Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interventionist Policies

What I don't understand is how people can be simultaneously opposed to Bush's invasion of Iraq and supportive of Obama's bombing of Libya. Any military intervention in the affairs of another country under the slogan of "Let's remove that nasty dictator and liberate the people!" can only be based on the belief that one knows better what that country and those people really need. 

The idea that there is "good interventionism" and "bad interventionism" is, in my opinion, deeply flawed. Either you believe that your superior military strength allows you to meddle in the affairs of others, or you don't. But it's very hypocritical to criticize it when it's done by Bush and support it when the same thing is done by Obama. And, please, don't tell me that Obama and Bush have different intentions here. We cannot possibly know anything about their intentions or motivations. All we know is that the bombs are dropping and the people are dying because somebody from a different continent decided they know better.

I just read a joke on a Russian website on this subject:

"Why is Obama bombing Libya?"

"Oh, he just wants to get a second Nobel Peace Prize."

16 comments:

Anastasia said...

Most people I know are just as unhappy about Libya as they were about Iraq.

fairykarma said...

I guess we need to find other labels for types of interventionism other than good and bad.

Like "playing with your food"-interventionism (Obama) or "poking a hornet's nest" interventionism (Bush II) or "no cool helicopter scenes by the beach if we invade Rwanda and they make a movie about it"-interventionism (Clinton) or "holy crap Saddam does not have an ideology and simply want to f*** things up in the Arab world but we're going to spank him and let him continue causing havoc"-interventionism (Bush I) or "I'm just going wing it" interventionism (Reagan) or "Noone's going to remember my international policy"-interventionism (Gerald Ford, Carter) or "Europeans are getting to be a bit of a drag, let's mess around with Asians for a change"-interventionism (Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman) or "War cured my depression but I got the credit!"-interventionism (FDR) or "Let's ignore Germany, but prod it with a stick every now and then"-interventionism (Hoover, Coolidge) or "We're also white so we'll have to join in, it's like the big family reunion we never had"-interventionism (Wilson)
or, "Silly, of course white people are better. They make guns."-interventionism (Polk through Taft, especially Teddy) or my favorite, "Let's not get involved!"-non-interventionism (Georgie)

Either way, I'm curious as to whether the patronage-style tribalism that exists in Iraq and was so successfully exploited by Saddam also exists in Libya. If that's the case, I don't think getting rid of the leader solves the problem at all if the system is still intact.

Clarissa said...

Did you come up with this classification on your own?? It is absolute genius. It could be used to explain US foreign policy in a memorable, funny way.

Brilliant.

David said...

Alright, let's play devil's advocate here. If there is no distinction between "good interventionism" and "bad interventionism", should the U.S. have remained uninvolved in WWII, the Korean war, The Gulf War, Kosovo?

norman said...

Yea, excellent point David. There are concerns that might warrant intervention--legitimate national interests, genocide and other humanitarian concerns--and faulty and ineffective as they may be, international governance projects like the UN are attempts to legitimate acts of intervention when the world exists the way it does--anarchically and incredibly imbalanced in military power from one nation to another. For what it's worth, I didn't support this or Iraq, but thought the blog post was shockingly simplistic coming from an academic. And a further 'for what it's worth,' my willingness to intervene on humanitarian grounds (always an incredibly difficult decision) may or may not stem from my being Jewish and the grandchild of holocaust survivors.

Tom Carter said...

It's overly simplistic to categorize every military action the same way regardless of the circumstances and the national interests involved.

I realize that some people live in an internationalist dream world where the nation state isn't a valid concept, borders don't matter, etc. That's great for academic discussion and for mumbling over beer, but it's absurd in the real world, particularly when you're the one who has to make actual decisions.

As for the no-fly, no-drive zone in Libya, I think it's a mistake. Since ground forces were ruled out at the outset, there are really only two possible outcomes: Qadhafi stays in power, perhaps with another 12-year no-fly zone like we had in Iraq, or someone else takes power. We don't have a clue who that might be, and we (the West) could well be much worse off with them (whoever they may be) in charge.

National sovereignty is real and important. I don't know how we got to the idea that it's OK to attack sovereign nations because we (whoever that may be) don't like what they're doing in their domestic affairs. And here's a telling point -- if human rights is the issue, why don't we attack big, strong countries with the same zest we attack small, weak countries?

V said...

David, I am afraid WWII has been the last "good war". The rest were more about supporting "our SOBs" against "their SOBs"...
I am not implying that Saddam or Miloshevic were not bloody dictators. They were. But if they were pro-American bloody dictators, they still would be in power.

Rimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clarissa said...

"should the U.S. have remained uninvolved in WWII, the Korean war, The Gulf War, Kosovo"

-WWII: I don't see how a World War can be compared to interfering into the affairs of a country. In any case, the US only began to participate after the result of the war was obvious to everybody.

-the Korean war: Usually gets listed together with Vietnam as a huge mistake of the US that was also one big failure to achieve anything.

-Gulf War: don't know enough about it, so wouldn't venture an opinion.

-Kosovo: the bombings of Yugoslavia were a horrible, unforgivable crime of the US. The whole campaign was conducted in a careless, messy way. Bombs were dropped on Bulgaria "by mistake" for example. A nasty business. As an Eastern European, I feel nothing but horror when this particular campaign is discussed.

V said...

There is another important problem with Western interventionism - it seems to be the single largest factor stimulating Third World countries to develop nuclear weapons. Because they have proven to be the only real deterrent. Nobody messes with North Korea...

Clarissa said...

Exactly. You can't insist that these countries give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons while simultaneously demonstrating to them how easy it is for you to invade on a whim.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post!

On a funnier note, are all Russian jokes as hilarious as the one you posted?

Ol.

Clarissa said...

Oh yes. Russian people do have a great sense of humor. They kind of have to given how crappy everything else is. :-) :-)

David said...

"korea -Usually gets listed together with Vietnam as a huge mistake of the US that was also one big failure to achieve anything."

Would South Koreans disagree with that assertion, or maybe the soldiers from other U.N. nations who supported the U.S. in defending South Korea?

You can make a point that McArthur was an idiot and conducted himself poorly during the Korean war. You can easily make a point about Vietnam as a massive, collossal waste of time and money and American lives. But Korea was nothing like that, as the only similarity between that and Vietnam, was that it happened in Asia and there were communists involved.

Pen said...

I don't know if it's been pointed out yet, but the attack on Libya, while carried out by US planes, was not an attack by the United States, but by the Coalition. In addition, the Coalition got permission from the UN Security Council.

So while I do think that the attack didn't really have much justification, and while the US should carry some blame, it isn't right to only blame Obama when there were more countries involved.

Anonymous said...

Tom Carter- "National sovereignty is real and important. I don't know how we got to the idea that it's OK to attack sovereign nations because we (whoever that may be) don't like what they're doing in their domestic affairs. And here's a telling point -- if human rights is the issue, why don't we attack big, strong countries with the same zest we attack small, weak countries?"

Our views on what constitute a 'sovereign' nation must differ completely. I sincerely hope you are not using the word sovereign in relation to Libya. The people of Libya went out to protest against an authoritarian regime that has led them to a point where they had no choice but to protest. The regime in turn began to mow down unarmed civilians merely for the fact they were protesting. That is NOT a sovereign nation. The Libyan people have a right to self determination as much as me or you and I feel that that right should be respected. Of course any military action should be the last straw but what do you think Colonel Qaddafi would have done after winning out against the rebels. There is no doubt in my mind that a genocide would have followed, one similar to that in Hama in Syria in the 1980's. There would be no excuse for the world to stand idly by while that occurred and if I was a man with any power to stop it and didn't, I would not be able to sleep at night.

It is not 'meddling' in their affairs. Yes it is 'meddling' in Qaddafi's affairs but you MUST know that he is not a representative of the Libyan people anymore.


". We don't have a clue who that might be, and we (the West) could well be much worse off with them (whoever they may be) in charge."

How selfish you must be. If we followed your thinking we would effectively be saying "let Colonel Qaddafi massacre unarmed civilians as well as others with the use of sub saharan mercenaries because if we stop him the next government MAY be bad for us." Absolutely crazy and quite scary rational.