To fight or not to fight?

I'm now at a lunch talk by Stephen Carter called "The Tragedy of Just War Theory". The most interesting thing he's pointed out so far is that when Americans say "someone should do something" to stop a conflict somewhere, this is almost tantamount to saying "we should do something", because at a most generous estimate, there are four military forces in the world capable of deploying into a conflict zone and shutting down the war: America, Britain, Australia, and Israel. For diverse reasons, the other three are very unlikely to deploy without our support. We're it. "If you are an American," says Carter, "it is not enough to know what you are against. You must know what you are for."

Perhaps the list of conflicts in which we should intervene is very short--the hard left and the paleo right would say that it is zero. But we have to recognize that if we don't, no one else is going to do it for us--the African Union cannot make peace in Darfur, none of Iraq's neighbors can help it if it erupts into civil war, and so forth.

That means that when we decide not to intervene, we are making a decision that no one should act to halt the conflict. That, says Carter, should be a decision--not something that we simply let slide by default while we murmer that really, something ought to be done.