Monday, February 20, 2006

Credit Where It's Due

by Joe Miller

President Bush's call for an additional 7,000 international troops in Darfur strikes me as good news indeed. Continuing violence and genocide would seem to indicate that the status quo isn't working well. Supplementing the roughly 7,000 African Union soldiers currently on the ground with an international force under U.N. control is a step in the right direction.

Cynics may point out the the President's call is somewhat empty since he is, in effect, calling for 7,000 of someone else's soldiers. Thus far the administration has made no plans to up the number of U.S. soldiers directly involved in the peacekeeping mission (most of the U.S. presence so far has been in supporting roles, providing airlift and dropping supplies). Or one might be tempted to complain that, given the President's disdain for the U.N., any problem that he suggests ought to be handled by the U.N. is also a problem that he doesn't particularly care about.

I submit, though, that we few remaining liberal internationalists ought to be careful to avoid the genetic fallacy. Whether President Bush's decision represents a genuine nod in the direction of liberal internationalism (and, by extension, a nose-thumbing at neoconservatism) or is nothing more than a calculated political ploy to look as if he cares, the fact remains that sending more troops to Darfur is probably a good thing. So, provided that said troops actually materialize, perhaps Bush's move will start moving foreign policy back toward something that is, well, less disastrous than neoconservatism has turned out to be.


Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

In the mouths of gift
horses, do not dare to look.
For you may find teeth.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

What happened to the sovereignty of Sudan? Why is ok to send troops in? To use a favorite Liberal argument: are we the world police? Granted I think its great idea and that something needs to be done, but it seems a little hypocritical to argue for intervention in some places but not others.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

See also: the problem of legitimate sovereignty.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Joe Miller said...


I don't think that sovereignty is an all or nothing concept. The strict legalist model would grant sovereignty to every state including those engaged in horrifying crimes against their own citizens. The legitimacy model (to which Mitch implicitly refers I think), may well have the problem of not referring to any actual state. Obviously these would set the outside limits for any approach.

It strikes me that it is possible, though, to construct an account of sovereignty that will allow for some genuinely legitimate interventions while still preserving sovereignty in the broad run of cases. I tend to think that the right position will come down closer to the legalist side, such that intervention will be justified only for pretty extreme circumstances. Genocide that is killing/has killed tens of thousands and forced another tens of thousands to flee is, I submit, an extreme circumstance.

So my response is that it is hypocritical only if I hold a position that says that all interventions are wrong and then intervene anyway. It's not hypocritical to hold that sovereignty is a complicated--dare I say nuanced--concept.

For the record, though, the complaint that we are not the world's police has been uttered more recently by conservatives than by liberals. Much of the push toward humanitarian intervention in the 1990s was supported by liberals. Conservatives generally disapproved, citing the world police business. See, for example, Republican reactions to Clinton's decision to intervene in Kosovo and Bosnia and of G.H.W. Bush/Clinton's decision to have troops in Somalia. See also G.W. Bush during the 2000 campaign against Gore.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Joe, Mitch,,
So was the invasion of Iraq justified? From the standpoint of the extreme case of genocide, torture, rape, etc. it was.

Granted, both sides of the aisle complain about using the military as a world police force, but I tend to hear it mostly from Libs/Dems complaining about the U.S. becoming involved in the affairs of other nations. See also Bush's remarks in the SOTU about not becoming isolationists.

Personally, I do see the U.S. as the "world police". As a permanent member of the UN Security Council (and the only member besides Britain that actually thinks action is necessary) and the only military superpower left in the world, I think it does fall to us to enforce the rules of civilization. Granted we are not perfect at it (perhaps not even very good), but if the UN as a whole has become lethargic/impotent, it is our responsibility.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

Joe: yes, that's what I was talking about

Short answer: not so much.

Longer answer: Given that JWT doesn't clearly demarcate where humanitarian intervention applies, I'd have to say... maybe. However, that being said, at the time the decision was supposedly made to invade I would say that there were other, more imminent threats. Afghanistan? Sure, I can dig it. Iraq... shaky, at best.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Joe Miller said...


Iraq is, I think, a tricky case for humanitarian intervention. There was a time when Iraq was most certainly a good candidate for intervention. Whether that time was 2003 is a harder question. Determining whether Iraq counts will largely depend on how we cash out "sovereignty" and how we determine when a state's actions against its own people are extreme enough that we can say that that state no longer is sovereign.

One relevant aspect of humanitarian intervention: for it to be justified, the nation (or nations) doing the intervening must be able to put something better back in place of the regime to be replaced. In Afghanistan, that's not much of a hurdle to get over. In Iraq, that's turning out to be harder than it appeared. I suspect that we'll have to wait another 10 years or so to determine whether what goes back into Iraq is really any better than what we replaced. I'm willing still to be optimistic. Most of that optimism stems from the knowledge that in 3 more years, we'll have someone else calling the shots. It's hard to imagine that that could be worse. Even if it is another Republican. (Sorry. Too easy.)

9:42 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

The problem isint Soverenigty, it lies in diplomacy and how one runs their state. i understand what your saying but i have a hard time comparing the justification of something like iraq to this. i think we have to look at all angles.

2:06 PM  

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