I hate to sound like a jackass, but I am deeply unimpressed with this essay —Evildoers and Us — in the Chronicle of Higher Education. There’s a lot not to like about it, but there’s one particularly insightful paragraph (not in the way it was intended to be)
A decision to invade another country in order to free its citizens from the oppressions visited upon them by their own leaders will surely be required from time to time. But when every case of overseas violence is treated as an example of genocide demanding the deployment of more U.S. troops, something has gone seriously wrong with both the analysis and the recommendation.
This is liberal interventionism today. It’s in a sorry state. Nothing following this except indicates when such intervention is required versus when it’s simply not justified because hey, America just can’t help everyone, capice? It’s not philosophically consistent to take a “sometimes” approach. It’s intellectually lazy and evasive. But damn if we don’t do it.
The bolder thing to say is that the moral costs of 1) arbitrarily determining where to intervene and 2) arbitrarily picking sides in internal conflicts, are too great to justify intervention. It’s not as if people die better by our missiles than by oppressors’ swords. Whether we are involved or not, people will die. They will keep dying until the conflict is over. And once it is, it is hardly certain that illiberal force will be used by the victors to perpetuate the cycle. Knowing this truth, the idea of making the world’s sovereign nations’ internal conflicts the beneficiaries or misfits of our politician’s caprice is a pretty morally repugnant prospect. To me, anyway.