Friday, February 08, 2008

I have an ongoing dialogue with Nathan Hall of re: U.S. military intervention. He would like us to take a less involved approach, in contrast to my position, which (arguably) favors more. He identifies the desirable position (in response to my queries) as follows:

“When would Libertarians use force? When US property, territory, or citizens are threatened and force is the only way of meeting the threat. In principle, it isn't a hard question to answer at all.” [Italics are mine, and indicate the foci of my response.]

After I indicated that my response to a request for an apology for invading Iraq (from the ‘international community’ for instance) would be along the lines of, “Kiss my ass,” Nathan replied thusly:

“I don't want to see hand-wringing guilt or abject, tearful apologies. I also don't want us to run away from Iraq with our tail between our legs. I just think we should learn from our mistakes and follow the principle below in the future, possibly with an exception that would allow intervention in genocide even when the US isn't directly affected."

Property, territory, or citizens—I know of no place on the Earth at this point that fails to contain at least one of these; in many places, there are all three.

Force is the only way to meet the threat—this seems, in some manner, a silly qualification; it is precisely what is at issue when the wisdom of entering a conflict is discussed. In Iraq, for example, it is very clear to all concerned that our president believed the threat was credible. Most of the criticism of that decision, it seems to me, center around the president’s threat assessment skills after the fact, no? In other words, whether his belief that the threat was credible was reasonable. That he ultimately convinced the United States Senate to grant him the authority to use force, and the responsibility to determine alone whether such measures were necessary likely indicates that, by and large, they concurred with his threat assessment and trusted his judgment. Why should he alone bear the consequences if we have decided it was a mistake? If the drums of war were beaten, we the people beat them.

Genocide exception—this is bigger than we realize. It is eminently reasonable to view Iraq as the theater for past and ongoing genocide between 1988-2003. If any US intervention satisfied such a condition, the Iraq mission did. Remember also that the tipping point in Bosnia was the UN’s failure to protect a city under its control. (Sorry, can’t spell the city:) but you know what I mean). So, it would be folly to suggest that the Bush administration had a litany of effective soft-power options re: Iraq that went unused. They had every right to believe that the UN would fail, and that any further genuflecting before them was fruitless. The UN Security Council had passed Res. 1441, calling Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations under the cease-fire. If Iraq wasn’t a threat, why did the UN say it was? (Sorry, getting off-track) But if the ‘international community’ didn’t act in 1988-89 when genocide was obviously occurring, (and 1994, for good measure) I hope they will not mediate these decisions in the future. I’ll most certainly take US ‘imperialism’ over worthless multilateral chatting any day. But that’s exactly the point: the system has only functioned because of a decided lack of foreign policy ‘humility’ on the part of the US. And our interference with the proper functioning of the system, ironically, has occurred because our leaders construed American interests and concerns too narrowly. Bottom line: stopping genocide will require more involvement (and more wars) not less.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fine, I admit it: I’ve been giving Obama a free pass on his outlandish liberalism, which, as a conservative, I normally would hammer such ideologies with glee. But these are not normal times. We could use a little hope, a little lofty rhetoric. I also admit that this blog is Right-Wing Obama Fan Central, and in the end, I may conclude that he’s another hopeless statist, liberal dreamer who’s completely undeserving of the high compliments I’ve paid him. (I could not disagree more on issues than I do with him; I will not vote for him.) But I appreciate above all the tone he is setting; by sheer force of personality and (apparent) character, he does indeed have a chance to be a liberal Reagan, because a president Americans like and trust is one who can shift the terms of debate with less effort. As correct as I may perceive Reaganism to be ideologically, I’d be a fool to deny that some portion of its acceptance owes to Reagan himself, not some seismic shift in the intelligentsia’s evaluation of the merits of free-market capitalism. Maybe a good portion of the electorate only remembers that he gave them hope; is that enough? I don’t know. But Hillary Clinton is in the fight of her political life with a rival whose only real virtue is the uncanny ability to inspire. Go ahead, ask conservative Republicans if they like Obama. You know the answer. And the affection for Hillary Clinton in the GOP? Quite a difference!