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I'm not sure whether this idea ("it not the business of any country to judge another sovereign country") is widespread in Europe or not. It may be the crux of the problem that Europe has with American foreign policy.

In recent tradition the Republican party has tended towards isolationism, while the Democrats have tended towards internationalism. Bush ran on a platform that specifically called out that he would minimize involvement in "nation building" because Clinton's adventures in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean were distasteful to the isolationist wing of the Republican party. So now, after his re-evaluation of that position, we have two parties who agree that it is the duty of America--and the rest of the West--to make judgments about the political systems of other countries.

The problem with your argument is that it puts international stability and national sovereignty above all else. A dictator gets in power, and since the West is barred from making judgments, the dictator can destroy his own country, kill a big chunk of his country's population, make the rest of them miserable, and generally be a horrible person who causes lots of suffering. Or, you get a nasty civil war that you ignore because it's politically impossible to resolve. This does not play well on American TV, and inevitably leads to interventionist sentiment. I don't know why it plays acceptably on European TV, but apparently it does--if your proposition is widespread.

Instead of body bags coming home, there will be images of starving people, women being stoned to death because their husbands were unfaithful, slaves taking apart asbestos-laden western ships with hand tools, and hands cut off for punishment of the starving. In the U.S., these images lead to a call for intervention, usually first by the U.N., and then when the U.N. rejects the call, or ignores it, or is ineffective, then it's followed by a call for American intervention.

(Of course if oil is involved, it gets more complicated, but plenty of American intervention has not been related to oil.)

by asdf on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 01:05:22 AM EST
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That's what you have the UNSC: if 9 out of 15 of the UNSC council cannot agree to the legitimacy of intervention, or one of the 5 permanent members objects, you are outside international law.

Crime doesn't play well on American TV, either, but Americans don't demand that, say, the Texas National Guard go and "pacify" South Central LA, do they? Or the California National Guard, for that matter.

Humanitarian disasters don't play well on European TV either, but I guess we're more aware of the fact that we're not likely to be greeted with flowers.

It would go a long way towards solving the problem of brutal dictators if we started by not propping them up, or selling them weapons, or using them as proxies.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 03:53:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, another thing that plays well on American TV is the "Strong Man".

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 03:54:44 AM EST
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The problem with your argument is that it puts international stability and national sovereignty above all else. A dictator gets in power, and since the West is barred from making judgments, the dictator can destroy his own country, kill a big chunk of his country's population, make the rest of them miserable, and generally be a horrible person who causes lots of suffering. Or, you get a nasty civil war that you ignore because it's politically impossible to resolve.

As a recovering interventionist, let me emphasize the other point beyond legality: practicality. It's one thing to know that a dictator is evil and want to stop it, it is another whether we have political leaders capable of maintaining oversight and making the right decisions, the army trained for both fighting and building trust and institutions, and the public support that lasts throughout such a mission. Let me quote from something Billmon wrote prophetically on March 2, 2003 (two weeks before the war officially began), criticising Joshua Marshall (of Talking Points Memo):

Is there anything that suggests America
is the right country to overhaul an ancient culture, riddled with
religious and ethnic tensions, that got hung up on the conveyer belt
between medievalism and modernity? Us? The guys who couldn't find most
foreign countries on a map, and don't care?

And are the American people really prepared to sacrifice the blood and treasure it would take to try?



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 05:48:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 05:53:58 AM EST
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As a recovering interventionist

LOL.  So you are against using interventions to help other interventionists seek the treatment they need? ;)

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 12:10:37 PM EST
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Hehe :-)

Having lived in and living close to the disintegration of Yugoslavia would alone have been enough for me to dismiss state sovereignity as an argument and wish for intervention. But then the medicine to the very same ill turned out to have been a different kind of poison...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 02:42:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 
 A dictator gets in power, and since the West is barred from making judgments, the dictator can destroy his own country, kill a big chunk of his country's population, make the rest of them miserable, and generally be a horrible person who causes lots of suffering. Or, you get a nasty civil war that you ignore because it's politically impossible to resolve. This does not play well on American TV, and inevitably leads to interventionist sentiment. I don't know why it plays acceptably on European TV, but apparently it does--if your proposition is widespread.

I don't know if I had a proposition (it's just my private wishful thinking) is widespread in Europe. I don't live there anymore since a long time and that's why I have so many difficulties to understand what's going on.

I am dreaming about a happy big family alliance of European, Russian (may be China) and the US all agreeing when it is appropriate to intervene in a civil war conflict of a sovereign nation to prevent genocide and massive destruction of infrastructure and property of civilians. The problem is they all disagree over the morals and laws nowadays as to when to intervene militarily. I thought that Europe and Russia were right now a bit more closer in their thinking about when it would be appropriate to use peace enforcing military defense forces, but I learned already in this thread that it's obviously not the case.

I think the reasons, why Europeans might not be as easily turned on by nasty civil war images on TV to jump up and believe they should intervene and teach other cultures how to behave civil and fair with the might of their weapons, is the fact that they remember too much how hard it is to teach a misbehaving member of their own community exactly that.

The only real difference in American civilian and European civilian experience of the elder generation is that America's wars were never endured by their own civilian population at home.

Why did Bush believe (and why do so many Americans believe) that they "just can go in and teach someone morals and helas, they accept and become "good people" according to their standards?" You know it's this "just say no to drugs - kind of way of solving all problems - and if that's not enough - please get some councelling and that will do it). I always wondered about that.

Why was it that almost all Europeans were utterly sceptical about the invasion of US troops in Iraq? Nice to watch our scepticism be equated with cowardness by the US media. Nice to watch how we were hold accountable by questioning our morals. But why did the majority of Americans believe that it could work? Get rid of the evil man, try to not kill too many civilians on the way, and helas, we will have peace and freedom in Iraq? Where did this US way of thinking come from?

So, what is it? Are we European nations in the NATO or EU more coward than the Americans to protect victims of aggression and murder in dictatorships and civil wars in other countries? Or are the Americans more "naive" or are they "more moral" or "more courageous"?

Or is it that European civilians have more say in what their government can decide upon their participiation in military engagements? May be the US government is more authoritarian and can pretty much "do what they want" and deploy their forces "independent what the poor guys, who do the fighting for the US politicians" for whatever they seem fit? May be it's just that the US is less democratic than European democracies, when it comes to who decides when and for what causes their military is sent to war?

And I don't quite agree that the images of starving people, cut off hands and other "uncivilized, undemocratic" images of theocratic or dictatorial cultures and regimes,  don't touch Europeans as much as Americans, but may be the press in Europe and many politicians don't use them as easily and fast as an internal political tool and justification for their ideologically drivien policies as it is in the US.

by mimi on Sun Jul 23rd, 2006 at 07:49:11 PM EST
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