Wednesday, June 11, 2008

intervention RIP (update 2)

Matthew Yglesias responds to Madeleine Albrights' op-ed. He makes a good point, first of all, that humanitarianism is much much more than military invasion. Also, that Iraq is actually a compelling reason for us to rethink the practice of interventionism, rather than a lamentable screw-up. In his words:

"In the wake of Iraq, few people around the world think "America is sovereign, and also can invade other countries whenever it wants to, but other countries can't do that" is a viable governing principle for the world order. So insofar as people would like to see certain international norms enforced, actual work needs to be done to make that possible."

Couldn't have said it better myself. The only problem I have is where Yglesias calls sovereignty-over-all logic "grossly wrongheaded" and "abstract." My point is, why? Historically, when the US has defended sovereign states against aggressors, we've done well. World War II. Korea (the part where we saved the South, not where we invaded the North). In fact, when exactly did violating sovereignty by invading a non-aggressor just because it was doing terrible things at home ever make the world a better place? Lesse... Kosovo. That's about the only time. Bosnia '95 was an example of Serbian aggression against its neighbors. Afghanistan '01 was in response to a direct attack. Haiti '94 was a US intervention to defend a sovereign democratic leader against a coup. In each case principle of sovereignty was being UPHELD, not violated.

Meanwhile, "preemptive" invasions like Iraq were disasters, humanitarian interventions like Somalia likewise, and if we'd invaded Burma last month, it would have been a more nightmarish quagmire than anything I've previously listed.

Sovereignty! An underrated gem.

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