For John, BLUF: Being a "do gooder" in international affairs often backfires.
This is another article on the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). This idea of humanitarian intervention is favored by both Samantha Power, the President's nominee for US Ambassador to the UN, and by National Security Advisor Susan Rice. This article, from the magazine American Interest, by Rajan Menon,♠ suggests that at its core, R2P is wrong. The title is "It's Fatally Flawed". Here is the lede and subsequent paragraph, which gives the quick overview:
It is now a commonplace belief that a worldwide diffusion of human rights norms occurred following the Cold War, creating a consensus favoring humanitarian intervention. The cachet acquired by the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) is proffered as proof of this proposition.Later in the article we get to how high-mindedness just gets one in trouble:
This is wishful thinking. Armed humanitarian interventions since the aftermath of the Cold War have been selective, poorly executed, strategically naive, morally incoherent and even dangerous. Far from reflecting, let alone having contributed to, a global consensus, they have been divisive. This is so not because the world has just done it wrong at this early stage of R2P awareness; it is so because of flaws in the concept itself.
Those who start wars are often confident that they know how they will end. They are just as often proved wrong. Idealistic humanitarian interveners, a sub-species of such hubristic planners, congratulate themselves on their high-mindedness, which leads most of them to assume that if no self-interested motives attach to their intentions, then no self-interested consequences can emerge from them. Of course this is absurd.And, the article has a neat cartoon showing the US, dressed as Captain America, frustrated at not being able to do the good intended.
A good heart is not enough. A lot of people who mean well say and do things that are ultimately self-defeating. Look around. These are people you know. Now scale it up to big US military forces, or CIA covert operations. There is a lot of culture out there that we just don't really understand and will not be able to change in a short (decades) period of time. Sometimes things break good. Germany and Japan come to mind. South Korea after the 1950-53 Police Action. Iraq not so much. Afghanistan? Neither we nor the Soviets made much of a dent over the last couple of decades.
Today we have the Syrian Civil War ongoing. If you see someone on the street or in a store, ask them what they think about US intervention in Syria. If they are hesitant, commend them. If they are supportive, suggest it is a fools errand and the US should not be doing more than supporting Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel in dealing with refugees that flood out of Syria as a result of the unrest..
Regards — Cliff
♠ Rajan Menon is Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of Political Science, City College of New York/City University of New York, and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.