Counterpoint: Sometimes Intervention is Necessaryby Stephen Littau
(Responding to Brad Warbiany’s post here)
After reading Bradâ€™s arguments opposed to interventionism, I found many more areas of agreement than I expected. Brad makes the point that he does not favor isolationism or pacifism and points out that force is sometimes justified, though he does not explain the circumstances where he believes force or â€œinterventionâ€ is justified. I believe that the real question Brad, myself, and many others are grappling with is this very question, not so much if the U.S. should adopt either an interventionist or non-interventionist foreign policy. To offer these as the only two choices is to fall prey to an either/or fallacy. Rather than generally arguing in favor of intervention, I will instead argue for intervention under very limited and specific circumstances.
Under most circumstances the U.S. should neither intervene militarily nor otherwise be involved in the internal affairs of other sovereign states. It is probably safe to say that the U.S. has significant policy differences with every other country on the planet but very few of these differences require any kind of military action or other intervention. If I were to hazard a guess, I would guess that in 95% of these cases, the U.S. should not use military force. But what should be done about the other 5%? At what point should the U.S. use military force against Iran, North Korea, or other states which harbor terrorists who are credible threats to our national security?
Brad is mostly correct in his assessment that Americaâ€™s intervention in other countries over the past 60 years has been an abject failure. Misadventures in Cuba, Vietnam, South America, Africa, and the Middle East come to mind as being among some of the most obvious examples of failed and/or unjustifiable interventions. Indeed we are now dealing with the consequences of the U.S. support of the Taliban in the Afghan War and Saddam Hussein during the Iraq/Iran war and we will continue to deal with the consequences for the foreseeable future. But is it really fair to say that every intervention has been a failure or has not yielded some positive results for the U.S. and the world?
Consider that over this same span of time that we witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and successfully drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Both of these required intervention on the part of the U.S. and the world is better off for it.
I would further argue that interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have also delivered some positive results which have been downplayed by the MSM and those who oppose these interventions. In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban was driven out of power and has given the Afghanis their best opportunity to pursue freedom. Roughly 1/3 of the Afghan people and 40% of eligible women participated in the 2004 elections with minimal violence.
In Iraq the U.S. deposed a dictator and his heirs. Since that time Iraq has had several elections (with much greater participation than we could expect in our own elections) and wrote a constitution supported by 79% of the Iraqis (however imperfect). More recently, even the Sunnis who have been part of the insurgency have begun to join forces with the coalition to fight al Qaeda elements in Iraq. Even the bipartisan Iraq Study Group Report , which on balance paints a grim picture, admits that only 4 of Iraqâ€™s 18 provinces (home to 40% of the Iraqi population) are considered â€œhighly insecure.â€ The report also cites â€œencouraging signsâ€ of improvement in the Iraqi economy, especially in regard to its currency reserves, consumer imports (especially computers, cell phones, and appliances), and opening of new businesses (especially in more secure areas).
This isnâ€™t to suggest all is well in these two crucial fronts in the war against Islamofascismâ€”far from it. But if the troops were to leave now, most if not all of the progress would be lost and our brave men and women who have died in these missions would have died in vain. To make matters worse, the Islamofascist terrorists would become emboldened and focus their energies on U.S. soil.*
Many on my side of the debate have made the mistake of responding to the other side by falsely suggesting that hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight is no closer to 20/20 than foresight. To say that hindsight is 20/20 in regard to were we are in the war against Islamofascism is to suggest that we know for certain what would have happened had the president and the congress opted not to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same way we do not know what would have happened had the U.S. stayed out of World War I, limited U.S. involvement in World War II to Japan, or opted not to drop the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have no way of knowing what would have happened if the U.S. kept Saddam Hussein in power. For all we know, Europe could have emerged from the first World War more peacefully (and thereby avoid the second World War), Nazi Germany may have been defeated without the help of the U.S., the Japanese may have surrendered after a few more U.S. victories, and Saddam Hussein may have decided not to reconstitute his WMD program and limit his rein of terror to his own people. It is also possible that Europe would have remained at a perpetual state of war, that Hitler would have taken over Europe and eventually the world, that the U.S. may have suffered up to 500,000 casualties (at least by some estimates) in taking Japanâ€™s mainland, and that Saddam Hussein would have reconstituted his WMD program to destabilize the Middle East even further. The possibilities of what might have happened in any of these cases are almost infinite.
Those who argue in favor of non-intervention in the Middle East or elsewhere fail to realize that there are potential negative consequences for non-intervention as well as there are for intervention. Ron Paul seems to believe that had the U.S. never intervened in any capacity in the Middle East, we would not be targets of the Islamofascists. Rudolph Giuliani believes the Islamofascists simply hate us for our freedoms. Paul and Giuliani are both right and wrong. I believe Paul is right in terms of the ways the Islamofascists have used past interventions in the Middle East to stoke the flames of hatred of Western culture; Paul is wrong to suggest that such flames of hatred did not already exist toward Western culture prior to U.S. interventions. Giuliani is right to suggest that the Islamofascists hate us because of our freedoms but is wrong when he suggests that the U.S. has never interjected itself in the Middle East (whether justified or not) to the detriment of ordinary people in these countries.
The reason why we have this â€œreverse King Midasâ€ phenomenon is due to the politicians running the war instead of the generals. Our government is composed of what Thomas Paine referred to as â€œsunshine patriots and winter soldiersâ€ (meaning individuals who are gung ho about fighting for a cause when things are going well but defeatist when things are going poorly). Politicians (arm chair generals) have further placed the troops in impossible situation of acting as police officers rather than soldiers (cops Mirandize, soldiers vaporize). Overly burdensome rules of engagement (i.e. no attacking â€œholy sitesâ€ even when these sites are used as fortresses by the enemy), a failure of President Bush to better manage the expectations of the American people (he should have stuck to his â€œlong, hard, slogâ€ line and should have continued to warn everyone that this war would likely last decades rather than his two terms in office) and a lack of clarity of the mission have contributed greatly to the challenge of defeating Islamofascism. Things were not always this way. American interventionism helped beat back the forces of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism to make the world much more like the world we â€œwished it to beâ€ (to borrow a phrase). Clearly, something has changed since that time, but there is no reason why we cannot relearn how to make the world safer for America and the world.
To end on yet another point of agreement with Brad, I also believe that we should be looking for ways to decrease foreign intervention whenever possible. Intervention, especially military intervention, should always be a last resort. But intervention should never be taken off the table entirely.
*I concede Bradâ€™s point about the argument myself and others have made: â€œeither we fight them over here or we fight them over there.â€ This too is an either/or fallacy and I should take this moment to clarify my point. My point is we have to be vigilant on both fronts. If we abandon the fight â€œover there,â€ then it stands to reason that the terrorists will concentrate their activities â€œover here.â€