The national interest, ethics and truism

Reason Wafawarova  on Monday
The national interest is often referred to by the French phrase, raison d’état, and to many the shared meaning is about a nation’s survival, security, as well as the pursuit of economic growth, wealth and power.

We as Zimbabweans must have a collective approach to safeguard our country’s survival, its security, its economic growth, its wealth, and its power among other nations. We cannot undermine any of these in pursuit of any other interest that may be of benefit only to specific individuals among us.

In supporting the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, Australian Ambassador Richard Woolcott sent a diplomatic cable in which he recommended “a pragmatic rather than a principled stand” in regards to the then imminent invasion of East Timor.

In short, Woolcott was saying Australia in pursuit of its national interest was going to deliberately depart from common principle and follow an unprincipled, but pragmatic route, at the expense of the Timorese people.

The Australian ambassador argued that this doctrine was the most appropriate because “that is what national interest and foreign policy is all about”.

In international relations, the Woolcott doctrine is unambiguous and it neatly cuts through the Gordian knots, making it clear that realism is not about morality, ethics or even truisms.

After being asked by Amy Kellogg of Fox News on what he thought about China’s incursions in Africa, and if he thought China’s influence was “positive”, or “they have been propping up people like your President Mugabe”, Morgan Tsvangirai had this to say:

“Whatever you can say about the Chinese, they are not missionaries. They have business interests; they have their own national interest, especially when it comes to resources.”

It was a patronising question from Kellogg; typical of the Western script on international affairs, and the idea was of course to paint Robert Mugabe as the Great Satan.

Kellogg’s question carried the undertones of the national interest for those on whose behalf Fox News broadcasts.

We just had an election whose smooth path was marred by the violence of August 1. Some among us have tried to capitalise on the tragedy of that day to paint the image of a hopelessly lawless country; and that is very unfortunate.

We have politicians in Zimbabwe who want to paint ZANU-PF as an outlawed terrorist organisation.

ZANU-PF has more than two thirds of the seats in our Parliament, and it is the ruling party in this country. It cannot just be deemed illegal and illegitimate by people who have problems accepting an unfavourable reality before them.

Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) is a sanctions law on Zimbabwe by the US Congress which is based on racism and racial supremacy. It is an expression of disgust over our land reclamation programme.

The annual ritual of renewing this sanctions law is a political statement of supremacy, not an expression of concern over the human rights regime in our country. Any sane black person knows with no shadow of doubt that his human rights do not matter at the White House; have never mattered, and will never matter. Donald Trump does not even pretend they do. He is a very honest racist guy who gives you exactly what you see.

Principle calls for justice, morality and equality among nations. Land reclamation which is about to happen in South Africa is a justice issue, a morality issue, and an issue of equality. Robert Mugabe might have fatally experimented with dangerous dynasty politics at home, but he was a principled leader who genuinely longed for post-colonial justice in favour of the formerly oppressed black population.

He was loathed in the West because he was a threat to global capital and its hegemony. He stood for the “bewildered masses,” and he allowed for the rise of the wretched of the earth at the expense of the privileged elitist beneficiaries of the colonial legacy.

Now in this dispensation we want to rediscover our way into relating and trading with the West. It is important that we thoroughly understand the intention of neo-liberal thinkers.

We do not expect the national interest of the United Sates to align with the principle behind the reclamation of our land. We are clear that the US national interest is a pragmatic choice in favour of their own interest, not ours. Equally, we pursued our own national interest regardless of what they said at the White House.

South Africa will be doing the same regardless of however, many tweets Donald Trump is going to churn out in solidarity with privileged white South African farmers.

As they called for the head of Robert Mugabe, so will they call for the head of Cyril Ramaphosa — there are no inconsistencies, no need for any casuistry, as all principles are often abandoned so it can frankly be acknowledged that the powerful do what they like, acting with “Kissingerian realism”, as Noam Chomsky would describe it.

The tradition of Westerners in international affairs has for a long time been based on the “What we say goes” doctrine. This is why someone like Kate Hoey thinks it makes sense for her to demand who should be in politics in Zimbabwe and who should be pushed out.

The national interest for the United States in as far as the political environment in Zimbabwe is concerned is a matter of instructed knowledge for people so initiated into the dictates of Western foreign policy as is Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti, especially the later.

Biti thinks he knows exactly how to make Americans angry against ZANU-PF, and he solely relies on promising the Americans free reign over the affairs of our country, in exchange for donations and aid, if him and his colleagues were to lead the country.

In 2014, Prince Asiel Ben Israel (73) was jailed for seven months in the United States for lobbying for the lifting of economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. The offence was “violating federal law by lobbying on behalf of the violent and oppressive regime of Zimbabwe’s long time president in spite of US economic sanctions.”

Why is it our people can freely work with the Americans so we are sanctioned, and yet an American citizen gets jailed for suggesting that the economic sanctions on our country must be lifted? Why are we not jailing these people mobilising sanctions against our own country? Why are we not criminalising the act of conspiring with a foreign government to undermine the Zimbabwe national interest?

Amy Kellogg asked, “Do you see a day when the US will have investment opportunities in Zimbabwe?”

Tsvangirai answered; “Definitely. I don’t see anyone excluded from the potential of the country including business opportunities and investment opportunities. There is energy potential; there is mining potential. There is industrial development potential. The people are the most educated in Africa.”

Today we are saying the same thing that Tsvangirai said. We are saying Zimbabwe is open for business. We see a lot of potential in our country for foreign investors, but we hardly see any such potential for the local investor.

Like Tsvangirai said, we see ourselves as the most educated people in Africa, and as such the most suitable to service the dreams of foreign investors.

Tsvangirai allowed himself to be financed and string-controlled by the West in the name of fighting for our rights. We could do the same in the name of attracting investment.

Tsvangirai’s successor wants to create this narrative that there is a stolen election that needs to be fought for, a stolen vote that needs to be defended.

It is a claim as baseless as to be indefensible in court, as was seen during the televised August 22 Constitutional Court hearing.

While Tsvangirai longed for an Orange Revolution and an Arab Spring, Nelson Chamisa longs for a disruption of governance in the country. The young man has hurricanes sweeping through his mind, and he often rhapsodises inciting sentiments that vapours into thin air immediately after impressing journalists at his numerous press conferences.

Here is the paradox of the national interest. It was in our national interest to reclaim our land the way we saw fit. It was in the US’ national interest to sanction us for our national interest, and to demand a “return to the rule of law,” and a “restoration of property rights.”

It is within the US’ national interest doctrine to define September 11 as a terrorist attack, and yet the same national interest leads the same United States to define its own deadly attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan as “democracy promotion”, regardless of how terrified the citizens of those countries were when Western fire power was poured on their hard-earned infrastructure.

The perpetrators of 9/11 were obviously non-state actors, and as such had no national interest to express. However, in their worn thinking they probably were of the opinion that the attacks were in pursuit of justice, given how they perceived US aggression in the Middle East.

Richard Woolcott’s doctrinal leanings in supporting the Indonesian invasion of East Timor were not held when Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

When it came to the Kuwait invasion, Australia’s principled stand was to oppose and condemn Iraq; and the differential reaction can be explained.

In the case of East Timor, support for war crimes and crimes against humanity was highly profitable to Australia and served the interests represented by policymakers, otherwise known as “the national interest”.

The conquest of Kuwait harmed those interests. The same was true for the United States and every other one of the 28 Allies that were part of the Gulf War, or the Gulf Massacre — for that is what it was.

Realism is crude, but more preferable to the inflated and self-congratulatory rhetoric intended to manufacture public consent for the ratification of elitist oppressive acts, often disguised as public opinion or the national interest.

It does not matter it is an imperial country defining the “national interest” or a liberated ex-colony doing so, the term is often simply a residual Orwellism that messes up semantics.

Conventionally “the national interest” has come to be used to designate the special interests of those whose domestic power allows them to craft state policy for their own ends.

So we have politicians that will craft state policy in a way that creates the misimpression that only these politicians are the custodians of “people’s human rights” and “freedoms and liberties”.

So we have political leaders who define themselves as “human rights defenders” and as custodians of “democracy” — anointing themselves the authors and finishers of freedom and liberties in a “new Zimbabwe”, ostensibly made new merely by their ascendance to power.

Nelson Chamisa ostensibly masquerades as a representative of 2.6 million angry voters whose vote was stolen by Mnangagwa, and he packages this rhetoric as a matter of national interest. But Chamisa is not the only politician guilty of this nefarious behaviour.

Our liberation legacy has not been spared this convention either. There are politicians who anoint themselves custodians of our collective memory over the excruciating effects of colonial repression – seeking to control our present thought processes not for our own good, but for the good of their own political ambitions.

This does not mean that the liberation legacy is not the foundation of Zimbabwe’s national interest. The true national interest of Zimbabwe was born out of the liberation struggle, and that is our solid and unwavering foundation.

This foundation is itself in perpetual conflict with everything imperialistic in scope or perception. This is why the MDC finds itself in constant conflict with those who fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe.

In the West the idea of a few elitists defining the national interest for all else is neither new nor surprising. It is a tradition.

In as much as many Australians were opposed to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, the “pragmatic” position taken by Woolcott was that “Timor’s petroleum smells better than Timorese blood and tears”, in the sombre words of one Timorese priest after the deadly Kraras massacre of 1983.

When it comes to the West, our minerals will always shine better our lives. Our soil smells better than our dignity, and that is why we have been sanctioned over the years for the crime of reclaiming our land from people we are supposed to regard as superior to ourselves.

The “pragmatic” concept of the “national interest” is usually unacceptable to the majority of the people, and this is precisely why it is always articulated in secret, in meetings having no more than a handful of powerful elites.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

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