Alan Scott (1999) 'War and the Public Intellectual: Cosmopolitanism and Anti-Cosmopolitanism in the Kosovo Debate in Germany'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 2, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/2/scott_alan.html>
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Received: 03/06/99 Accepted: 18/06/99 Published: 30/6/99
Legal pacifism wants not only to enclose latent states of war between sovereign states within international law, but also absorb these into the complete legal framework of a cosmopolitan order... Direct membership of an association of world-citizens would also protect state citizens against the despotism of their own governments. (p.1)
Only when human rights have found their 'place' within an world-wide democratic legal order in the same way that basic rights have within our national constitutions, will we also be able to assume on a global level that the addressees of these rights can at the same time think of themselves as their authors. (p.7)
The only moral justification for violence is humanitarian assistance [Nothilfe]. The only justification for the violence of war is victory. Neither requires airy words... War does not merely presuppose readiness to kill but also the physical courage to risk ones life for others, to suffer and even to die. Societies which cannot summon up these virtues should withdraw as quickly as possible, but they should not pretend that this is an act of justice. (p.56)
Problems of nationalism will not be resolved by the Serbian mass terror in Kosovo nor by NATO's air war, and certainly not by a politics which appears to allow of no diplomatic solution and at best, as in Bosnia, makes a cease-fire dependent upon an unlimited occupation by foreign military forces of an 'ethnically cleansed' area. (p.38)
As Habermas (1989: 77-78) has noted, by associating him or herself closely with a particular party, the intellectual once again gives up the freedoms associated with that role. There is, in other words, a tension between the public intellectual's desire for freedom and for influence. Influence, where it requires adherence to a party, re-imposes discipline, including the discipline to remain silent which is the very antithesis of the 'duty' of the public intellectual.
3Unlike their British counterparts, German politicians do not appear to have 'minders' and are occasionally exposed to uncontrolled publics. Whereas Scharping has stuck doggedly to his script and appeared very uncomfortable (no doubt wishing he had minders), Fischer, who has three decades of experience of this kind of thing behind him, raises to the occasion and is scathing, funny and impassioned by turn.
4This caution has not protected Habermas from some pretty crude attacks, notably by the author Peter Handke in an interview in the Austrian weekly News, 11th May, 1999.
5The German term 'Völkerrecht' (international law) implies that international law is law applied to the citizens of states. This implication - absent in the English - enables Habermas to draw a categorical distinction between international law and law grounded in human (i.e. not state-citizenship) rights. Only the latter can sanction intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
6Compare Cohn-Bendit: 'This war demonstrates that Europe is not only the EURO, butter and beef. Europe is an ideal of living together and of human rights. Never again can there be ethnic expulsions, never again barbarity... Kosovo shows that Europe is ready to defend this demand even under difficult conditions.' This sentiment is understandable and disquieting in equal measure. The argument that the deployment of ground troops should have been a moral consequence of this intervention is also made by the sociologist Karl Otto Hondrich (Die Zeit, no. 22, 27th May 1999: p.4)), but on different grounds to those offered by Sofsky. For Hondrich a 'war from above' neither engages the 'enemy' as a human agent nor protects Kosovans as though they where 'one or ours' (das Eigene). Hondrich argues that it these relative values of mutual recognition among enemies and protection of ones own rather than the abstract asocial conception of the 'world-citizen' which offer the only justification for violence and war.
7Habermas's universalism was also bound to provoke a culturalist response and so it did: 'It is not to be forgotten that in all this that local self-regulation of ethnic and religions conflict, as a rule, takes its course without violence, even in the Balkans' (Hondrich 1999: p.4). And later, 'we must accept that violence does resolve problems. We must accept that violence and war are not the fault of any one side or of one man, but are co-produced by both sides'. Hondrick's position appears to be a kind of conservative cultural relativism and his views are in some respects similar to those expressed by Skidelsky (see, endnote 1). Without acting as apologist for the Serbs or ruling out categorically NATO's intervention, Hondrick concludes 'there are cases in which one must intervene, in which we must rush to help the weak and oppressed, but it is better to do so on the basis of simple morality and interest than on the basis of a world-citizen-morality'. While I have sympathy with this conclusion, this kind of juxtaposition of universalism and culturalism soon draws a blank. More interesting are those criticisms of the intervention that focus primarily on the question of the appropriateness and proportionality of response (though, in fairness to Hondrick, he does consider this too).
8The distinction between a 'just' and a 'justified' war is Habermas's, 1990.
9Despite these doubts, Beck does not come out unambigiously 'against' NATO's intervention any more that Habermas comes out unambigiously 'for' it.
10For an attempt to apply Polanyi's analysis to contemporary globalizing forces, see Scott 1997b.
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