Yglesias, Kirchick, Intervention

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It's a minor blog spat, but in some ways revealing about the deeper issues involved in deciding whether to intervene in foreign countries. The subject is Ethiopia and Somalia. Were we right to support a foreign government's attempt to thwart a Qaeda-backed regime in a neighboring state? Jamie Kirchick thinks so:

I think Ethiopia was entirely justified in ousting an Al-Qaeda affiliated, Islamofascist junta which had overthrown the legitimate government of a neighbor state and was using that state's territory to launch terrorist attacks against it. And I think the United States was justified in aiding attempts to hunt down and kill the men responsible for murdering 225 people, many of them American civil servants.

Put like that, who could disagree? Unless blowback is so endemic and dangerous that the results vitiate the good intentions. Chotiner:

I don't think it's okay for terrorist groups to depose internationally-recognized governments etc. and not expect any sort of armed reprisal. But this is leaps and bounds away from saying that armed reprisal is the right or proper course of action (from my minimal knowledge, I'd say that in all three cases I have cited, "armed reprisal" failed badly). This was always the bothersome aspect of various pro-war arguments in 2003. Yes, Saddam is bad. Yes, he should pay. Yes, international law should be upheld. Yes, yes, yes. But do we really want to invade and occupy a hostile Middle-Eastern country? Some things in life aren't easy, and have no good answers. And I worry sometimes that arguments like Jamie's spend all their energy focusing on "justifications" while losing sight of ends.

Yglesias agrees. I've slowly moved away from Jamie's position toward Matt's. The reason is simply the empirical evidence of the results of intervention, Iraq being obviously the prime example. What Americans want are the benefits of empire, without the work of empire. If you can't do the work, you shouldn't start. That's why I think non-interventionism will become a consensus in Washington in the not-to-distant future. Experience doth make cowards of us all.

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