Sunday, March 09, 2008
(7:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
On "Doing Something"This Crooked Timber post brought up a series of questions in my mind (which I posted in a comment, in less detail):
- Does any relevant international actor (the UN, NATO, the US, whoever) actually know how to stop a war through military intervention? Picking a side and then winning the war for them seems relatively straightforward, especially given that the "international community's" force is bound to be much larger than that of one side in a civil war. I suppose that I can also see how an international force could provide protection to a group threatened with genocide, which would naturally be a group without much military strength. But sending more troops into a war zone in order to bring the war to a standstill strikes me as a really bizarre idea, just on the conceptual level. (I don't know -- maybe it happens all the time.)
- Does any relevant international actor actually know how to establish a legitimate, functional state? The only straightforward means of ensuring order after an international force exits, it seems to me, is by installing and funding a dictator, which is presumably not the kind of outcome liberal internationalists are looking for. Ethnic partition might be the next easiest route, and of course that also causes massive human suffering (population transfers, ethnic cleansing, etc.). Directly establishing a multiethnic liberal democracy where politics are based on more than group identity and minority rights are respected, though -- not sure that anyone knows how to do that.
It's hard for me to see why the "international community" should become involved in situations, even taking for granted that they know how to bring a stop to the immediate problem, when their only options in the aftermath are either to occupy the territory forever (viz. Kosovo) or install a regime that is in some way or other oppressive. Almost all discussion of international relations in the US, from both parties, seems to be based on the fantasy that there is some way for foreigners to bring liberal democracy to the world's oppressed, but once you acknowledge that no one actually knows how to do that, none of those conversations make sense.
For instance, Darfur -- okay, let's assume UN forces can invade and stop the immediate problem. Everyone's conscience is much clearer, so that's good. But then what? Are all these people raising consciousness about Darfur really intending to endorse an indefinite occupation of Sudan? Or partitioning Sudan into different ethnic states? Or what? Which of the possible end products do they prefer? Stopping the genocide there seems to be similar to removing Saddam -- they're desirable goals when taken in isolation, but then you have to deal with the "morning after."