US,UN,Intervention: Intervention

Cassevaulaunus commented that the US intervention in Grenada was “too soon”. In the Email exchange he had said the US intervention in WW I was “too late” So what is the US threshold for deciding when we “stick our oar in it” (Gilbert and Sullivan)?

In the old days, long ago, there was the Cold War. Rules about intervening in other countries were different then because there was “the other super-power” who could veto intervention.

In the window between the collapse of the USSR and 9/11/2001 the rules, IMO, went something like this:

There was the Industrialized World. One deals with them like they are grossly equal sovereign states.

And there was the Pre-Industrialzed World (being a pedant I think “Third World” isn’t a good description since the “first and second world – Warsaw Pact/USSR and NATO/US have all sort of merged together as “The Industrialized World).

During that time the Industrialized World divided the Pre-Industrialized world into two groups:

a) Those countries that have something the Industrialized World can use. Usually Oil or some other natural resource. In those countries you want stability, and you will intervene if things start to spin out of control.

b) Those countries that have nothing of use to the Industrialized World. These latter countries may sink into violence, misery and poverty, but who cares? The Tutsies or Sudanese are dying in a swamp of misery and violence but that can’t possibly effect my own safety or comfort here in Islington or Baltimore so why should I care? (OK, I Care. I am Concerned. But not to the extent of actually paying the price entailed in doing anything about the situation). Rwanda and Sudan are good examples of this latter group.

Former Yugoslavia Republics (FYR) are a sort of special case (actually they are not. I am setting you up) since they may not have vast Oil or Iron Ore reserves but they are real close to Europe so there is a worry that if we all just ignore them and let them sink into violence and tribalism that violence might spill over and start putting us, the EU citizenry, at risk of dying some day.

You will note the Europeans are (were in the Email exchange) all for intervening in Kosovo. There was no UN authorization (much the opposite). There was “a concensus” only in the sense “I agree with you, the US” on the part of some of Europe. If you count Russia as a European Country there were European Countries who were very much “unconsensing.”

Then 9/11 came along and the US (but not the EU) decided that the world is much smaller than we had thought on 9/10/2001, and Afghanistan sinking into violence and tribalism was the sort of festering culture medium where a threat could incubate and come kill us. In other words, we decided that, given the mobility of people with international air travel, everyplace was functionally as “close” to the US as Kosovo was to Paris, Berlin or London.

So our threshold now includes “places that are as bad as Kosovo” but has been extended to include “even if it is not right across the border from Italy.”


What I am trying to figure out here is not what the US is doing (well, not just that but "what the US is doing" is pretty obvious) but "how are people in the US and in the EU, particularly in the UK, deciding what to do"

The answer seems to be lurking somewhere in how we each approached Kosovo (intervened and Europe, save Russia, agreed), Rwanda (did nothing and Europe agreed), Afghanistan (invervened and the EU sort of went along), Iraq (intervened and some of the EU, leaders more than citizens, agreed but most of the EU went ballistic).

The algorithm for deciding whether to intervene in some other country lies somewhere in thinking about those 4 cases. By "Algorithm" I don't mean "what should have been done." I don't think anyone is proud in retropsect about standing aside regarding Rwanda. But "what are the mental steps the EU and the US actually take in deciding to intervene or not intervene.

Posted by: Drew | 04/14/2004 - 06:01 PM

To introduce myself. I am a British Liberal Democrat. Those words probably trigger a "lefty" warning in the USA. However round here it means I am a centrist. We have real lefties in Britain: socialists, trotsykists and the like.
I am English, though a minority of my ancestors were from the Celtic Fringe. I think the EU is an opportunity for the UK, handled correctly.
I believe in Enlightenment values, including separation of Church and State. I do not believe in supersitions such as Crystal Healing, New Age Stuff, crop circles, UFOs and Creationism.
I found the US/UN discussion interesting as it brought out many romantic views about the UN from both sides of the pond. After a while a minority pointed out that the UN was not supposed to do things, it was supposed to let the founders alone while providing a talking shop. Was this the Anglo-Saxon Romanticism that the Continentals and Ben Disraeli mentioned?
Later I hope to discuss principal UK political parties and UK views about intervention.

Posted by: Cobden | 04/15/2004 - 03:13 PM
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