Should the US intervene in world problems?
|Apr26-12, 03:55 AM||#1|
Should the US intervene in world problems?
Some claim the United States should act as the world’s policeman and maintain that doing so is a “Moral Imperative”. In my opinion, the United States should not assume the responsibility of the world’s policeman. It should not act unilaterally to interfere in the affairs of other states without the consensus of other nations. Furthermore, I disagree with the thesis that the above actions can or should be justified by invoking a “Moral Imperative”.
Section I. of this post contains the “Guiding Principles” of the US Foreign Policy from the official website of the Whitehouse. Section II. has definitions of terms used. If any reasonable discussion of the implementation of our relations with the nations of the world is to occur, the terms “Moral Imperative” and “Foreign Policy” must be defined. Here I give examples of how the terms have been used in public recently and a few definitions found on the internet. Section III. has quotes from Wikipedia’s page listing examples of covert actions against other nations undertaken by the US. It is exactly many of these that describe the actions of a “global police force” that I consider to be unjustified. Also are examples of active military interventions abroad. Section IV. comprises a discussion.
I. Foreign Policy Principles
The Guiding Principles of the Foreign Policy of the United States are: “President Obama has pursued national security policies that keep the American people safe, while turning the page on a decade of war and restoring American leadership abroad. Since President Obama took office, the United States has devastated al Qaeda’s leadership. Now, thanks to our extraordinary servicemen and women, we have reached a pivotal moment – as we definitively end the war in Iraq and begin to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, we have refocused on a broader set of priorities around the globe that will allow the United States to be safe, strong, and prosperous in the 21st century.
To advance America’s national security, the President is committed to using all elements of American power, including the strength of America’s values.”
And the National Security Strategy is summarized:
“The National Security Strategy, released May 27, 2010, lays out a strategic approach for advancing American interests, including the security of the American people, a growing U.S. economy, support for our values, and an international order that can address 21st century challenges.”
Read the full National Security Strategy (pdf)
“The foreign policy of the United States is the way in which it interacts with foreign nations and sets standards of interaction for its organizations, corporations and individual citizens. The U.S. Secretary of State is analogous to the foreign minister of other nations and is the official charged with state-to-state diplomacy, although the president has ultimate authority over foreign policy; that policy includes defining the national interest, as well as the strategies chosen both to safeguard that and to achieve its policy goals.”
The term “moral imperative” has been applied to many popular issues recently. Some examples:
Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute said in April this year: “Defenders of free enterprise should remind Americans that the choice of the system that rewards merit, promotes individual responsibility and celebrates industry is not merely an economic decision. It is also a moral imperative.”
In June, 2009 President Obama said: “Providing Americans with affordable health insurance, the president said, is “an economic imperative, but it's also a moral imperative.”
“'Responsibility to protect': the moral imperative to intervene in Syria
The moral imperative of the international 'responsibility to protect' doctrine, also known as R2P, compels the world to react and respond to the widespread persecution and killings in Syria.”
By James. P. Rudolph / March 8, 2012
Universal health care: A Jewish moral imperative
By Julie Schonfeld
“The Talmud, a far-reaching collection of Jewish law and principles, lists 10 public services that a community must provide, three of these relate to basic public health and sanitation - public baths, public toilets and a doctor. The others include a court of justice, a charity fund, a house of worship, a schoolmaster, a notary and experts to oversee ritual matters. The 16th century compilation of Jewish law, the Shulhan Arukh, states that where doctors reducing fees to care for the poor is not sufficient, the community must provide a fund.”
An article in the Anchorage Daily News, “Climate actions hold moral imperative”, 04/21/12, stated: “The One People, One Earth initiative offers extraordinary insight into the moral imperative for climate action, as seen through the lens of faith, youth, science, and traditional knowledge.”
Unfortunately, the diverse subjects where the term appears do little to help define its meaning. As a result, the term can be and has been used to obscure the user’s true motives.
From Wikipedia: “A moral imperative is a principle originating inside a person's mind that compels that person to act. It is a kind of categorical imperative, as defined by Immanuel Kant. Kant took the imperative to be a dictate of pure reason, in its practical aspect. Not following the moral law was seen to be self-defeating and thus contrary to reason. Later thinkers took the imperative to originate in conscience, as the divine voice speaking through the human spirit. The dictates of conscience are simply right and often resist further justification. Looked at another way, the experience of conscience is the basic experience of encountering the right.”
From the MacMillan dictionary, “moral imperative”:
“something that must happen because it is the right thing”
III. Actions by the United States in foreign affairs
Since the end of World War Two the US has acted covertly, without the consensus of the world community. Excerpts from Wikipedia:
“The United States government has been involved in and assisted in the overthrow of foreign governments (more recently termed regime change) without the overt use of U.S. military force. Often, such operations are tasked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Many of the governments targeted by the U.S. have been democratically elected, rather than authoritarian governments or military dictatorships. In many cases, the governments toppled were replaced by dictatorships, sometimes installed with assistance by the U.S.
Notwithstanding a history of U.S. covert actions to topple democratic governments and of installing authoritarian regimes in their places (see, e.g. Iran 1953, below), U.S. officials routinely express support for democracy as best supporting U.S. interests and as protecting human life and health.”
“During the Cold War:
Communist states 1944-1989
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960
Republic of Ghana 1966
Alleged U.S. green light for Saddam
Effort to destabilize through war
Destabilization through CIA assets
Arming the Contras
El Salvador 1980-92
Since the end of the Cold War:
Palestinian Authority, 2006-present
Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan
People's Mujahedin of Iran”
The below list is a timeline of United States military operations.
(list containing hundreds of armed interventions, including major wars, omitted for brevity) See:
The above two lists of covert and overt military interventions contain hundreds of examples of the United States intervening (interfering) in other states’ business. Admittedly there are a few which most people, including myself, would judge to be justified. The sheer volume of these actions, however, shows the willingness of the U. S. to act as the world’s policeman.
Economic power and military strength are the real currencies that matter in international affairs. The United States is clearly the most powerful actor: it is the richest and has far more military power than any other nation. And our American values also have tangible value in transacting state-to-state business. Our nation grew into this position of power by means of the uniquely decentralized, transparent, rule-based character of our Western-style politics, economics, and society. The value we place on competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumer-oriented society, and our work ethic distinguishes us from many less developed nations.
Since the end of World War Two the United States has seen the doctrine of “containment” during the cold war evolve into the modern strategy of using “soft power” to prevent war, preserve global order, promote democracy, stabilize the world economy, implement a nuclear nonproliferation strategy, and ensure our national security. Globalization has contributed significantly to a widening gap between what U.S. voters demand and what the government can deliver. Our advanced liberal democracy is facing a crisis of governability. We are facing economic and political dysfunction. If our own house is in disorder we can hardly expect to be a “shining example” for others.
I do not advocate retreating into isolationism. The U.S. has an important role to play on the world stage. But leadership and good example should not be conflated with Imperialism and hegemony. I agree we should promote our unique American values, but without the arrogance that our values and beliefs are the only true and correct ones. President Obama has linked his strategy for U. S. Foreign Policy with “American Exceptionalism”. This should not reflect the kind underlying motives found in “Manifest Destiny” used by our American ancestors to steal Indian lands and forcibly relocate their tribes…all based on some moral justification similar to “Moral Imperative”, or “it must happen because it is right”. See:
Although the U.S. is accused of having Imperialistic desires the publicly stated motives for its actions are always more benevolent sounding: to safeguard our national strategic interest and to enhance freedom, liberty, human rights, and to promote liberal democracy. All rational behavior has some underlying motivation. In the case of intervention in other states’ affairs often the public reason given for doing so actually differs from the real motive. Special interest groups such as the Military-Industrial Complex probably have great influence on foreign policy and obviously desire to promote their murderous endeavors through obfuscation.
There is ample reason to doubt the public explanations our government releases to justify our “police actions” or outright wars. Lessons learned from Iraq and the Vietnam war (and secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia) is reminiscent of how our government has deliberately deceived the public in the past. In the case of Iraq, for example, the popular reason for the second invasion and war was to disarm Saddam Hussein of his WMDs. As we know, none were ever found. Today Iraq is nearly a “failed state” with a dysfunctional political system, an authoritarian leader, sectarian violence, and a looming threat of disintegration. After ten years of war the massive number of deaths and injuries on both sides and the huge sums of dollars spent cause one to question: might there be some other motivations? Could it have been oil, as some claim? Who has benefited from the money (hundreds of Billions) spent? As for the War in Afghanistan, were the vast mineral deposits, including huge quantities of gold, iron, copper, and rare earths motive for invasion and occupation? While it was promised that the US invasions would bring democracy to both countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan with US support, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war. Let us not forget the Americans who have died, were injured, have lost limbs, and who suffered indelible traumas to themselves and their families. And add to that the cost of lifetime care for those survivors the Veteran’s Administration will provide.
For details and chronology see: http://costsofwar.org/
I advocate a revaluation and a “general retrenchment” of our foreign policy priorities and objectives. This would include a significant decrease in military spending and a drastic reduction in overseas deployment of troops. Allies should be required to assume more responsibility for ensuring stability. We need new strategic economic planning sufficient to renew our economic competitiveness. We should institute a new style of populism where the majority of our population benefits rather than only the party faithful or special interest groups. It is mandatory that the United States does not turn inward and espouse isolationism and protectionism. Globalization is a reality and we must accept and join our fellow world citizens with respect for their different values on our journey into a peaceful and prosperous future. Others see our nation only through the instrument of our foreign policy…how we treat others. If the United States expects to maintain the respect of members of the global community it needs to set a better example. Unless the United States restores its own political and economic solvency other nations will turn away from our dysfunctional system and seek leadership from other powers.
An excellent debate was sponsored by National Public Radio between six notable participants, three in favor and three against. The question was: “Should the U.S., with its enormous military might, act as a global sheriff, policing the world's trouble spots?”
Should the United States be the World's Policeman?
by John McCain
|Apr26-12, 05:47 AM||#2|
The purpose of the government is stated right at the beginning of the Constitution:
So, I agree with McCain's statement about using military force:
|Apr26-12, 06:55 AM||#3|
Whilst you are not forgetting Americans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan I think it would be incredibly insulting to forget your allies who have also had people killed and injured in both conflicts.
The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan weren't American invasions as many in America like to believe, they were supported by numerous other nations whose service personnel have paid a high price. As I said, I find this idea that nobody else helped very insulting and it is a mindset that is unfortunatrly all to common in the US.
|Apr26-12, 11:11 AM||#4|
Should the US intervene in world problems?
I'm going to have some difficulty supporting this thread as I should for a few days because I'm going out of town and won't have access to PF except by mobile which doesn't give me full editing much less moderating access. I had intended to move/clean-up the posts that led to this from the other thread, but perhaps another moderator can. It also means a point-by-point rebuttal won't be possible for now, but I'll try to clarify a few things about my position.
First some housekeeping issues:
A. A debate like this often involves a side debate on the issue of absolute vs relative morality. We can dispense with this issue by focusing on practical reality: The reality is that the US is signatory of multiple global treaties dealing with moral issues, such as the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So there is an international moral code in effect.
B. A debate like this often leads to people pointing out past sins of the US. Save it - it isn't relevant or necessary. I acknowledge the US has acted in objectional ways in the past, so there is no need to try to prove it to me. And I'm not claiming the US is morality superior to other Western nations, so there is no point in trying to attack the US's moral standing.
Let me be clear about what I claim when I said in the other thread: the US is the world's policeman.
I do not claim this as a philosophical argument, but rather as a physical and logical reality in that if the world wants to see UN resolutions enforced or otherwise wants something done when they require military action, only the US can make it happen for all but the tiniest engagements. This is the reality of the world we live in. MadMonk: With all due resepct and appreciation to your country's efforts, the reality is that these things do not happen without the US leading the effort. More than 3/4 of the troops in Iraq in 1991 were American, for example. Yes, it was an internationally sanctioned/supported action, but it would not have happened had the US chosen not to take the lead role. Even for a tiny action such as in Libya, Obama tried to get out of the lead role, but he couldn't and still ensure the best chance of success for the mission. This is my primary point - no more, no less. Please don't read insult in a simple statement of reality.
Moreover/deeper, the fact that other Western nations have greatly reduced their military expenditures is both why this is the reality and also a reflection of the knowledge that the US will/has pick[ed] up the slack. But that doesn't make it right. Other nations are shirking their responsibility to World Peace and forcing the US to play the role of leader.
Consider the following thought experiment:
You're out at a bar with some friends and at the end of the night, everyone throws some money into the middle of the table to pay the bill, but no one picks up the bill to reconcile everyone's contribution. (Perhaps you've been in this situation?). To make matters worse, after they figure their obligation and pay it, they get up and leave. Being the responsible one, richest one or just the biggest pushover in the group, you pick up the bill, add-up the total and pay extra to make-up for the under-payment of your "friends" (see, they all just paid the cost of their drinks and didn't figure taxes or tip). This is called "being left holding the tab."
Since you're now the one holding the tab, if you walk out and short the tab (not your fault, right?), it is you who the waitress has the bouncer tackle on the way out the door.
Perhaps you consider yourself generous for always being willing to pick up the slack while maybe your friends consider you a sucker, but ultimately motivations and feelings don't change the reality: You're the one holding the tab at the end of the night.
That's the US.
If you look at my quote from the Iran nukes thread, you'll see the "Moral Imperative" came as a side-statement of my personal belief. As a personal opinion/belief, it really isn't up for debate, nor does it require substantiation, but I'll explain myself anyway.
Bob is absoutely right that nowhere in our Constitution or founding documents or most of our history is any responsibility beyond our own territory/citizenry. We've mostly been a militantly isolationist country. More recently, current international treaties have globalized some responsibilities, but only thinly and without teeth. How we choose to interpret/apply those obligations is mostly our choice.
But I disagree with Mr. McCain. I think his characterization of the policeman analogy is inaccurate and position unrealistic and unreasonable. A policeman is more than just an enforcer of the law. He's also a protector of public safety. Not doing that part of the role would mean, for example, not sending aircraft carriers to Hati and Indonesia for disaster relief. More practically, not sending aircraft carriers to Hati and Indonesia or even not participating in the liberation of Kuwait or Libya would hurt our international standing. The US certainly gets criticized for doing too much, but it also gets criticized for not doing enough. Why? I think it is a reflection of selective application of the Moral Imperative. But regardless of if others apply it inconsistently, I do. So:
Simply put, the Moral Imperative is the idea that those who have the ability to fix problems have the responsibility to. It's a good Samaritan principle that most people apply in at least a limited scale. From holding a door open for someone to picking up a pen someone else dropped to helping a stranger change a tire, most people - I think - consider it a virtue and even a duty when applied on a limited scale to little things that ultimately don't matter much. I believe, though, that if one is to be consistent, then these principles should apply universally. If picking up a pen for someone is something you should do because you can and it is Right, then so is changing a tire for someone. And so is coming to the aid of the Kuwaitis, Libyans, Indonesians -- and even the Syrians.
|Apr26-12, 01:01 PM||#5|
Read these quotes from Thomas Jefferson. Says about all that need be said.
|Apr26-12, 01:27 PM||#6|
Blog Entries: 1
|Apr26-12, 01:48 PM||#7|
1. As cliche as it sounds, the U.S. is not being altruistic. We need a stable world to secure our oil interests. And no, these are not just the oil interests for CEO's and big business. These are the interests of almost every single middle and lower class person.
2. I don't support a U.S. hegemony. I would like Europe, Japan and Russia to be more active in making the world stable, but each other developed country has its own reason for not being able to join the U.S. in an effort to "police the world".
3. It's always a matter of what's worse - never a matter of which is better
|Apr26-12, 04:51 PM||#8|
|Apr26-12, 07:18 PM||#9|
Morality is a philosophical issue and has little practical value IMO. US polices the world because it can. But by no means, US has to be fair and impartial to everyone. It has only to be fair and good to itself like any other country has to be.
|Apr26-12, 09:28 PM||#10|
Blog Entries: 3
I think this is a total bastardization of a term derived by Kant. Kant said moral Imperatives should be universal but unilateralism is the opposite of a universal principle. We could try to deduce a universal principle to justify our action but it would likely be full of exceptions or based on a form of consequentialism. In no way could such actions be in the spirt of Kantian ethics.
For a discussion of Kant's Universal Moral Imperatives see the following lectures:
|Apr26-12, 09:52 PM||#11|
The US should mind its own damned business, unless helping to enforce something that the UN determines to be in violation of its policies by one of its member nations. Any country that is not a member of the UN has no obligation to abide by their rules, and the UN therefore has no authority over them. It's like that crap about "human rights" that people like to spout. The only "right" that anyone has is to live until something kills him/her. Anything else is something that is sociologically imposed by governments and applies only to what that government can provide to an individual citizen thereof. No one has any more right to free speech than anyone else has to knock his jaw off with an axe for saying it.
|Apr26-12, 10:12 PM||#12|
Almost every involvement of the U.S. in other countries throughout the Cold War in terms of overthrowing democratic governments and installing authoritarian ones was because of the threat of Soviet communism or terrorism. It is also important to remember that just because a government is democratically-elected doesn't mean it is moral. You could for example have a radical Islamic democratically-elected government that wants to brutally oppress Jews and Christians. When U.S. officials express support for democracy throughout the world, what they really mean is liberal democracies (democratic systems that respect human rights and freedoms). The U.S. government has not had a problem morally with toppling dictatorships, military governments, and democratically-elected govenrments that do not respect human rights or freedoms (although an irony is that for a chunk of the Cold War, the U.S. government itself didn't fully respect human rights or freedoms either, but we changed that). The reason for installing authoritarian regimes is because it would be unrealistic to try and establish liberal democracies all over (take a look at Iraq and Afghanistan alone!). If you have a country that democratically elects a very anti-American and anti-Western leader, who is going to be very oppressive to certain peoples (as they are hostile to Western values), and you overthrow said leader and establish a dictator, one who is friendly to the U.S. and the West, well I mean all you did was to replace one evil with a lesser evil is all. That the first evil was democratically elected doesn't make it somehow more legitimate.
As for being the world's policeman, the U.S. is what underwrites the current liberal order of liberal democracy and market capitalism and general peace and prosperity. Without the presence of the U.S., that order would likely collapse. Some say that it would not, that it could survive independent of the presence of a strong power, but I think that is highly unlikely. Peace, prosperity, liberal democracy, market capitalism, etc...are not the natural order of things. The norm is poverty, misery, oppression, and warfare. The U.S. is who keeps the sea lanes open, who would stop the Iranians from closing the Strait of Hormuz for example, and so forth.
And while other countries do get away with not contributing what they should militarily to NATO forces and the like, personally I think the model of one very strong power backed up by the other powers is best because it allows any major problems to be dealt with quickly and means there is a clear leader. If global security rests on a bunch of regional powers all trying to combine themselves together to create one force (and pick a leader in all this), no problems would probably ever get dealt with.
|Apr26-12, 10:18 PM||#13|
As for the UN, that's a questionable body as it includes some very brutal oppressors of human rights.
|Apr27-12, 12:35 AM||#14|
|Apr27-12, 07:38 AM||#15|
I won't dispute that we likely wouldn't have been drawn into Iraq without the US taking the lead (which would have been a good thing in my opinion but there you go) but the support provided by your allies seems to be forgotten and largely ignored in the US. The conflict did happen and it wasn't just the US involved and this is why I think the term "American Invasion" is so objectionable.
|Apr27-12, 08:21 AM||#16|
|Apr27-12, 08:29 AM||#17|
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