Monday, May 12, 2008

To invade or not invade, that is the question

There's an F. Scott Fitzgerald line about the necessity of living with flat out contradiction, and that's the line I end up towing with the subject of American interventionism. I don't like my country serving as a global policeman, but I fear for the state of a world where third world disasters, of the natural and human variation, are left in the hands of the United Nations or (shudder) China.

So I find myself looking quizically at this article by Anne Applebaum in Slate, where she makes a case for intervention in Burma. There are very valid reasons to want to take out that government and in order to take full control of relief efforts, and Applebaum cites at the top of the article the terrible things that have been said about the Burmese regime by decent people:

They are "cruel, power hungry and dangerously irrational," in the words of one British journalist. They are "violent and irrational" according to a journalist in neighboring Thailand. Our own State Department leadership has condemned their "xenophobic, ever more irrational policies."


She goes on to say about the intervention in Iraq:

Unfortunately, the phrase "coalition of the willing" is tainted forever—once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders—but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French—whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was himself a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières—are already talking about finding alternative ways of delivering aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join in, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help. This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.


Was the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein not "cruel, power hungry and dangerously irrational?" From his laundry list of atrocious acts to not conceding that he had no weapons of mass destruction when it could potentially avert disaster, Hussein met all three descriptions. The people who would likely take over Iraq when a vaccuum has been left by an American withdrawal would likely also meet those descriptions as well, as the chances of a peaceful democratic transition in those circumstances seem pretty miniscule.

Iraq is almost talked about as if there was a tolerable government in place before the 2003 invasion, and not a psychotic dictatorship. It's almost Orwellian to hear people speak about the tragedy of one intervention and then talk fondly of another, as if the latter will be without bloodshed. I wrote an article on this very subject for a college paper in 2006 in regards to critics of Bush who argued that we should try to intervene to remove the Arab dictatorship of oil rich Sudan. It's funny how times sometimes don't change.

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