they fear that our presence makes us less safe.

So we in Britain, with help from our European colleagues, need to engage in a soul-searching process about all this. One of the consequences of these two wars is that they may have discredited all forms of intervention. Yet in the twenty-first century, when security is global, as Blair himself pointed out in his famous Chicago speech, there need to be global capabilities for human security – that is to say for the protection of people in situations of dire emergencies, be they climate-change-induced disasters or genocides. That protection may require military forces, but they would not be deployed in a conventional war-fighting role as in Iraq, but in a defensive policing role. A green, global, bottom-up, social democracy also has to adopt a human security approach – based on the idea that security is established through a contribution to global efforts to address crisis rather than through a militarised conception of defence of particular countries.

Social-Europe Journal

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