Clarification: intervention

The anecdote I was addressing in a previous post, Family Politics, was that intervention for any reason that is based on a moral or ethical concern, is not good legitimate. I do not think that intervention in another state is a good thing. I see how calling all intervention wrong seems insensitive to the problems that many people face, but I mean it with the utmost respect for the strength and ingenuity of individuals everywhere. I think that successful change must come from within. The margin of error is too high and the record of intervening in other state’s internal politics is poor at best.

The fact that my grandmother had to escape from Iraq does not actually justify the war. The fact that she was excited that Saddam was thrown out of power invoked an emotional reaction within me. This does not make it right. Logically, the trade off is inappropriate. We believe that oppressive governments preclude populations from enacting change for themselves; but lasting change is born organically. Why do we assume that unhappy or oppressed populations will be incapable of changing their governments? What about the French Revolution, the English Civil War or the end to apartheid in South Africa?

People are capable of prudent decisions. Intervening in another state imposes an immediacy on governments and an anxiety upon their populations; and it is condescending. I am unconvinced that the American, or any Western European states’ populations, are so benevolent and selfless that we can objectively evaluate the quality and necessity for intervention in areas we are completely unfamiliar with.

It is not necessary to apply a judgment to the leadership, population, and cultures that breed what we consider to be reprehensible behaviors. Humanitarianism is a vague concept; I just cannot logically separate it from any other moral crusade in history in which a state transported humanity to areas that it considered uncivilized…

Imperialism was justified as a benevolent act because it brought god (and the related institutions) to areas that were not developed according to western standards (un-christian or “savage”). By bringing god and the Church, Imperialism brought humanity. To me, humanity and humanitarianism are equally vague judgments of other cultures.

I think that any leader who willingly harms his own people or targets a particular group is a terrible leader and a terrible person. I do not want to support that type of state through trade or aid. If adjacent states feel threatened by a particular leader’s actions they should absolutely involve themselves. It is never good to have only one moral perspective in the world even when it seems infallible. To destroy existing structures, there has to be past precedent for a violent moral campaigns that have been successful or that do not seem misguided later.

Has intervening or transporting moral trends ever not caused harm in retrospect? (really, I am asking because I cannot think of any instances) Are we really so afraid of present suffering that we may ruin the chances for organic, effective, long lasting change? or is intervention indicative of a sentiment that only select people in select regions are capable of overcoming oppression?

One comment

  1. Again, I must ask: is it *NEVER* acceptable to intervene? It wasn’t right to stop the genocide in Bosnia? It wouldn’t have been right to invade Germany in 1940 to prevent the Holocaust? It wasn’t right for Vietnam to invade Cambodia to turf out the Khmer Rouge? We were right not to intervene in Rwanda and let 800,000 people die?

    Do you need to be an imperialist to justify the above interventions–hypothetical and real?