The North down under: antinomies of conflict and intervention in Solomon Islands

Drawing upon recent critiques of the ways in which organised political violence in the global ‘South’ is interpreted and responded to, this paper examines the recent conflict and intervention in Solomon Islands. We argue that standardised liberal templates have served to frame both the aetiology of the Solomons conflict and the manner of its proposed resolution. Australia’s intervention in Solomon Islands can be said to represent the ‘local North’ as it seeks to impose a liberal peace over a ‘deviant’ and ‘unruly’ neighbour. We draw upon published material to highlight the social, cultural and historical contexts of the conflict. We then demonstrate how the ‘off-the-shelf’ intervention, with its emphasis on asserting a liberal peace, fails to account for these complex social dimensions of the conflict. The antinomies of conflict and intervention in Solomon Islands demonstrate how both the liberal interpretation of developing-country conflict and its bedfellow, the liberal peace, attempt to divorce conflicts from their social contexts. In doing so, the demonstrable potential for violent intrastate conflict to result in positive social transformation is reduced.