Complexities of Intervention

The New York Review of Books has a worthwhile review of three books dealing with the militarization of US foreign policy with a bit of complexity:

  • Not all intervention is bad. It should have happened in Rwanda, and did happen in Kosovo–though both sides consisted of genocidal thugs; and, now that all other excuses have failed, humanitarian motives are being cited in Iraq, where only some Ba’athists can truly be sorry to see Saddam Hussein deposed. How can we distinguish between justifiable interventions and those for which motivations are dishonestly stated, and how can we more effectively respond in genuine emergencies?
  • What are the consequences of American imperialism for democracy? Is it a democratic regime that practices torture? “For an empire to be born, a republic has first to die.”

    For there is a precedent in modern Western history for a country whose leader exploits national humiliation and fear to restrict public freedoms; for a government that makes permanent war as a tool of state policy and arranges for the torture of its political enemies; for a ruling class that pursues divisive social goals under the guise of national “values”; for a culture that asserts its unique destiny and superiority and that worships military prowess; for a political system in which the dominant party manipulates procedural rules and threatens to change the law in order to get its own way; where journalists are intimidated into confessing their errors and made to do public penance. Europeans in particular have experienced such a regime in the recent past and they have a word for it. That word is not “democracy.”

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