Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Action in Darfur is long overdue

Clinton did something very important that not many pundits have noticed by intervening in Bosnia: he legitimized the use of military force to stop mass murder. Prior to that, considerations of sovereignty generally prevailed in matters internal to a nation. This has major implications for Bush’s policies, because illiberal autocracies can only stay in power in the face of mass protests by subduing (often massacring) the protesters with their military or paramilitary forces. And from Tehran to Riyadh to Damascus, they now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the U.S. military can and will remove tyrannical regimes with unsettling ease when U.S. public opinion perceives the necessity, leaving democracies in their wake. And when the oppressed peoples of the greater Mideast start deciding that if they stand up for their freedom, we’re going to stand with them -- watch out. Darfur is a great chance to do the right thing, and at the same time pragmatically uphold the Clintonian humanitarian interventionist precedent as a means of advancing democratic reform.

What happened in Lebanon may be a harbinger of things to come. While many Lebanese might have dismissed Bush’s speeches on freedom and statements the United States will “stand with” democratic reformers, at least a few of them may have interpreted his remarks to mean that the world’s military superpower, with 165,000 troops a few hours from Beirut, was ready to defend them in the name of democracy. All they needed was a catalyst, which Syria obligingly provided with the clumsy and universally denounced assassination of Hariri. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, once a few people believe there is hope, that belief can quickly cascade to an entire nation.


Blogger Fargus... said...

The other thing that these fellas know, though, is that the US Army can be overextended, fighting big wars on multiple fronts. I wouldn't be so quick to diagnose the beginning of a "domino effect" of freedom just yet (though if it did happen, then that would be wonderful, wouldn't it?).

OK, so if I'm commenting on here, then some people need to get on over to my blog and make themselves heard, also. Go on, git.

12:25 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

It's pretty hard to see how it could be a manpower problem to the extent of there being any chance of U.S. defeat in open battle. I mean, we could be overextended in terms of ground troops for occupation, but not in terms of warfighting capability. Precision weapons are a huge force multiplier; we can hit more targets in a week today than were hit in all of WW II.

One carrier group can defeat pretty much any entire region by itself, at least in terms of direct open combat, and we have twelve of them.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Fargus... said...

I dig. I'm not necessarily talking about the "war" aspect. More about the occupation and stabilization aspect. These insurgents are proving to be a lot more of a problem than we thought in the first place.

6:13 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

See, but that's the best part! If we take military action to support a democratic revolution, we don't have to occupy them.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Fargus... said...

But that's not what we did in Iraq, and it's not what happened in Lebanon. Iraq was a full-scale invasion, and Lebanon did its own thing.

4:35 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Right, there was no democratic revolution in Iraq. We went to war and built the democracy ourselves, with help from Iraqis but under American fiat.

But if there's aready an uprising (or even just a viable opposition, as in Afghanistan), that means we can just support them by air and special ops (as was done to great success in Afghanistan). Occupation shouldn't be necessary. The mere threat of U.S. force might make a lot of army units hesitate before firing on their own peacefully demonstrating people.

6:03 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Lebanon did do its own thing, but you have to think having 165,000 U.S. troops a few hours drive away made a difference. They couldn't just machine-gun those crowds as they might have in decades past; the outcry in the West would have enabled U.S. intervention with strong international backing.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Fargus... said...

That's a big logical jump, and a bit ego(ethno)centric. There were a lot of factors that played into the Lebanon thing. There had been a lot going on there for a long time.

5:36 AM  

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