The term failed states is most often used to portray States that are not able to uphold democracy and the rule of law. The archetype of a failed state is Somalia, which has not had a functional government in years. The Western world, applying its own legal-cultural standard, is readily willing to impose this condemnation onto states such as Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime and under reign of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Yet, while doing so, one overlooks that the real failure originates from Western States themselves.
Two devastating reports from two British parliamentary inquiries have revealed a complete failure on part of both the Blair and Cameron governments where it concerns the military intervention in Iraq in 2003 and the UK military strikes in Libya in 2010.
In August 2016, a British commission of inquiry already concluded that the British military invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein was flawed and based on erroneous intelligence that chemical weapons were part of the Iraqi arsenal. Yet, no legal consequences were imposed on those British political leaders responsible for the death of many civilians and the chaos in which Iraq was left. Mr. Blair, the acting Prime Minister at the time of the intervention, denounced the findings of this commission.
In September 2016, only a month later, a committee of British lawmakers, i.e. a foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons, came to a similar conclusion as to the legality of the 2011 intervention in Libya led by the UK and France. This report was even more damning: the military intervention under the umbrella of protecting "human rights" failed in all aspects: it was founded on poor intelligence and more seriously had no coherent strategy. Moreover, it lacked a realistic follow-up strategy that caused a political collapse that subsequently fueled the rise of ISIS in Northern Africa. This organization is now trying to establish a stronghold in Libya while this State lacks a stable government to defend itself. As a result, this has triggered even more military intervention by the US and UK.
It is incomprehensible why western leaders are left virtually immune from legal consequences.
While the Libya report identifies the former British Prime minister David Cameron as being "ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya Strategy", again no legal consequences were drawn for the political leaders in question based upon these findings.
In this report, it concluded that the 2011 British "strategy" was founded on "erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence" and considering that the consequences were "political and economic collapse, intermilitia and intertribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Qaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa". It is incomprehensible why western leaders are left virtually immune from legal consequences. The report becomes even more cynical when one observes that Mr. Cameron declined to give evidence before this committee in March 2016, saying that "pressures on his diary", prevented him from doing so.
When one unravels these findings, it seems that the Western world - within the timeframe of eight years - has launched two major military inventions in order to facilitate a regime change in another part of the world. Interventions occur without having any proper knowledge on the political, cultural-sociological, security, and legal consequences of such an invasion into the sovereignty of another State.
Instead of pointing the finger at failed states in the Middle East and Africa, Western political leaders should first acknowledge their own failures for the political chaos.
It is alarming to read in the Committee's findings that the former British defense secretary Liam Fox, argued before the committee that the decision to intervene with force in Libya had been motivated by fear of a massacre of civilians akin to the one in Bosnia in the 1990s. Yet, Mr. Fox admitted before the committee that he was not aware of the rebellion in Libya being intertwined with militant Islamist elements. Accordingly, the British government overlooked the "possibility that militant extremist groups would attempt to benefit from the rebellion" whilst Libyan connections with transnational militant extremist groups were know before 2011 because many Libyans had participated in the Iraq insurgency and in Afghanistan with Al-Qaeda", the report said.
The findings make quite clear that those very western political leaders were put on notice after their failure as to the 2003 - Iraq intervention. Emily Thornberry, representing the opposition Labour Party on Foreign Affairs, confronted with the Committee's report, observed in this regard that "far from learning the lessons from Iraq, David Cameron had in fact repeated all the major mistakes again in Libya, and with the same catastrophic consequences".
Instead of pointing the finger at failed states in the Middle East and Africa, Western political leaders should first acknowledge their own failures for the political chaos. This political chaos is a result of the power vacuum in which countries such as Iraq and Libya descended following the flawed military intervention initiated by these Western leaders. It should make us also more conscious that the prosecution of political leaders for international crimes should reflect the concept of failed states not only from a Western perspective. The most devastating effect on the legitimacy of the rule of law is the application of double standards.
Assuming that a legal basis for a specific military intervention exists, such an operation should only be pursued once a clear and coherent roadmap exists that would lead to a stable and representative government. Simply installing a government that is favorable to the West is likely to increase to the risk that the country becomes a failed state. Involving neighbouring countries and especially the local population and its customs in this process is a requisite. Western leaders do not seem to learn from their past failures, and therefore more catastrophes such as Iraq and Libya are likely to occur.