Open letter: Lessons from Afghanistan. Against a ‚value-oriented‘ / human rights-based foreign policy – (Discussion Group on Peace and Security Policy of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation)

PD Dr. Johannes M. Becker,
Prof. Dr. Lutz Kleinwächter,
Prof. Dr. Karin Kulow,
Prof. Dr. John P. Neelsen,
Prof. Dr. Norman Paech,

Prof. Dr. Werner Ruf,
Prof. Dr. Dr. Wilfried Schreiber, graduate political scientist
Achim Wahl

Berlin, August 24th, 2021

Open letter to
the German government, members of parliament, parties and peace activists

Against a ‚value-oriented‘ / human rights-based
foreign policy – lessons from Afghanistan

Disaster in the Hindu Kush. The hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is blamed on all channels for the failure of the “idealistic war” (Gabriel) and the victory of the Taliban. After 20 years of war, started as a ‚war on terror‘, personified in Ben Laden, and continued as a human rights-based mission ‚enduring freedom‘ with the establishment of bourgeois democratic institutions, the soldiers and soldiers fell within a few days with almost no resistance Arming the far superior army first, the provincial cities and finally Kabul into the hands of the Taliban. With over 200,000 dead and innumerable injuries, after the longest war effort of the USA and its allies, including the German Armed Forces, the USA alone $ 2,000 billion, and on the part of the FRG (Germany) with the lives of 59 soldiers,

Are there lessons to be learned for missions abroad, as is currently the case in Mali, and generally for an interventionist ‚value-based foreign policy‘ as proclaimed by various parties in the Bundestag (German Parliament), including a possible left-wing coalition with the participation of Die Linke?


Let us first of all note: Afghanistan is not an isolated case of value-based intervention, on the contrary:

  • Foreign Minister H. Maas made his first trip abroad to the Brazil of Jair Bolsonaro and to Colombia of Iván Duque, the central base of the resistance against the Maduro government in Venezuela. Maas justified the visits expressly with the „common values“ of the participating governments.
  • The economic sanctions against Cuba, which have now lasted for 60 years, are still justified by the alleged violation of human rights there and the need to restore freedom and democracy.
  • The US began bombing Iraq in January 1991 in the name of human rights, switched to the weapons of mass destruction allegedly hoarded there in 2003, and returned to „human rights and liberation from dictatorship“ when the weapons of mass destruction were not found.
  • The attack on Libya was identified by the European states and the USA as a humanitarian intervention as part of their alleged “responsibility to protect” (R2P).
  • The growing call for sanctions against the PRC is based on the protection of human rights and democracy, especially in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. In addition, the concern for a “rule-based order” plays a role, although one is at war with international law itself.

  1. Without broad popular support, a victory for the militarily inferior Taliban would not have been possible. Apparently they are seen as liberators from colonialist NATO troops and corrupt representatives of the people who collaborate with them. Even more, ideologically and politically, ‚an Islamic emirate‘ appears to them to be better than a democratic, secular state.
  2. External ‚humanitarian‘ intervention, possibly also with military support, for the purpose of enforcing human rights and establishing democratic conditions is doomed to failure. If tribal or ethnic-religious rather than bourgeois capitalist social structures, collective identities and culture dominate, they tend to split them and become an instrument of oppression.
  3. In addition, international law prohibits foreign interventions unless the Security Council has decided on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, the peoples‘ right to self-determination basically guarantees all states the free choice of their political, social and economic order. In the specific case this means: The Taliban are the Afghans‘ problem, which they have to solve, and not the USA or the Germans.
  4. The understanding of human rights in the capitalist states of the West is limited to civil and political rights. They negate the binding nature of social, economic and cultural human rights and especially those of the 3rd generation to peace, development and the environment, despite their equality as proclaimed by the UN.

    The same applies to the implementation of a human rights code of conduct for international corporations.

    Moreover, the USA in particular, the most militant pioneer in the global enforcement of human rights, has not
    signed or ratified most of the relevant UN conventions and is constantly violating them at home and abroad.


    In addition to the basic ideological equipment of foreign policy, especially in the USA, but also in the FRG (Struck – Hindu Kush), “national security” and “national interests” are added. You alone come close to the real interests and goals of the interventions. These “values” presented under the “banner of the good” have to fulfill three functions or tasks:

    • “defensive” is about the justification and defense of obviously legally dubious or illegal interventions and measures,
    • “offensive” is about the Discrediting, delegitimizing the political opponent and preparing for an attack,
    • allegedly it is about the protection of human rights and compliance with international law.

    (1) Classic forms of the “defensive” use of values ​​are “humanitarian intervention” as in the war against ex-Yugoslavia in 1999 and the “responsibility to protect” as in Libya. Quote from John Pilger (2011): “The European-American attack on Libya has nothing to do with the fact that someone should be protected … It is the response of the West to the popular uprisings in strategically important and resource-rich regions of the world and the beginning of a war of attrition against the new imperial competitor China.“

    (2) “Offensively” the “values” for delegitimization and regime change are used as sanctions against states such as Cuba, Syria but also PRC. The history of Cuba has shown that this is not just about political and economic sanctions, but also about military interventions. This approach is now also being considered against a world power like China. Quote Biden (July 2021): „I think it is more than likely that we will end in a war – a real war …“

    (3) The real protection of human rights, the original task of a ‚value-oriented‘ foreign policy, plays no role in real politics and does not matter. Examples of massive human rights violations such as Israel / Palestine, USA / Guantanamo, Afghanistan / Bagram or Iraq / Abu Ghraib, are even before the ICC investigations
    (International Criminal Court). The West’s silence regarding the violent suppression of the demonstrations in Bahrain by the Saudi Arabian military has similar reasons: the interests of the West in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are too great. These examples of a politics of double standards that demonstrate the ultimately instrumental ideological and legitimizing use of human rights. In truth, in the words of Egon Bahr to students, it stands for the following: “International politics is never about democracy or human rights. It is about the interests of states. Remember that no matter what you are told in history class. „

    A first conclusion to the ‚value-oriented‘ foreign policy: It still aims at power and rule over foreign countries with the old instruments of colonialism and imperialism such as robbery, war and enslavement, only the legitimation has changed:
    In the 15th century it was Mission with which the expeditions were first sent to the coasts of Africa and then to the west.
    In the 19th century it was the mandate of civilization with which the European states divided the world among themselves (1884 Berlin Conference).
    In the 20th century, it is human rights, democracy and freedom with which states are trying to maintain and reorganize the colonial order.


    Let us be on our guard in view of the strong domestic component of ‚value-based‘
    foreign policy:
    After all, who can be against when human rights, especially women’s rights, i.e. rights of the weaker, are protected by the “civilized” who even bear the burden of war take yourself – how altruistic! Anyone who criticizes this is guilty of contempt for human beings! In this way, criticism of the military and war is silenced by the holders of morals.

    And the next disastrous conflict is already being prepared: The economically strong Germany has sent a warship to the Far East (!). Instead of doing homework at home when there is: fighting growing poverty and thus the division of our society, integrating many of those who have fled German weapons and German economic policy with us, and an effective and socially adapted climate policy and much more.

    What to do? Stop all arms exports. Stop domestic armament. Arms and wars have not yet settled a conflict on earth, let alone: ​​solved it. The EU, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2012, is not upgrading, but rather turning it back into a peacemaker. Restoring the UN’s original peacemaking function with the sole monopoly of force!

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