Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Westphalian Foreign Policy and Its Application

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of treaties in 1648 which ended several long-running conflicts running the gamut from territorial to religious. The participating countries agreed to many details, but they also agreed on a general principle: what happens inside a country's borders is its own business. By extension, when a country does mess with another country's business, that is a breach of the agreement which becomes everyone's business. If a particular country breaches another country's sovereignty once, they become a potential threat to every other country, not to mention they have lost any right they had to protection from the agreement which they broke. That's the essence of the foreign policy section of the Paddywhack Platform, though it adds one additional policy provision which is available to a superpower possessed of overwhelming force such as the United States: all war, once begun, must be resolved decisively. It's a simple, consistent set of principles which our current schizophrenic foreign policy could greatly benefit from applying. These are the Westphalian rules of engagement for conventional warfare:

A. If a conflict occurs entirely within a sovereign country's borders, no other countries should interfere.

B. If the conflict occurs through sovereign borders, it is by definition an international conflict and is potentially everyone's business if they decide to involve themselves.

C. If a specific country is attacked within its own borders, then it is obviously and immediately that particular country's business and even its responsibility to defend itself.

To these I would add:

D. Once a conflict has begun, the goal of the war is restricted to a decisive and permanent resolution of the initial conflict. Once resolved, the conflict is over and relations return to normal, meaning the sovereignty of the defeated country must once again be respected and troops withdrawn.

What would this look like historically from the United States' point of view?

1. World War I:  Allowed. Clearly an international conflict.

2. World War II: Yes. The U.S. was attacked by Japan and Germany declared war shortly after. 

3. Korean War: Allowed. An internationally and peacefully agreed-upon border was violated by North Korea.

4. Vietnam War: No. The Vietnam War was always an internal conflict, Laos and Cambodia notwithstanding. Those spillovers came later and were largely the result of U.S. involvement. They were also difficult to distinguish from other internal conflicts native to Laos and Cambodia.

5. Grenada: No. Internal conflict.

6. Persian Gulf War: Allowed. Iraq violated the borders of Kuwait.

7. Kosovo and Rwanda: No. Internal conflicts. 

8. Afghanistan: No. The U.S. was attacked, but not by agents of the sovereign nation of Afghanistan. The U.S. declared war because the Taliban, the governing authority of the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, refused to give up Al Qaeda, a separate terrorist organization, therefore these rules would not prescribe conventional warfare. Covert or special operations warfare has different rules of engagement and would clearly apply here. In the end, the primary perpetrator of the 9/11 attack, Osama bin Laden, was killed during a covert operation inside Pakistan, a nation with whom the U.S. was not at war.

9. Iraq: No. The goal of the U.S. was regime change in Iraq, which is their business not ours. Neither we nor anyone else were attacked by Iraqi conventional forces. Besides, if the Persian Gulf War had been resolved decisively as prescribed the problem would have been resolved twelve years earlier and in line with the policy. Interpreted a different way, the policy would have allowed the Iraq War but only understood as a decisive end of the Persian Gulf War which was not resolved in 1991 after the initial invasion but remained an ongoing conflict for the twelve intervening years.

In addition, the goal of conventional forces in Afghanistan and Iraq became nation-building, which is internal Afghanistan and Iraqi business and also had nothing to do with the original conflict. It has been claimed that if Afghanistan or Iraq do not have stable internal political situations then the goals of these wars would not be met, specifically the goal of preventing all future terrorist attacks by organizations based in these countries. But these rules do not allow for resolving future, undefined conflicts. Only existing, defined conflicts can be resolved clearly and decisively. Besides, it seems ridiculous to suggest that any stable government is capable of preventing all terrorist activities by its citizens, meaning that even if the goals of nation-building were met, the future, undefined conflict could never be permanently resolved in this way.

10. Libya and Syria: No. Obviously internal conflicts. 

11. Georgia and Ukraine: Allowed. International borders were crossed by Russian conventional troops. In the case of Ukraine, the Russian troops wore no insignia and were masquerading as Crimean freedom fighters, but that is clearly a deception. At best, they might be considered covert operations troops in which case conventional war as a response would not be appropriate. This complicates the issue, but the actions of Russia's military forces within the sovereign borders of Ukraine do not follow the rules of engagement for covert operations warfare. Russia's military forces are engaged in conquest and occupation which are only within the rules of engagement for conventional warfare. They are to be categorized on the basis of their actions, not according to what Russia claims they are. Therefore despite the attempt to deceive, Russia's actions in Ukraine constitute conventional warfare and this policy would allow conventional war in response.

Now, doesn't this make a whole lot more sense than the nonsense we've gotten from our leaders over the last sixty years?

Now that's whack.