Monday, March 05, 2007

Trying To Have It Both Ways

Brendan Loy, in this great piece, reflects on the hypocrisy of wanting to end genocide without the possibility of war:

Look, I’m not saying that wars are always justified, nor even that every war that ends a genocide or takes out a genocidal madman is necessarily justified; if non-military means can accomplish the same end in the same time frame, of course they should be used (unless there’s some other compelling reason why force is necessary). Nor am I suggesting that leaders who seek to justify wars on the basis of stopping or preventing genocide are necessarily interested purely in the humanitarian rationale. That would be naive to the point of idiocy; of course other reasons generally take priority (regardless of what might be said in public), and when those other reasons don’t exist, we don’t usually get involved. And it’s perfectly reasonable to criticize our leaders for that.

What isn’t reasonable, in my view — and I’d love to hear a coherent argument for why I’m wrong — is to state that you are “anti-war in principle” while at the time demanding that all genocides can and must be stopped. The reality is that some genocides — not necessarily all, but certainly at least some, and probably most — cannot be stopped without military action. And moreover, even among those that can be stopped without military action, the plausible threat of military action is generally a prerequisite to successfully putting any sort of diplomatic pressure on genocidal regimes. It may be an oversimplification to say that “the only language they understand is force,” but certainly when we’re talking about the sort of people who would commit genocide, it’s a concept that can’t be blithely ignored. Simply put, genocidal regimes are not generally run by nice people, and they’re unlikely to stop just because you ask nicely. All the rock concerts, earnest petitions, U.N. resolutions, State Department missives and even economic sanctions in the world won’t make an iota of difference if there’s nothing to back them up. If you’re unwilling to put your money where your mouth is, no one will care what you think.

Agreed. The fact is, there really isn't a coherent reason I can think of why Brendan is wrong on this. It's not that those who want to end genocide, yet remain "anti-war on principle" don't want to end genocide, it's that to hold such a position forces one to smack up against the reality that the latter (war), is sometimes required to end the former. It was war that stopped the Holocaust. It was war that stopped Saddam's reign, as well as Slobo's reign. Diplomacy's good, but to paraphrase Orwell, sometimes moral force isn't enough. Sometimes you need physical force.

Hat tip: Centerfield


Rachel said...

Hi your blog
this was why I support the Iraq war - to get a genocidal madman out of the way (also the Dems gave W permission back in '02 so I figured they knew what they were doing). How can those who don't support the war look at such inhumanity and then claim peace?

Rafique Tucker said...

Lack of clarity, Rachel. It's not that they don't care, it's just that many can't make the connection. The humanitarian case for Iraq was clear. Saddam was alo a state sponsor of terror, and a real threat. I think the debate has gotten off course by both sides, but Saddam's threat was real, even if Bush said so.

M.J. Graham said...

Given that the AU's efforts have failed to halt the genocide in Darfur, there is more that the United States and other NATO countries can do to support the AU effort. But while U.S. policymakers should continue to work with African governments to seek a resolution to the crisis, the US Government should refrain from sending U.S. troops into Sudan.

Our men and women in uniform cannot be everywhere, and they cannot do everything. Ambitious goals, no matter how well-intentioned, are not always matched by the resources to carry them out. Foreign policy entails a series of choices, all of them difficult, some of them painful.

The small minority of policy thinkers here in Washington who are pressuring the US Government to send U.S. troops to Darfur are reluctant to confront these choices. They buy into the assumption that the United States has almost unlimited power. This belief is shared by many people around the world. But the United States lacks the military resources to intervene almost everywhere, and doesn't have the political will to sustain such operations indefinitely—a reality revealed by the American public's eroding support for the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

"Saddam was alo a state sponsor of terror, and a real threat"

One can stipulate that fact and still question the going to war and surely can question the execution of that war and the continued waging of that war. The issue of his being a threat is water under the bridge, the question is at what point do you declare that the mission is truly accomplished. I fear that the Bush administration has never come clean with what the true mission was and thus will be gumming us to death and running out the clock to lay this turd on future administrations. Tell me what other sponsor of terror and real threat will we be invading? The truth is that it is quite possible that there are sponors and threats but not rise to the level of preemptive invasions that end up in lost of credibility and depletion of our ability to respond the the greatest of threats. You have been a supporter of this effort from the beginning and I give you credit for your consistentcy but this venture was flawed from the beginnging and the price we have paid as a nation is yet to be assessed.

jonwash said...

I guess the Iraqis want to have it both ways too....
From ThinkProgress

"18: The percentage of Iraqis that have confidence in U.S.-led coalition troops as the war enters its fifth year today. Six in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going badly, and only one-third expect things to improve in the next year. Nearly 90 percent “say they live in fear that the violence ravaging their country will strike themselves and the people with whom they live.”"

Don't they know Saddam is gone and that they should be glad about that!!!

Anonymous said...

Your philosophical commentary fails to touch on a critical pragmatic point. Namely, can our nation afford to continue this war? Our military is at its breaking point. Without adequate respite soldiers are being sent back for their 3rd and 4th tours of duty. The previously underreported numbers of psychologically and physically wounded increase daily. It is a continuing challenge to for our military and VA systems to treat the casualties as heros and not as numbers. Astronomical war expenditures cannot be sustained indefinitely. Fraud and mismanagement helped balloon costs and the taxpayer is left to cover for the fools as well as the crooks. Our grandchildren will be in debt to China because of this foreign policy blunder staying in Iraq may make that our great-grandchildren. And think of what could have been done with the resources wasted on war. What domestic successes have been unattainable because of this misbegotten mistake? Some say that walking away will make a bad situation in Iraq worse. That’s hubris speaking once again. Iraq and the countries in the region, not the US, can best deal with rebuilding. We keep trying to micromanage a situation beyond our capabilities. We don’t internalize their culture, speak their language, or respect their traditions. Beyond the Green Zone and sometimes within it, we are hated occupiers. My suggestion is simple: get regional diplomacy going and get out. We can’t afford to stay.