Francis Matthew For most of the 20th century, a nation state was a sovereign entity, which ran its own internal affairs with no interference from outside powers. Despite all countries signing up to the UN and endorsing the Charter of Human Rights, this was rarely enforced as the Cold War led both sides to nurture their allies around the world, rather than lecture them on human rights. This key doctrine of non-interference in internal affairs started to lapse after the collapse of communism, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The new situation led the European and American powers to redefine their purpose in the world at large, and this is when they started to lose their way. Tragically, in 1999 NATO gave itself the right to operate out of theatre. Despite its heroic 50-year record as a purely defensive alliance which had protected the democracies of Europe and America, it became an offensive alliance that could fight wherever its members wanted. Much later and more hopefully, in 2005 the UN adopted the new principle of a responsibility to protect, which says that a state has a duty to protect its citizens from mass atrocities, and the international community has a right to intervene if it fails to do so. But the question of who approves the right to interfere in sovereign territory remains open to furious debate between those promoting a larger role for global governance through the UN, and those who do not want to get bogged down by such limitations. Before the UNs new principle was adopted, in 1999 the US and UK had argued in NATO that action in Kosovo did not require UN approval, while the French and others wanted more UN involvement. After the 9/11 attack on America, the US invoked the NATO Treaty and its partners joined in attacking the perpetrators of the assault, and their allies in Afghanistan. A major problem was that this terrorist attack did not fit the paradigm of a NATO Treaty based on conventional war, and almost a decade later NATO forces are still in Afghanistan, stuck in a war with a mission that changes according to every new governments mood. Tony Blair was Britains most interventionist PM for decades, dispatching British forces into action in four new wars: Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. In his book, A Journey, he provides fascinating insight about what led him to such a course, with the alarming conclusion that most of his calls to action felt right. He argues that the old view that a countrys traditional foreign policy is based on narrow analysis of national interest, and indifference unless that interest is engaged is flawed and immoral. He argues for a more open approach, a willingness to take a stand, and on Kosovo Blair is very clear: My primary motivation was outrage at what was happening. Here were ordinary citizens being driven from their homes, killed, raped, beaten up with savagery and often sadism. It was shocking. The problem is not Blairs outrage and shock, which many around the world should share, nor the willingness to be involved and take a stand. The problem is which part of the present worlds inadequate global governance should approve such actions. The sad fact is that nothing succeeds like success, and Blair is regarded as a hero in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, where armed intervention stopped brutal civil wars, and laid the basis for a new start. But this did not happen in Iraq, where the allied forces failed to have a plan for post-conflict reconstruction, largely because President Bush disastrously allowed his Defence Department to take over responsibility for running Iraq, dumping the State Department plan. Nor has it happened in Afghanistan, where the troops are still in action after almost 10 years with no obvious end to the war in sight. The lessons of the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan have been brutal, as military powers have learned that armed intervention has to have clear aims and defined targets, combined with broad international agreement. This has become very relevant as the world prepares for the next round of confrontation with Iran, and as this autumns sanctions regime moves towards its almost inevitable failure. It is certain that the only lessons on intervention learned by Benjamin Netanyahus militaristic government are keep it quick and success breeds success. Obama might have bought into the idea that any military attack on Irans nuclear sites would be folly, but Netanyahu has not. It is possible that Israel might try a quick air strike against Iran, without any UN approval, along the lines of the attack on Iraqs Osirak nuclear site in 1981. Such a rapid in-and-out raid might dodge the problems of a ground war and occupation, but would still generate Blairs unforeseen ramifications. They must be avoided Gulf News