Should the US intervene in world problems?

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In summary: III. Quotes from Wikipedia“The United States has engaged in covert operations around the world, particularly in Latin America, Asia and Africa, since the end of World War II. Covert operations are defined as "...a type of operation or activity conducted by an intelligence service outside the normal bounds of law and policy, typically to achieve political or strategic objectives."The United States has been involved in numerous covert actions against other nations, many of which are listed on Wikipedia's page listing examples of covert actions undertaken by the US. For example: - Operation Gladio was a NATO-backed secret counter-insurgency program in Italy that ran from the
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Bobbywhy
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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)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy

II. Definitions

“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.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_United_States

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.”
http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/2012/04/winning-fight-fairness/479136

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.”
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23635.html

“'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
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary...ct-the-moral-imperative-to-intervene-in-Syria

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.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...al-imperative/2012/03/26/gIQAj8D4bS_blog.html

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.”
http://www.adn.com/2012/04/21/v-printer/2434907/climate-actions-hold-moral-imperative.html

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.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_imperative

From the MacMillan dictionary, “moral imperative”:
“something that must happen because it is the right thing”
http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/moral-imperative

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
Syria 1949
Iran 1953
Tibet 1950s
Guatemala 1954
Cuba 1959
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960
Iraq 1963
Brazil 1964
Republic of Ghana 1966
Iraq 1968
Chile 1973
Afghanistan 1973-74
Iraq 1973-75
Argentina 1976
Afghanistan 1978-1980s
Iran 1980
Alleged U.S. green light for Saddam
Effort to destabilize through war
Nicaragua 1981-1990
Destabilization through CIA assets
Arming the Contras
El Salvador 1980-92
Cambodia 1980-95
Angola 1980s
Philippines 1986

Since the end of the Cold War:
Iraq 1992-1995
Guatemala 1993
Serbia 2000
Venezuela 2002
Haiti 2004
Palestinian Authority, 2006-present
Somalia 2006-2007
Iran 2001-present
Jundullah militants
Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan
People's Mujahedin of Iran”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_United_States_foreign_regime_change_actions

The below list is a timeline of United States military operations.
(list containing hundreds of armed interventions, including major wars, omitted for brevity) See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations

IV. Discussion

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:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny

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 Earth's 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.

Further reading:
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?”
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19180589

Should the United States be the World's Policeman?
by John McCain
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Should_the_United_States_be_the_World's_Policeman?
 
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  • #2


The purpose of the government is stated right at the beginning of the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It's a very selfish statement. We're establishing the Constitution for our ourselves, to provide a better environment for ourselves. The purpose of the US government is to serve the interests of the people of the United States; not the world.

So, I agree with McCain's statement about using military force:

The first and foremost is that American troops should not be ordered into a conflict unless U.S. vital interests are threatened. This is the primary distinction between the role of a great power and that of a policeman: it is the job of a police officer to enforce the laws in situations where the cop, the police chief and the mayor have no direct interest in an outcome. While we all hope for a world in which justice and law govern the actions of states, it would be self-destructive hubris for the United States to put the lives of its soldiers at risk for the sole purpose of good citizenship in the international community.

Of the examples given for "moral imperative", only two clearly fit: Brooks' statement and Obama's statement. They may be wrong about whether their issue is really a moral imperative, but at least they're applying their perceived moral imperative to the people the government is designed to serve.
 
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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.
 
  • #4


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.

Section I.
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.

Part II.
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.
 
  • #6
russ_watters said:
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.

Helping the Syrians is far less clear. Sure we could help the rebels overthrowing the dictatorship, but if we have to help EVERYBODY, shouldn't we help the dictator put down the rebellion? Extra qualifications are needed, and the delay in Syria has generally been arguing whether these extra qualifications hold and what they are
 
  • #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
 
  • #8
Office_Shredder said:
Helping the Syrians is far less clear. Sure we could help the rebels overthrowing the dictatorship, but if we have to help EVERYBODY, shouldn't we help the dictator put down the rebellion?
Er, no...the dictator is the one violating international law! :confused:
 
  • #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.
 
  • #10


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:

http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2582/Introduction-to-Ethics/28
http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2582/Introduction-to-Ethics/29
http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2582/Introduction-to-Ethics/30
 
  • #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.
 
  • #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.
 
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  • #13


Danger said:
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.

In America, our belief is that rights are pre-existing and not granted by government. And the U.S. does mind its business, but its business happens to mean being involved with things all over the world, whether having soldiers in potential hotspots for terrorism in Africa or South America to dealing with the drug trade because it can be used to finance terrorism to keeping the sea lanes open around the world to protecting our allies (usually other liberal democracies) and so forth.

As for the UN, that's a questionable body as it includes some very brutal oppressors of human rights.
 
  • #14


Danger said:
The US should mind its own damned business

Why? Your this post contained many things about how things should be run and such but I believe you did not state the reasons US should mind its own 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.
 
  • #15


russ_watters said:
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.

You aren't stating reality, you are crafting an alternate US-centric version of it. It was not an American invasion. Knock yourself out and call it American lead if you want but to call it an American invasion is wrong.

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.
 
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  • #16
rootX said:
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.
Agreed, though I would(did) say that "because it can" also includes being the only one who currently can. I think that makes a difference. For example it was my understanding that Obama wanted France to take the lead in Libya, but they couldn't, so we did.
 
  • #17
John Creighto said:
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.
I completely disagree. What you describe is nothing more than a cop-out to avoid blame for violating the moral impetative. You're basically saying 'if no one helps me, I don't have to do it either' and 'I'm just doing what everyone else does.' Following the crowd is the exact opposite of acting on morality.
 
  • #18
Danger said:
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.
Er, human rights are contained in a declaration by th UN! So which is it: should we uphold the principles of the UN or not?
 
  • #19
TheMadMonk said:
You aren't stating reality, you are crafting an alternate US-centric version of it. It was not an American invasion. Knock yourself out and call it American lead if you want but to call it an American invasion is wrong.

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 laregly 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.
You're doing exactly what I said not to: even after agreeing with my facts and alternative speculation, you still invented something I didn't say to get mad about. Please calm down, don't read past what I say and don't put words in my mouth.
 
  • #20
I guess it's a good thing there wasn't a "U.S." or UN like power around in 1775 or 1861 that felt like it was owed the right to determine what’s best for other parts of the world. Image the world coming to the aid of England in 1775 when those tax dodgers started a fight to avoid paying their fair share for the protection and trade with England. Image the world coming to the aid of the south trying to free itself from the tyranny of the north in 1861, when all the south wanted was to peaceably leave the union. Image what the world would look like if world powers stepped into the Spanish-American war in 1898. Image the world if the U.S. had stood up for Mexico against the rebels in the breakaway Texas in 1835.

We don't have the right to decide what's best or right for the rest of the world. We can provide business, send aid, help in emergencies, etc. for our friends, and let our enemies figure out if they want to be our friends too. We can make clear our long term view of what it takes to be a friend to the US, but short of an imminent threat, no troops. No more police actions, ever! We go to war with the consent of Congress or we stay out of it.
 
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  • #21
1. You assume too much about what decisions the world body would have made. Don't forget: the colonists had French help.
2. The world is a much different place today. Once upon a time, world powers were always at war with each other. Today they arent.
 
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  • #22
During the Iraq War one hundred seventy-nine United Kingdom lives were lost in combat. During the Afghanistan War, so far four hundred ten United Kingdom lives have been lost. Additionally many others suffered severe injuries, lost limbs, and are permanently traumatised by the horrors of war. This is to offer my deepest sympathies to their families and loved ones. Each and every life is valuable, regardless of nationality or religious belief.
http://icasualties.org/

There have been other deaths and injuries also. In case anyone cares to read more, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_of_the_willing

(off thread topic) Comment: Since George Bush and Tony Blair are considered to be the “architects” of the Iraq War by working togher to get UN approval and to muster the “Coalition of the Willing” it seems reasonable to ask “What was their real motivation?” Was it simply to take away Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs or were there different, less transparent reasons for their determination to wage war against Iraq? Maybe in future some International Court of Justice, in the pursuit of truth, could interrogate George and Tony. And maybe if “enhanced” techniques like sleep deprivation and water-boarding were applied they would fess up.
 
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  • #23
Bobbywhy said:
(off thread topic) Comment: Since George Bush and Tony Blair are considered to be the “architects” of the Iraq War by working togher to get UN approval and to muster the “Coalition of the Willing” it seems reasonable to ask “What was their real motivation?” Was it simply to take away Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs or were there different, less transparent reasons for their determination to wage war against Iraq? Maybe in future some International Court of Justice, in the pursuit of truth, could interrogate George and Tony. And maybe if “enhanced” techniques like sleep deprivation and water-boarding were applied they would fess up.

Why would you want to put before an international court (run by who anyway?) two men for taking out a man who was a mass-murderer and torturer? There was nothing morally-wrong about taking out Hussein, the criticism is that it wasn't really worth the blood and treasure that was required and also the evidence for the WMDs turned out to be very flimsy. Also remember, President Bush went to Congress for the authority to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq, he didn't do it on executive authority alone. As for waterboarding, remember that that was only applied to three terrorists, right after 9/11 (one being Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who masterminded 9/11). And waterboarding was not used as a means of interrogation but to force them to cooperate.
 
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  • #24
russ_watters said:
Simply put, the Moral Imperative is the idea that those who have the ability to fix problems have the responsibility to.

That argument works when you're only talking about raising tax rates for the wealthy - that's only money. I don't think it works nearly as well when your moral imperative is to sacrifice American lives for some other country.

That said, just because the moral imperative argument is mostly irrelevant (at least in my opinion), it doesn't mean that there's no situations where it would be in the US's best interest to get involved in foreign affairs.

As someone else mentioned, what happens in the Middle East affects every American that owns a car. Israel just threatening to attack Iran has hurt Americans with higher gas prices. In fact, I wonder if gas prices would rise that much further if Israel actually did attack, since just the uncertainty is enough to raise gas prices. It is in our best interest to be involved in promoting stability in the Middle East, which is not necessarily the same as promoting democracy in a country where there's a real possibility that that democratically elected government could ally itself with one our enemies (on the other hand, promoting tyrants definitely isn't going to help us in the long run, either - Bush's invasion was really an issue over the quality of his judgement; not his morals).
 
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  • #25
CAC1001 said:
Why would you want to put before an international court (run by who anyway?) two men for taking out a man who was a mass-murderer and torturer? There was nothing morally-wrong about taking out Hussein, the criticism is that it wasn't really worth the blood and treasure that was required and also the evidence for the WMDs turned out to be very flimsy. Also remember, President Bush went to Congress for the authority to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq, he didn't do it on executive authority alone. As for waterboarding, remember that that was only applied to three terrorists, right after 9/11 (one being Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who masterminded 9/11). And waterboarding was not used as a means of interrogation but to force them to cooperate.

The court with the authority (of 193 states) to try national leaders (and has done so) is the “International Court of Justice”. It is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations.
http://www.icj-cij.org/documents/index.php?p1=4&p2=2&p3=0
 
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  • #26
BobG said:
That argument works when you're only talking about raising tax rates for the wealthy - that's only money. I don't think it works nearly as well when your moral imperative is to sacrifice American lives for some other country.

That said, just because the moral imperative argument is mostly irrelevant (at least in my opinion), it doesn't mean that there's no situations where it would be in the US's best interest to get involved in foreign affairs.

I think by "ability" to fix problems, this is meant within reason. For example, establishing a no fly zone to sto pa dictator from slaughtering his own people, but that doesn't mena sending any large American land force into said country. Where lives might have to be sacrificed would be in dealing with a problem with the security of the free world itself was at stake.
 
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  • #27
Bobbywhy said:
The court with the authority (of 193 states) to try national leaders (and has done so) is the “International Court of Justice”. It is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations.
http://www.icj-cij.org/documents/index.php?p1=4&p2=2&p3=0

The problem is that this court is itself partially made up of countries that are notorious human rights abusers. It would be like having a human rights court in which Nazi Germany was a member.
 
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  • #28
John Creighto said:
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:

http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2582/Introduction-to-Ethics/28
http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2582/Introduction-to-Ethics/29
http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2582/Introduction-to-Ethics/30

I agree with John Creighto’s assessment of the pitfalls of debating the significance of the term “Moral Imperative”. I also agree with BobG’s statement: “moral imperative argument is mostly irrelevant”. rootX has also said “Morality is a philosophical issue and has little practical value IMO.” And Russ has said “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.”

When claiming the US “should” or “ought” to act in some way because of a particular moral reason we typically end up in futile circular arguments such as “it’s right because I’ve decided it is”. I think our members here would all benefit if we were to drop any further reference to “Moral Imperative” from this discussion.

I agree, as Russ has shown, that there already exist suitable and appropriate moral and ethical guidelines for a nation-states’ behavior. I believe the U. S, after deciding on our own strategic interests, should give great consideration and weight to those guidelines before executing all foreign policy actions.

Russ also wrote “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.” In my opinion, the opportunities to help others in need was indeed fortunate. And, who would disagree with anyone acting as a “Good Samaritan?” But this is not a sufficient reason to justify the massive expense of deploying a naval fleet. It seems to me a mistake to conflate a lucky coincidence with a reason for continuing the role of world policeman using carrier air groups. They are two completely separate subjects.

I agree with Russ that “the US is the world's policeman.” No doubt about that. I also agree that U. S. military power is essential to help support UN resolutions. The whole point of this thread is simply that I support the side of this debate which advocates for a smaller American military presence worldwide.

Since many members here are scientifically oriented it seems reasonable to rely on tangible empirical evidence and historical facts to buttress our viewpoints and opinions. Objections to using historical examples to justify our statements are duly noted. One example of this process is that I maintain the US should greatly reduce the number of US military bases and posts around the world. In other words, the U. S. should diminish its role as “the world’s policeman”. The savings realized would help our struggling economy in myriad ways. I offer the following source of factual information as evidence to support my claim:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_military_bases
 
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  • #29
I don't think that, generally, US interventions into foreign affairs have anything to do with morality.

One might think of sovereign nations as generally competing, sometimes cooperating, corporations.

In this view, the US, as any business interest, would be expected to do things which maximize the realization of its interests.

Wrt the OP, I think that moral justification or motivation has little or nothing to do with any of the conflicts that the US has instigated or gotten involved with.

So, my answer to the OP question, the thread title, would be ... no. There's no moral imperative. There's no moral justification for US, or any nation's, global actions. Countries, nations, like individuals, act out of self interest. In the case of countries, corporations, etc., this self interest is something ascertained by a tiny percentage of all the people who might eventually be involved.
 
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  • #30
russ_watters said:
For example it was my understanding that Obama wanted France to take the lead in Libya, but they couldn't, so we did.

Wasn't it the case that the no-fly zones over Libya were enforced principally by France, with support from the UK?
 

Related to Should the US intervene in world problems?

1. Should the US intervene in world problems?

This is a complex and controversial question that has been debated for decades. Some argue that the US has a moral responsibility to intervene in global issues, while others believe that intervention can do more harm than good. Ultimately, the decision to intervene should be carefully considered and based on the specific circumstances of each situation.

2. What are the potential benefits of US intervention in world problems?

The potential benefits of US intervention can include promoting democracy and human rights, protecting national security interests, and providing humanitarian aid to those in need. Additionally, intervention can help to maintain stability and prevent conflicts from escalating.

3. What are the potential consequences of US intervention in world problems?

There are also potential consequences of US intervention, including backlash from other countries, increased financial and military costs, and unintended consequences such as creating more instability or exacerbating existing conflicts. It is important to carefully weigh these potential consequences before making a decision to intervene.

4. How does the US decide when to intervene in world problems?

The decision to intervene is typically based on a combination of factors, including the severity of the problem, the potential benefits and consequences, and the US's national interests. The government also consults with experts and allies, and considers public opinion before making a decision.

5. What role does international law play in US intervention in world problems?

International law is an important consideration in US intervention. The US is a signatory to various treaties and agreements that outline the circumstances under which intervention is justified. However, there is often debate over the interpretation and application of these laws, and the US has been criticized for not always adhering to them in its interventions.

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