The Plan of Climate Intervention in Brazil – Behind Bolsonaro’s Deforestration Project

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Lucas Leiroz de Almeida is a Research Fellow in International Law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

RIO DE JANEIRO – Foreign Policy, one of the most renowned American journals in international studies, founded by Samuel Huntington himself, published in its latest issue an article by Stephen Walt, a Harvard International Relations Professor, publicly defending the possibility of an international environmental intervention in Brazil.

The text begins by exposing a hypothetical scenario in a near future, in which the US president would publicly announce an ultimatum to the Brazilian government to stop the excessive deforestation of the Amazon rainforest under penalty of military blockade of the Brazilian ports and air bombing.

In the course of the infamous article, the author elaborates a shallow and cheap defense of the maximization of the international efforts to prevent environmental damage, in favor of the maximum relativization of state sovereignty.

The text, briefly, revolves around the question of what would be the limits to actions for environmental security within the international system. Wordlessly, the author states that the world’s largest pollutant emitters are major military powers, against which international interventions would be fruitless. While, on the other hand, Brazil – like countries in similar situations – would be an easy target because of its high degree of environmental aggression in parallel with its military weakness.

Walt tries to shirk the responsibility of possibly suggesting an intervention in Brazil, stating that he is just “imagining” a possible scenario given the circumstances that are now being constructed. However, the entire structure of the text, such as the analytical outline of the Brazilian case and the narrative with which the article is developed, leaves no doubt about the author’s real intentions.

The Italian jurist Danilo Zolo called the structure of humanitarian interventions in contemporary international law a real “humanitarian terrorism”. In this system of implementation of international norms, we see a true return to the medieval concept of “just war” (justum bellum), in which we glimpse specific hypotheses in the international scenario where the illegality of warfare as a means of conflict resolution is broken and the recourse to weapons is justified.

Contradicting the claims that such recourse to weapons would be an indispensable means of peacekeeping, we have the very data of such interventions, which in almost all cases tend to cause more deaths and damage to humanity than those which supposedly made “indispensable” such measures.

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However, at no time in history has a case of “environmental intervention” been recorded. We do not even have a legal provision for us to think about such a hypothesis, even if we consider – legitimately – environmental issues as humanitarian issues.

An international environmental or climate intervention scenario would constitute, regardless of any other circumstances, an international illicit act. There is no escape from this typification.

Since 1945, however, what has been in force in the international system is a Winners’ Right, established by the infamous Tokyo and Nuremberg Military Courts, which, acting illegitimately and violating universal principles of justice, created the very law under which they tried and convicted their accused.

The precedent set by Nuremberg was the “justifiable violation” of the international law. Far from being rejected, however, this legacy was upheld and justified by Western legal doctrine, which was nicknamed “grotian moment” (allusion to Hugo Grotius, father of international law).

The so called grotian moments are international illicit acts ad hoc by an alleged “greater good” so that, even with their expressed prohibition in international law, they constitute legitimate practices because of their “need”. It was through this infamous theoretical advent that grotesque events in recent history were justified, such as the interventions in Bosnia and Yugoslavia and the American invasion of Iraq.

In practice, this means that if at any given moment a foreign power decided to intervene militarily in Brazil to “save the Amazon”, its practice, even constituting an international illicit, would be readily accepted and justified. More than that, it would even set a precedent and possibly become an international norm later.
Our reflection, however, must go far beyond the legal issue. We must take into account the current Brazilian environmental scenario. With the empire of stupidity sparked under the current president’s misrule, neoliberal and market-based attacks on the environment have been in full swing.
Last July, the deforestation rate in Amazon increased statistically by an incredible 278%. The scenario is absolutely catastrophic. And to make matters worse, the government’s position remains intact, with the absolute denial of the scientificity of data and the unshakable defense of the neoliberal agenda.

At first, we thought of this scenario as further evidence of the growing economic surrender that the current government promotes for the large private cartels. However, with the publication of the article Who Will Invade Brazil to Save the Amazon?, our hypothetical horizons are expanded to scales that we would not even like to imagine at length.

So, is Amazon deforestation a neoliberal project, headed by the delivery government itself or the satanic horde behind it, to accelerate a process of environmental catastrophe that, in the name of climate security, would justify a foreign intervention in Brazil? Are we facing a very serious case of international conspiracy to invade Brazil and gain control of Brazilian natural resources by foreign powers?

In the face of any speculation, it is up to us to act promptly for the Brazilian sovereignty and, above all, for the international security.

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