Intervention and America's moral compass

http://www.prosebeforehos.com/international-relations/04/29/the-mythology-of-the-moral-america/?polred

A small smattering of America’s ‘moral compass’ just from the past 50 years:

• Covertly overthrew President Salvador Allende in Chile and replacing him with Augusto Pinochet who would kill and torture over 100,000 people

• Currently providing over $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel while it systemically cleanses greater Palestine of non-Jews

• Currently providing over $3 billion a year to Pakistan and Egypt, despite wide-spread human rights abuses and lack of democratic rights

• Spearheaded efforts to impose a UN Blockade to Iraq, leading to an estimated 200,000 deaths in the late 1990’s

• Currently providing over $1 billion a year to Saudi Arabia, including $3 million dollars of electro-shock devices used to torture inmates and political prisoners

• Funded and headquartered in Georgia the School of the Americas Assassins (currently named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), which trained and armed ‘anti-Communist’ fighters in Latin America. These have included dictators and gross human rights abusers such as Bolivia’s Hugo Banzer and Panama’s Manuel Noriega.

• Overthrew the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953 and replaced it with the dictatorship of the pro-Western Shah

• Funded the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, including Osama Bin Laden, to fight the Soviets in the early 1980s

• Provided Saddam Hussein with the chemical weapons he would use to kill over 100,000 Kurds

Steve,

  I think you're failing to distinguish between the people living in the United States, and the government that claims jurisdiction over them. But if you want to criticize U.S. governments for their moral failings in global affairs, here's some more food for thought. Knowing full well that their laws criminalized military action by U.S.-based NGOs such that no civil society alternative for stopping genocide exists, and that no other government was likely to mount a successful intervention to protect life, liberty and property in each of the following cases, U.S. governments have during the past half century or so repeatedly allowed genocides to happen, by:

• Failing to provide sufficient military assistance to prevent communist takeover in China -- estimated 20 million people killed under Mao, plus another half million or so later, mostly during the "Cultural Revolution" period

• Twice failing to militarily intervene to stop genocide in Sudan (1956-1972 and 1983-???)* – estimated 2.4 million killed (*Wikipedia's page lists the most recent Sudanese genocide as having ended in 2003, but other things I've read suggest it is still ongoing)

• Giving up the fight against communism in Southeast Asia -- estimated 1.9 million killed in Cambodia until communist Khmer Rouge regime overthrown by communist Vietnamese regime intervention

• Failing to militarily intervene to stop genocide in Rwanda -- estimated 500,000 killed

  The above figures are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide, and of course represent just "a small smattering" of what likely could have been ameliorated or prevented by decisive use of U.S. government military force outside the United States. I expect you will argue that those victims of democide were not the responsibility of the U.S. government, since it merely failed to make any serious attempt to stop them. And I will agree that the U.S. government does not bear primary responsibility. However, I don't think the U.S. government bears primary responsibility for the items on your list either. The regimes that actually carried out the killings and torture bear the lion's share of responsibility, and therefore deserve our harshest criticism. In the incidents you list below, the U.S. government simply provided the means for something to happen which in some cases would have happened in similar fashion anyway, and in other cases may have prevented an even worse alternative from occurring.

Love & Liberty,
          ((( starchild )))

  The above figures are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide, and
of course represent just "a small smattering" of what likely could
have been ameliorated or prevented by decisive use of U.S. government
military force outside the United States.

You assume the government is capable of doing those things well. Yet even if you look at the most often cited examples of positive intervention (such as WWII) you will find they involve mass atrocities.

I expect you will argue that
those victims of democide were not the responsibility of the U.S.
government, since it merely failed to make any serious attempt to stop
them.

No, my argument is that the government is incompetent and will generally do more harm than good when it comes to intervention. As with doctors before modern medicine, you may die either way, but you are more likely to die with their help than without it.

If pre modern medicine doctors had gathered statistics and based their treatments on what worked (that is, stop doing things that increase mortality) countless lives would have been saved. I propose we apply the same method to intervention. If it tends to cause more harm, don't do it until you figure out what actually works. That is, "first of all, do no harm".

In the incidents you list below, the U.S. government simply provided
the means for something to happen which in some cases would have
happened in similar fashion anyway, and in other cases may have
prevented an even worse alternative from occurring.

I looked over the list and don't see any clear examples of that.

> The above figures are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide, and
> of course represent just "a small smattering" of what likely could
> have been ameliorated or prevented by decisive use of U.S. government
> military force outside the United States.

You assume the government is capable of doing those things well. Yet
even if you look at the most often cited examples of positive
intervention (such as WWII) you will find they involve mass atrocities.

  You refer to "the government" as if we were only talking about one government here. You seem to forget that genocides are usually also government operations. Rarely does a question come down to government action vs. no government action. Most often the question is whether one (or more) governments should use force to try to stop another government from doing something heinous.

> I expect you will argue that
> those victims of democide were not the responsibility of the U.S.
> government, since it merely failed to make any serious attempt to stop
> them.

No, my argument is that the government is incompetent and will
generally do more harm than good when it comes to intervention. As
with doctors before modern medicine, you may die either way, but you
are more likely to die with their help than without it.

  Going with that analogy, I think rather than demanding they stop practicing medicine, we should try to get them to refine and update their methods to do what works.

If pre modern medicine doctors had gathered statistics and based their
treatments on what worked (that is, stop doing things that increase
mortality) countless lives would have been saved.

  Yes, but it's hard to gather statistics on what works when you've stopped practicing medicine.

I propose we apply
the same method to intervention. If it tends to cause more harm, don't
do it until you figure out what actually works. That is, "first of
all, do no harm".

  But sometimes "no harm" is not an option, and you're faced with triage.

> In the incidents you list below, the U.S. government simply provided
> the means for something to happen which in some cases would have
> happened in similar fashion anyway, and in other cases may have
> prevented an even worse alternative from occurring.

I looked over the list and don't see any clear examples of that.

  Israeli settlements. If the U.S. government cut off aid to the Israeli government tomorrow, I don't think settlement construction in the West Bank would consequently stop, do you? (I'm not supporting the aid, just stating what I believe to be political reality.) You've deleted the list here, so that's the only example I recall off the top of my head. Anyway, I don't really see settlement construction as such a bad thing -- certainly not on the level of torture or killing. Housing is housing, and increasing the supply ultimately makes it more affordable for everyone, including Palestinians. If it's government housing, the government can require people to move out of it later if that's required for a peace agreement.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))