[Column] How opposing war became a far-right policy

Posted on : 2024-07-02 17:33 KST Modified on : 2024-07-02 17:33 KST
Anti-interventionism has become a rallying call for politicians on the far right across the world
Marine Le Pen celebrates favorable exit polls for her National Rally party during the first round of voting in the snap general election in France on June 30, 2024 (local time). (AP/Yonhap)
Marine Le Pen celebrates favorable exit polls for her National Rally party during the first round of voting in the snap general election in France on June 30, 2024 (local time). (AP/Yonhap)


By Jung E-gil, senior staff writer

Progressives and liberals have always emphasized the importance of opposing war and advocating for peace. But these days, at least in the West, it is the far right that has become the biggest opponent of war.
 
Whether it’s the National Rally, which topped the first round of voting in France’s general election on Sunday, the Alternative for Germany, which beat the ruling Social Democratic Party in Germany’s European Parliament elections, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, all parties share the same sentiment in their foreign policies: they either oppose or remain passive on intervening in the war in Ukraine.
 
In the US, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has also voiced reluctance or outright opposition to intervening in Ukraine, and white nationalist and right-wing populist voters in particular oppose US military intervention abroad and the Ukraine war.
 
National Rally leader Marine Le Pen has vowed to stop President Emmanuel Macron’s deployment of French troops to Ukraine if her party wins the general election. She also stated that serving as commander-in-chief of the armed forces is an “honorary title” for the president since it’s the prime minister who actually “pulls the strings,” signaling her willingness to interfere with the president’s authority in national defense and foreign affairs.
 
Conservatives and liberals in the West accuse the far right of opposing intervention in the Ukraine war because they are authoritarian forces aligned with Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. Their perceived disregard for sovereignty and freedom leads them to support or condone Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and they warn that such far-right groups will only exacerbate the scale of Russia’s aggression.
 
Even if such arguments do have some truth in them, the big question is why the far right is gaining so much popularity in the West. Especially in Europe, the far-right has become the mainstream or even ruling party, with their biggest agenda concerning immigration and refugees. 

The current immigration and refugee crisis in Europe is rooted in Western military intervention since the end of the Cold War. Starting with the intervention in the Yugoslavian civil war in the early 1990s, the West has intervened in the Middle East through the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the Libyan Civil War, the Syrian Civil War, the fight against the Islamic State, and the current wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
 
The West either instigated these wars or intervened in them in the name of protecting freedom, democracy and human rights. Even if we cannot fault the West for its intentions for intervention the final outcomes certainly lack the freedom, democracy and human rights used as justification. 
 
The Middle East, where the West has intervened the most, has become a living hell and purgatory for its citizens. Just take a look at Libya, where European countries decided to actively intervene. There is no government, which means that establishing democracy is out of the question, and the people are subjected to a never-ending civil war.
 
This has resulted in countless refugees pouring into Europe from the other side of the Mediterranean. To this day we continue to witness the tragic deaths of migrants shipwrecked in the Mediterranean every day. This has also stoked hatred and xenophobia regarding refugees and immigration within Europe, which has developed into the political base of the far-right.
 
Far-right parties are taking the position that the incumbent administrations neglect their citizens only to go abroad and engage in military interventions. Logic prompts them to believe that the next step is to oppose military interventions and wars abroad.
 
In the name of defending sovereignty, freedom, and democracy, are conservative and liberal mainstreams falling prey to the dogma of intransigent military intervention rather than negotiation and compromise?
 
Germany’s Greens, a party founded on pacifism and that even called for withdrawal from NATO, is now pushing the Social Democratic Party, which leads the coalition government, to intervene in the Ukraine war by providing arms and other support to Ukraine.
 
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, of the Greens, is the most hawkish member of Germany’s coalition government on the war in Ukraine, and Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck has boasted that he is now Germany’s “defense industry minister.” In Germany, that title was only used to refer to the minister of armaments under Hitler.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, had called the expansion of NATO “irrational” prior to the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. She’s also claimed that Europe is “carrying out a cold war against Russia and pushing Russia into China’s arms.” When the war broke out, Le Pen called for a convening of a pan-European council to recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula on the condition that Russia pull out of the Donbas region. At the very least, Le Pen seems willing to work out a peace deal with Russia, something that shouldn’t be dismissed. 

We’re in a situation where the once expansionist far right is now taking a realist stance, while the once-realist mainstream conservatives and liberals are unwilling to compromise and continue to call for military intervention. Who, exactly, is the party that is pursuing peace and willing to negotiate? And who can we trust? 

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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