“No Such Thing As A Neutral Intervention”

There’s an opinion piece in today’s WaPo that’s well worth a read. And then a re-read:

The big democracies usually stand idly by during the worst atrocities, including the Holocaust [except of course during the years ’39 through ’45, but I get the point] and the genocide in Rwanda. Simply to defend core national security interests, the Western allies might have been better off this time concentrating on threats in North Korea, Pakistan or Yemen. (After the United States invaded Iraq, Condoleezza Rice reportedly warned George W. Bush about Darfur: “I don’t think you can invade another Muslim country during this administration, even for the best of reasons.”) If Western strategists saw a more complex interest in furthering the democratic impulses of the Arab revolutions, Libya still may not have seemed of paramount importance compared with, say, Egypt or Tunisia.

Yep. It continues:

The result is a third recurring quandary: Humanitarian interventions tend to use limited means, while flirting with maximalist goals.

In Bosnia before 1995, Britain, France, Canada and the Netherlands sent U.N. troops, but these governments were more worried about the safety of their own soldiers than about protecting Bosnian civilians. The United Nations declared Sarajevo, Srebrenica and four other Bosnian towns to be “safe areas” but did not provide forces that could defend them — paving the way for the extermination of 7,000 Bosnians at Srebrenica in July 1995.

This is a well thought-out, even-toned piece. Strongly recommended.


  1. DaveO says:

    "It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are." ~Roy Disney (http://www.quotegarden.com/decisions.html)

    Not very good choices here. One can go all in and become a super-isolationist and ignore the world, and fail when the world intrudes on your isolation.

    One can go all out and try to resolve every humanitarian crisis, and fail when your people and economy are too exhausted.

    One can pick and choose where to directly intervene, and where to encourage others to intervene. The failure here becomes the folks you don't help, die, usually in an inhumane manner; and your motivations are always suspect.

    I go for Choice 3. One can't do everything, and one should never do nothing.

  2. USMC Steve says:

    It is a simple fact that if we keep trying to help everyone in the world who screws up for themselves, we are going to end up out of commission. And we don't owe any of them a thing frankly. Some countries like the Aussies, Brits, Canadians, we can reasonably trust and count on, but almost all the others seek to screw us any time there is an opportunity to do so. Having a weak and ineffectual president only encourages them further to do so.

    I don't want to help any other country until we have unscrewed THIS country. When we have fixed our crime problem, fed our poor, housed our homeless, etc, then we can worry about everyone else. Given that most of the world hates the US anyway, I really would rather that they feared us. They will never love us, but they will sure take our resources and money right quickly.

    • DaveO says:

      USMC Steve,

      You wrote: "When we have fixed our crime problem, fed our poor, housed our homeless, etc, then we can worry about everyone else."

      I disagree with isolationism for two reasons, The first reason is that by helping other countries/peoples on a select basis, we help ourselves through foreign markets opening up demand for American goods and services and increasing employment/wealth here in the US.

      • USMC Steve says:

        To a certain extent that is true, but not necessarily accurate in the business realm. We deal with a number of countries in business ventures that we have almost nothing to do with otherwise. If you have something someone wants, they will still deal with you unless someone else can provide it better or cheaper. The concept of goodwill is not really relevant when nationalism is involved. Almost none of the countries we have rendered assistance to have done anything other than shit upon us whenever they have had the chance. There are certain countries as I mentioned, that I would readily and enthusiastically render aid to, but it is just insane and stupid to do anything for countries such as Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, Somalia, etc, when the predictable result is that they will twist the knife in our back every chance they get. We need to cultivate the concept that if you want America's trust and good will, you have to earn it, period. And once lost, it is lost for good.

        • DaveO says:

          My immediate reaction is to counsel against permanent withdrawal of our trust and goodwill, but to set and hold to conditions for their return.

          • USMC Steve says:

            Yeah, I will go along with you there. Governments tend to be as loony tunes as individual people on occasion.