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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Double Standards: The West and Terrorism - The AIM Network

Double Standards: The West and Terrorism - The AIM Network

Double Standards: The West and Terrorism

The West, whilst insisting
that others seek peaceful solutions, has resorted to the sword on many
occasions, writes Dr Strobe Driver.

The horrors recently delivered upon innocent
civilians and police officers in France, and being mindful of the
unspeakable multiple-traumas that would have been cast upon those
involved in Australia’s Lindt Café siege, are painful in the
extreme, and those concerned should be offered unconditional sympathy.
With the greatest of respect, especially to those who have lost a loved
one, there is s deeper malaise underpinning why these actions have taken
place. In order to understand why these individuals’ were driven to
this point must be cautiously brought to the fore. At its core is the
way in which the West has manipulated—to its own advantage—the world’s
body-politic; and the way in which this process has stirred the hatred
of many.

The process of the untrammelled expansion of the ‘West’[1]
or what is the Western ‘style’ of government and governance has been
present in the body-politic of the world for several centuries. The
European Westphalian[2]
‘system,’ is what underpins the way in which the world ‘is’ and
consists of demarcated borders, sovereign/national government,
recognized boundaries (sea, air and land), effective governance, and the
rule of sovereign law, as well as international law. This ‘system,’ has
been in place since 1648, however, there was an attempt to put in more
firmly into place after World War One—through the League of
Nations—however, this failed and it was not until after World War Two
(WWII) that it was formally reinforced through an institute: the United
Nations (UN). In coming to terms with UN ‘requirements’ and thus the
full recognition of the ‘system’ it is necessary to differentiate
between ‘government’ and ‘governance.’ Government is who ‘runs a
country’ and there are many different ‘types’ and forms of a
‘government’: dictatorship, democracy, autocracy, social-democracy,
benevolent dictatorship, theocracy and numerous others. To be sure,
often a particular government will consist of a ‘blend’ of practices
although it will form under the mantle of one type of government. Others
will be static in their representation of a ‘style’ of government such
as Cuba and Britain, both incredibly different though rigid in their
representation. Whilst there were, and are, many differences in the way
in which countries are governed all countries nevertheless, conform to
the system of governance which Europa—or what we now call Europe/Western
Europe—devised, and then disseminated around the world. The ‘manner of
governing’[3] is premised on the aforementioned sovereign-system of values, which all participants recognize as legitimate/legal.

There are, of course, disputes with regard to ‘who owns what’ and
there always has been and hence in modern day times these issues are
meant to be debated in the UN. This is in direct contrast to the pre-Westphalian system of immediate recourse-to-arms when a matter was in dispute. The savagery of which, was summed by Grotius circa early-1600s as:

I saw prevailing throughout the Christian world … a
license in making war which even barbarous nations would have been
ashamed; recourse was had to arms for slight reasons, or for no reason,
and when arms were once taken up, all reverence for divine and human law
was thrown away; just as if men were thenceforth authorized to commit
all crimes without restraint.[4]

There remains to this day, several current sovereignty/ownership
disputes and they are China-India, (Arunachal Pradesh);
Israel-Palestine, (Gaza Strip); China-Japan, Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai
Islands; and the Argentine-Britain, Falklands Islands/Islas Malvinas.
All of the these are expected to be solved through the various
mechanisms of the UN, and the mantra of the UN has always been—through
their various charters—to insist that peaceful settlement is the best

Underpinning the UN is also an insistence that nations, regardless of
their government to (eventually) adopt ‘democracy’ as through this
mechanism the UN believes ‘best practice’ governance—or put more
succinctly the Western European ‘model’ of governing—should be adopted,
as it offers better populace representation and is the consummate
expression of fairness. All else is secondary to this model. Powerful
non-democratic nation-states (such as China and Russia) do exercise
considerable control within the UN—both are have permanent seats on the
UN Security Council and are part of the Permanent Five (P5) members on
the UN Security Council (UNSC)—and they respect the rules of polity as
per the Westphalian system. Theoretically all nations-states, and in particular democratically governed nation-states respect the Wesphalian mantra that a sovereign ruler/government has the ‘supreme authority to act in a particular sphere unhampered by others …’[5] or in simpler terms, a ruler/government is allowed to conduct their governing/governance on their own terms without the interference of others.

Therefore, one can argue, if democracies are the best representatives
of what good government and governance represents, then it is only fair
that their record be examined in what they have done in order to bring
about peace; and what they have accomplished in the post-WWII world with
regard to the non-interference of others. This should be done to
establish whether what powerful democracies have insisted upon through
the mechanisms of the UN—peaceful dialogue, negotiation and other
principles of justice—has been actually carried out by those that have
the high moral ground with regard to governing; and in keeping to their Westphalian ‘ideals.’

A perfunctory observation of the post-WWII era is an excellent
starting point because the UN has been firmly established and once
again, powerful democracies should if they are true to their ideals not
be inciting hatred through what Grotius called ‘a license to making
war’—the use of direct force—especially, when its expectations of others
has not been met.

American troops in Vietnam (image from
American troops in Vietnam (image from

The West however, whilst insisting that others seek peaceful
solutions, has resorted to the sword on many occasions. At times this
has consisted of intra-state interventions (warring with another Western
nation-state), though on most occasions it has been Western
interventions colliding with non-Western nation-states and/or peoples in
one form or another. The interest here however, is the degree that the
West, or ‘Western-orientated’ nation-states have delivered on their
adversary, whether through direct or indirect violence. Examples of the
West going to war in one form or another consist of Great Britain and
its dealings with Northern Ireland (The Troubles, 1968-1998)[6]; the British in Malaya (the ‘Malayan Emergency,’ or the ‘War of the Running Dogs,’ (1948-1960)[7];
the incursion and then invasion of northern Vietnam by the French (the
First Indo-China War, 1946-1954); the French occupation of Algeria in
what Evans has called France’s ‘undeclared war’[8];
the Second Indo-China War (the Vietnam War 1962-1975) in order for the
US to stem the tide of Communism that would take place through a ‘domino
principle,’ which would see all of Southeast Asia usurped by Communism[9];
South Africa and the Apartheid regime which included the gaoling of the
(then) terrorist Nelson Mandela; the ‘extraordinary rendition’[10]
of citizens by the US to non-Western nation-states in their ‘War on
Terror’ (2003 – ); to name only a few examples of violence which the
West has approved. Less overt, however just as troublesome is the
selective approval by the West of, arming and/or supporting
nation-states by the West that have brutal and repressive governments
such as Saudi Arabia; and the tacit support by the West of other
less-violent though highly-suspect governments in their deliverance of
democracy to all of their citizens, such as Singapore. Whilst the
aforementioned represent degrees of direct force and/or misguided
political will on the part of the West and bearing in mind Western
nation-states are the upholders of problem solving via the UN, the sheer
ineptness on the part of Western nations in bringing about an end to
the internal conflict in Syria, and a mutually beneficial conclusion to
the Israel-Palestine crisis[11]
cannot be ignored as a both, it is fair to argue, contribute to the
utter despair and rage of numerous non-Western nation-states and incite
hatred toward the West; and manifest in their peoples a divide between
how much the West really cares for non-Western populaces.

All of the above-mentioned constitute abject and in some cases
deliberate failings on the part of powerful Western nation-states in
dealing with issues that are their concern—as per the tenets of
Westphalia. Moreover, the West specifically addresses the notions of
diplomacy through the various mechanisms of the UN, yet, and as is able
to be observed resorts to war, or a degree of violence at the earliest
opportunity. The most relevant point here is, the West (and
Western-orientated countries) pontificate one point of view, resort to
violence and have the impudence, it would seem to believe their
duplicity will go unnoticed; and moreover, will not incite hatred and/or
revenge toward the West. This is folly; and can only lead to eventual
despair for the West.

The moral argument of whether attacks should take place against
civilian targets is an arid argument as the fact remains this is
happening; and is evidence of the above duplicity in action. An
alternative perspective remains to suggest that there is always another
aspect to a given issue, for instance the argument that an
agitator/event provoked the West into action—the most obvious in recent
times being the World Trade Center disaster: A salutatory point needs
mentioning here: it is the UN—usually the P5—that is charged with
whether an action is warranted and whether it should be pre-emptive or
post-event. It is not up to a single country to decide. The tenets of the UN remain in place: military force must not be used unless it has the official/legal backing of the UNSC.[12]

The West has failed in following its own rules; in its duty-of-care
to good governance and has treated other nation-states, in particular
non-Western countries, with contempt and derision. As the actions of the
West have developed and progressed in the post-WWII world the
deliberateness of these actions—in some cases toward other Western
nation-states in the case of Ireland—have caused groups to come-of-age;
be willing to sacrifice their lives; and execute others in the cause
against the direct repression that the West has delivered. While the
actions of non-state actors are reprehensible, especially when civilians
and police officers are targeted, it is far too simplistic to state
that the cause of no-state actors—terrorists, guerrillas and
insurgents—have not been encouraged to action due to the abject contempt
with which the West has shown toward others. Additionally, the West has
fundamentally failed to stem reactionary forces through both its
implementation of selective policies toward Western-friendly nations;
and used direct force when other nations have sought to deviate from the
course ‘set’ by the West.

The above argument and the West’s attitude toward others, and indeed
the ‘license to war,’ that has prevailed is able to be given a broader
perspective with a cursory observation of one of the driver’s the West
has used in its delivery of its body-politic. This has been through the
attitude of the most powerful post-WWII actor: the US. According to
Little US, and one could argue by association Western policymakers, have

Influenced by potent racial and cultural stereotypes,
some imported and some homegrown, that [have] depicted the Muslim world
as decadent and inferior, U.S. policymaker’s from Harry Truman through
to George Bush [have] tended to dismiss Arab aspirations for
self-determination as politically primitive, economically suspect, and
ideologically absurd.[13]

Current interventions (Australia’s into Iraq included) suggests this
attitude remains entrenched in the psyche of the West and
Western-orientated governments, and to be sure unless these
nation-states embark upon a change in their body-politic the horrifying
repercussions of contemporary times will continue; especially against
‘soft targets’ as per the recent sieges in urban areas.

A pertinent reminder of the rage felt toward the West is able to be
traced through the actions of Britain, France and the US and numerous
other Western nations, although when examining interventions the US
remains the most active, and has a long history of intervening in the
affairs of others. From the Caribbean, through to the Middle East, the
Central and South Americas, Africa and numerous other locales—to be
fair, the UN has sponsored several actions—and it is imperative to note
that between 1898 and 1996 there were 93 interventions on the part of
the US. This is what Peceney has called ‘democracy at the point of
For many reasons beyond the deaths of innocent civilians, a rethink of
the West’s ‘license to war’ is sorely needed. At the very least Western
and Western-orientated countries should stop offering platitudes
regarding Western and Western-orientated nation-states being the
‘upholders of the virtue of good government/governance,’ when it is
obviously a disingenuous and deeply-flawed position to now assume.  More
to the point, non-Western nation-states perspicaciously observe the
dichotomy of argument, and parallel actions.


Western civilisation and what it represents is a vast and complex
subject and fraught with interpretation. A succinct reference to this is
only needed here in order to instil an understanding of how it became
so expansive in its mechanisms that allowed this to prosper. Western
civilisation has as one of its major tenets industrialization and
science as part of its formulaic, and this in and of itself required
organization and the forming of standing forces.   Although Stearns uses
the Industrial Revolution to make a point about the West it can be
applied to when the Treaty of Westphalia and the sovereign state came
into being. Stearns avers industrialization, ‘extended a Western
commitment to using technology as a measure of social progress. The
impulse to deplore other societies as backward because they lagged
behind Western industrialization represented a further step is [sic]
what was already a well-established impulse…[and moreover being Western]
now depended on claiming unchallenged world supremacy…’ See: Peter
Stearns. Western Civilization in World History. New York: Routledge, 2003, 105-108.

The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of
Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of
Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia. The Treaty of
Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent
consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts. The most pertinent
ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the
Treaty of Osnabrück respectively. See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of
Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41.

[3] < > January, 2014.

[4] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), was a Dutch philosopher and author of De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (The Rights of War and Peace), [and] wrote down the conditions for a just war that are accepted today.’ See: British Broadcasting Corporation. <> July, 2007.

[5] Derek Verall. ‘The Westphalian system and its underlying normative order.’ World Order. Managing International Conflict. Editors of the School of International and Political Studies, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1996, 3.

[6] See: British Broadcasting Corporation <;

[7] See: Noel Barber.   War of the Running Dogs, 1948-1960. Cassell Military Books, 2007.

[8] See: Martin Evans. Algeria: France’s Undeclared War. Oxford University Press, 2012.

President Kennedy in a UN speech in 1961, stipulated if Laos, Cambodia,
and Vietnam fell to the communists, this would result in the gates of
defeat for liberal-democracy being ‘open wide.’ See: John Kennedy.
‘Address in New York City before the General Assembly of the United
Nations.’ September 25, 1961. United States Government Public Papers. <http//> Accessed 23 April, 2008.

[10] See: Jane Meyer; ‘Outsourcing Torture.’ The New Yorker. February, 2005. <;

[11] See: Tanya Reinhart. Israel/Palestine. How to End the War of 1948. Seven Stories Press, 2002.

[12] See: Chapter VII. Article 39 – 43. ‘Action with Respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ Charter of the United Nations.

[13] Douglas Little. American Orientalism. The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, 11.

[14] Mark Peceney. Democracy at the Point of Bayonets. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, 16.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Dr Strobe Driver completed his doctoral
thesis in war studies in 2011 and writes on International Relations;
and Asia-Pacific security. He is also a sessional lecture and tutor at
Federation University in the social sciences, history and international
relations. The views expressed in this article are through his own

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