In an interview with the BBC, Archbishop Tutu urged the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe, and said he would support the deployment of a UN force to restore order in the country.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, the former anti-apartheid leader said: "I think that a very good argument can be made for having an international force to restore peace."
This is a welcome development. And if the Archbishop’s going to be consistent, then we can shortly expect him to revisit his opposition to the Iraq war, and perhaps even confer retrospective approval on the Bush administration.
Tutu was an outspoken opponent of the invasion. Like many others he was critical of the flawed intelligence that was used to justify the war. However, he also contemptuously dismissed the secondary justification for the invasion – regime change.
This is what he said in a speech in London in February 2004.
‘But if now the reason being trumpeted for the war is regime change, why there and not for example, Burma? Or North Korea? And who makes the decision about which regimes should be changed? And what authority do they have to do whatever they think, may think is right? Or is it a matter of might is right, and to hell with the rule of international law?’Leaving aside the silly and disingenuous argument that ‘if we can’t intervene everywhere we shouldn’t intervene anywhere’, and that the coalition had a sound legal basis on which to take action against Iraq, Apparently Tutu has apparently now conferred on himself the authority to decide which regimes should be changed.
Doubtless the Archbishop would protest that Zimbabwe is a different situation from Iraq. He might claim that his international force won’t be going in to effect regime change, but simply to restore order and safeguard the distribution of aid. Any intervention would, of course, spell the end of Mugabe’s rule.
Some might howl at this blatant double standard, accusing the Archbishop of deciding that intervention is okay, just as long as it's not America doing the intervening. And they might point out that if past experience with African 'peace-keeping' forces is anything to go by, the women and children of Zimbabwe are likely to be in as much danger from their liberators as they are from Mugabe's gangs.
But I prefer to celebrate the news that Archbishop Tutu has finally accepted the reality that sometimes, regrettably, it’s necessary to take military action against bad people in order to save innocent lives and establish democracy, up to and including killing anyone who gets in the way (His Grace hasn’t as yet gone into specifics as to the rules of engagement under which his ‘international force’ will operate, but I’m assuming that if they come under fire from Mugabe’s thugs, he’ll allow them to defend themselves).
This is quite an about-turn for the veteran human rights campaigner. In addition to opposing the Iraq war, Archbishop Tutu has been a vocal critic of Guantanamo and the military tribunals system. He’s also attacked Israel, going so far as to compare Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank with apartheid. However, he’s been such a powerful force for good in Africa, standing up to dictators of every political stripe, whether black or white, with equal forcefulness, that we can perhaps forgive him the occasional anti-American or anti-Israel outburst.
His Grace, like many soft-left types, appears to be motivated by a frustration with injustice, both real and imagined, and by the notion that if we just show kindness to evil people, then they’ll stop being evil. Despite the fact that they share a fondness for the Israel/apartheid analogy, I would certainly set him apart from bitter, hate-filled leftists like Jimmy Carter (who, lest we forget, played a key role in bringing Mugabe to power).
And anyway, it appears that His Grace’s anti-intervention days are now behind him. Many prominent neocons started out as lefties, and Archbishop Tutu appears to be the latest to see the light. Now I'm looking forward to his 'Why we can't let Iran get the bomb' speech.