When it comes to intervention we have two camps. When it comes to nonintervention, we have a camp of dogmatic noninterventionism and a camp of baseline nonintervention. When a dogmatic noninterventionist first hears about conflict their instinct is to stay out, but almost no matter what information comes to light they want to stay out of conflict. A baseline noninterventionist, as a starting point, wants to stay out of conflict, but understands that intervention is necessary, in certain circumstances.
Intervention can be a highly successful measure when used properly. Take the First Gulf War, arguably the best recent example of a foreign intervention. The United States quickly, easily and dominantly pushed occupying Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
Of course, to cast intervention in one brush is a mistake. Take the Syrian Civil War. The lack of a serious and effective intervention strategy by the United States have led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. If, after Assad used chemical weapons the United States acted by establishing a no fly zone, humanitarian zones, and destroyed the weapons, hundreds of thousands would still be alive. Barrel bombs, chlorine gas and cluster munitions would have never been used. Because the United States, the world’s only superpower failed to act, an evil regime was allowed to make hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to pay the price.
Conflating with the Syrian Civil War is the fight against ISIS, today’s example of the success of interventionism, especially from the American effort. In the battle field against ISIS, American and Russian intervention has led to the rollback of ISIS from the peak of their territorial control. Even excluding recent loses by ISIS; they have lost 40% of the territory they controlled in their peak, in 2014. As I write this and you read this American backed force are making inroads towards the ISIS capital of Raqqa.
The failure to effectively intervene was shown in the 20 century to be a crucial mistake. In the Russian revolution, with the pre-WW2 expansion of Nazi Germany, the post-WW2 continuation of the Chinese Civil War and the post- Treaty of Paris North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam should the horrific consequences of the failure of world powers to act. The consequences are piles and piles of dead bodies. The United States failed to act effectively and because of this the world was changed in an evil way.
The 20 century also provided intervention with a track work of success. Take the Korean War. The United States led effort liberated South Korea from communist occupation saving the entire peninsula for the death and starvation seen in North Korea. An almost unknown aspect of this war was the likely fact that the intervention played the key role in avoiding World War 3 in Europe. As John Schindler wrote in the in-house NSA journal “Although this was little understood at the time, the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 was a dry-run for the Kremlin, which was obsessed with silencing Tito’s renegade Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Had the United States not strongly resisted Pyongyang’s aggression, a Soviet bloc invasion of Yugoslavia would have followed soon after… Lacking much Western conventional defenses in Europe, any Soviet move on Yugoslavia would have resulted in rapid nuclear release by a hard-pressed NATO.”
None of this is to say intervention is without some Folly. Look no more than in 2011. The United States intervened, but in an in Libya without a long-term strategy for stability. This lack of a coherent policy has led to Libya becoming a failed state after the revolution. Currently the capital is occupied by an illegitimate government, the legitimate government rules from Benghazi and ISIS holds swaths of coastal territory. The costs of not intervening can be staggering but so can the costs of an ineffective intervention.
Our opening instinct should be to reject foreign intervention but we must understand it is a necessary action time to time. We live in a globalized world. The benefits of this are gloriously mind-boggling but there are costs and responsibilities that come with these benefits. A global super power can no longer morally avoid confronting evil around the world. No longer do massive seas protect us. Nation which were once far away are now on our doorstep, less than a day away. Superpowers must live up to their global responsibilities of preserving order and rebuking evil. The moral imperative and responsibility is there; the only question is if we live up to them.

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Posted by Roman Bilan

One Comment

  1. Ahh yes. To be honest, I like your classification of the three types of interventionism. I would describe myself as a baseline non-interventionist. I’m glad you realize the difference between a non-interventionist and isolationist. I think the last large successful intervention we did was Korea, and if you include insignificant ones Grenada seems fine. The UN intervention in the Persian Gulf was stupid, to say the least. We were so nice as a country to Saddam in the 1980s for fighting Iran, and gave him gas to use on the Kurds as well as other stupid stuff. By egging him on, we did not give any sense of our limits. He invaded Iran, so why not Kuwait?

    The next thing I would like to say is the other failures to intervene. Namely communists in Russia in the 1917-1922 era. So, the biggest contributors in the intervention were Japan, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Greece. Really, the only country with anything to lose here was Poland, who would’ve been swallowed up by Russia just like in 1795 had they not fought. Japan had imperial ambitions in the Russian Far East. Our intervention meant nothing. Period. As a minarchist libertarian, really. These countries could not have stopped the Russian White Movement’s bad leadership and persuasion. Another one would be in China. My family would actually have the most to lose here, but I still think nothing would’ve worked. China was still mostly agricultural, and the anti-Japanese resistance was weak outside the cities at best, and the majority of the areas had already been unstable through decades of Qing stagnation and Western imperialism. A better strategy for the nationalists in 1947 was to really, get Truman’s support economically at least, shipping weapons over that would be paid for in time. I would think this should be the maximum intervention needed. A sort of military landing from the Phillipines or Japan would be unfeasible in the long run and too costly. As for Germany, it is necessary to state the failures of Versailles and also the problem of democracy. Democracy is a false god that promises much more than it really is, and the rise of the Nazis or the Nationalist Socialists is the problem of demagoguery. Versailles was too harsh, and made near skyrocketing inflation of the Gold Mark. France should’ve made their demands less crazy, and had less of controlling ambitions. The Nazis would not have been mainstream had the treaty been better. Not sure what America could do, given our case of New Deal Keynesian cancer that cost our government billions in debt and breeds today’s cancerous welfare state.

    Now to Syria…. Interventionism would never have worked here. There are too many sides. ISIS is fighting Assad who is fighting the little remanants of the secular FSA who is fighting Al Nusra. Obama had a half-assed strategy in trying to make Assad step down but still doing nothing here for it. Bush was also not good. His Axis-of-Evil (which is true, but so is Saudi Arabia and our other “allies”) was too broad and targeted too many. The best action we could do in Syria is to ship weapons to Assad and the Kurds and make ISIS stop. And since this was written in 4/2016, I would presume our strategy has failed given ISIS has still hold over many of these towns, even if Mosul is gone from them. If we want to “rebuke evil”, I suggest we stop playing enemy of my enemy and having inconvenient policies.

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