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Saving Sudan: those who forget the recent past...
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The New Republic editorial board laments our inaction with regards to Sudan...
The genocide in Darfur has been going on for three years now. And, for three years, the international community hasn't done much to stop it. It has threatened, but not enforced, sanctions. It has sent peacekeepers, but with insufficient numbers and a weak mandate. It has decried "crimes against humanity," but charged no perpetrators. And so the violence continues, with more than 200,000 people killed, two million left homeless, and the conflict now spilling over into neighboring Chad.
[...]
We would very much like Bush to get the mandate, the money, and the troops for his Darfur proposals. We would like the international community to stop pussyfooting around the demands of Khartoum. We would like the United States to increase pressure on its allies and be prepared to galvanize NATO members by volunteering some of its own troops. Whatever it takes to convey that genocide is no laughing matter.
A nation wherein terrorists sometimes operate, factional militia's threaten to tear the country apart, and only a strongman can hold it all together. And we're supposed to send troops there to make it all better?

Why do we think this will work any better than it has in Iraq? Why is Bush calling for more troops in Darfur, rather than in Iraq? Why is the left, not terribly enamored with the idea that military intervention could turn Iraq around, so willing to throw troops at Sudan?

Most importantly, what exactly is the vital US national interest in salvaging a recalcitrant and embattled Sudan? If terrorists are operating there, sure, let's deal with that. Otherwise, sadly, the Sudanese civil war is a national and regional problem. Without a reasonable prospect to establish a solid, democratic government, though, it's hard to see how it is ours.

MORE: Via commenter Chris, this Austin Bay post points out that an anti-western Sudanese people and a government opposed to a "UN invasion of Sudan" would also be problematic. Leading back to my point. Ok, sure, we can send in troops and put a stop to the immediate problem. Then what? And, other than massaging our moral vanity, how does that help us?
 
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Sometimes we should do things because it’s the right thing to do. It is also in our long-term security interests to see that terrorists do not have safe havens or places they can prosper in Africa. That is the next theater in the "long war."

What we should do, is everything we can to stop the mass murder, while placing our people at the least risk.

That includes providing support and logisitics to a multi-national force. It could include flying air support missions to establish security. It could even include sending some relatively small number of troops to Darfur to take out the bad guys.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Jon,
There are very good reasons this is the right thing to do. As long as there are countries like this in the world, we are NOT safe.

As long as there are countries where poverty thrives, there will be people in the world who will look upon us with envy, and wish us harm.

As long as there are countries where megalomaniacs like Saddam Hussein rule, we run the risk of another World War.

As long as brutal dictators crush their opponents, and anyone they suspect of being an opponent, we will continue to see thousands or millions of people killed. We are hypocrites to sit here and say these lives are meaningless, or it’s their own fault, or it’s another country so we can’t do anything, or even that it’s not our responsibility. When 3,000 Americans and citizens of other countries died on 9/11, we went to war. When 200,000 Sudanese die, the world does nothing.

In your defense, I will say this: Why is the U.S. the only country which can handle these problems? Where are the Europeans? Where are the Chinese and Russians? What about the "peace loving" Muslims of the Arab World?

I think the "Axis of Weasels" is much larger than just France.
 
Written By: EdMcGon
URL: http://politicsandpigskins.blogspot.com/
Austin Bay had a post about this too.
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
In regards to Keith,Indy ’s statement "It could even include sending some relatively small number of troops to Darfur to take out the bad guys. "


That is the wrong thing to do.That is what we did the last time we went.We sent a few troops with little support capabilities. It is my opinion, that any time we send troops into a dangerous spot we send so many with so much support that it overwhelms any and all bad guys. Then set up our own brand of government. If we are not willing to do that then we should not go.
 
Written By: SkyWatch
URL: http://
When I think "relatively small number", I’m thinking less then 50K, but more than several hundred... An expeditionary force, not an invasion or occupation force.

And always with as much support as they need, and a clear mission.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
The reason the left is willing to send US troops to Darfur and not Iraq is simple; there is no conceivable national interest in sending troops to Darfur, ergo if we sent troops it would be a selfless act. Anything that smacks of standing up for our vital interests on the other hand is, by definition, selfish and therefore evil.

Being a liberal is about being a drama queen. Being able to pat oneself on the back for acting selflessly is more important than getting rid of a murderous dictator. Similar motivations were used to intervene in other non strategically important places like Kosovo and Haiti. And yet, a country like Iran that is seeking nuclear weapons and has a leadership devoutly wishing for Armageddon should be left alone.

Go figure...

Rick Moran
 
Written By: superhawk
URL: http://www.rightwingnuthouse.blogspot.com
But the argument can be made that Darfur, and places like it are in America and the worlds strategic interests.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Sometimes we should do things because it’s the right thing to do. It is also in our long-term security interests to see that terrorists do not have safe havens or places they can prosper in Africa. That is the next theater in the "long war."
It’s not terribly clear to me that an occupation of Sudan is "the right thing to do". Ok, so we get there and stop the open civil war. Then what?
As long as there are countries like this in the world, we are NOT safe.
It’s going to be a very long war, then. There will always be problem states. If we claim responsibility for all of them, we’ll suffer the ever-present problem with raison d’etat: death by overextension. Maybe there’s a solution that addresses our vital national interests, but I don’t see how a US occupation does that. This should be a regional problem, unless it touches on our interests. As it stands, I don’t see how violence in Sudan creates a vital problem for us. Sure, it’s tragic, but there’s tragedy everywhere. I’m not of the "when somebody hurts, government has got to move" school of politics.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon, could you explain your philosophical justification for subscribing to the cult of "national interests" when you (presumably) reject collectivism in other guises? What makes the nation-state morally significant? Why are the lives of non-Americans less worthy of moral consideration than those of Americans? Why isn’t "because it’s simply the right thing to do" a good enough reason?

You can have a reasonable argument over what sort of intervention in Sudan, if any at all, would be feasible or desirable. But you can’t just cop out with things like this:
I’m not of the "when somebody hurts, government has got to move" school of politics.
...because by your own lights, keeping people from killing eachother is one thing government is supposed to do.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
I have no particular problem with you going over to Sudan personally to stop the genocide, or with you paying for such a service. But I don’t see the interest the US government has in stopping it.

We individually have a lot of moral interests that we don’t want to see the government accomplish on our behalf. Foreign policy is not necessarily moral utility, though.

 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I never said, America should occupy the Sudan, just that we can take care of the immediate problem, ie stop the genocide.

I see stopping the genocide in Darfur as a vital component in the "Global War on Terror." Because the genocide is but a symptom of a deeper problem in the Sudan. A government that lets this happen within its own borders, will let anything occur within its borders.

Yes, it is going to be a long war. But every effort isn’t going to be unilateral, or a shooting war. And it is in our long-term interests, to see that places don’t devolve into Darfur, because that is where terrorists flock to to hide and train.

Sure, you can keep hitting the terrorist camps, and shut them down, temporarily. But to have a lasting solution, you need to change the internal dynamic of the state.

I happen subscribe to Barnetts Core/Gap analysis, and his perscription. A multi-national, nation building force. To process these states into functioning "liberal democracies." Getting them connected to the global economy, with its citizens secure, prosperous and free. That takes a functioning government, which they do not have. And that’s the major component of the long term war that’s missing. A way to get a broader based coallition of world powers (or the G20 in Barnetts view) that could deal with these issues, faster, and more economically (by sharing the burden) then America could do alone.

I guess, "never again", needs to be modified, "never again, unless it doesn’t effect me."
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Sudan certainly does not meet my standard for any sort of intervention. We have no compelling self interest there, and it’s by no means clear what goal or outcome we would be striving for by going in.

The "it’s the right thing" arguments from the left just astound me. So rescuing people in Sudan who are victimized by murderous thugs is important, but rescuing Iraqis who were victimized by murderous thugs was not?

It’s as if they only want us to take on tasks in which we can’t possibly succeed. Iraq, which has a legitimate chance of success, and would transform an entire region if it did, gets nothing but scorn from them at best (and sabotage at worst). But Sudan, in which their vaunted UN has been on the job for ages and in which it looks well nigh impossible for anyone to succeed, is supposed to be an appropriate target for intervention. I just don’t get it.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Jon, why didn’t you answer my questions?
I have no particular problem with you going over to Sudan personally to stop the genocide, or with you paying for such a service.
It seems very strange to see you fall back on this kind of thing when you’re so dismissive of it when people like Beck do it. You do realize the implications of carrying this line of thought consistently, right?
But I don’t see the interest the US government has in stopping it.
"The US government" doesn’t have interests. This is what I meant about the cult of "national interests": you’re anthropomorphizing a collective and attributing nebulous desires to it in a very ambiguous way that I’m not sure makes sense. If, hypothetically, there was a very wide consensus that stopping the genocide was the morally right thing to do, would this not become the "national interest"?
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Jon: Anybody seen the film "Blackhawk Down" and still wants to send our boys back over there?
 
Written By: dutch
URL: http://
I don’t know what the absolute right thing to do is in this situation...

I just know doing nothing, is the absolute wrong thing to do.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Yep, saw Black Hawk Down, read the book before the movie came out. It’s still the right thing to do. And I aint no lefty.

When is allowing genocide to occur, the right thing to do?

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/002653.html
■"Surge in Violence in Sudan Erodes Hope: More Than 100 Members of Congress Denounce Bush Approach; A growing sense that the Darfur peace effort will not succeed," by Joel Brinkley, New York Times, 7 November 2005, p. A10.

Yes, yes. A Core-wide capacity to process politically bankrupt states in the Gap is, in the words of one recent infantile review of Blueprint for Action is nothing more than "empire made easy."

Sudan is certainly a place I’d like to build an empire, what with it’s puny oil reserves and nonstop genocide. This is a failed state for the taking, yes?

So why not take it and end the suffering. Or does the Left simply whine about U.S. militarism while the death toll in the country surpasses 200,000?

Everybody is ready to blame Bush for "coddling" this horrible regime. I suppose many of these congressman are raring to lay economic sanctions on this amazingly disconnected nation, the sum impact of which will certainly be to kill thousands more each year we would persist in this stunningly ineffective approach.

How many of these congressman and big-mouths of the Left are ready to build the SysAdmin force and forge that A-to-Z rule set? Or is that effort simply anathema to do these do-nothing, know-nothing types who wear their selfishness and self-righteousness on their sleeves like medals of moral honor?

Oh yes, the finger-pointers have a field day with Sudan. Line them all up end to end and you’ll reach an accusation, just never a conclusion.

Posted by Thomas P.M. Barnett on November 8, 2005 12:08 PM
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Jon, why didn’t you answer my questions?
I think my answer was responsive to your questions. Perhaps we have separate ideas of what "national interest" means....
"The US government" doesn’t have interests. This is what I meant about the cult of "national interests": you’re anthropomorphizing a collective and attributing nebulous desires to it in a very ambiguous way that I’m not sure makes sense. If, hypothetically, there was a very wide consensus that stopping the genocide was the morally right thing to do, would this not become the "national interest"?
Well, it would certainly be in the ’national interest’ in the sense that voters would endorse it. In that sense, though, universal health care is also in our national interest. I’m not sure that "people will vote for it" is a good definition of "national interest" when it comes to foreign policy generally, or military intervention specifically. I’m really not sure that something as petulant as "electoral whim" is a good basis for foreign policy strategies.

More accurately, I don’t see how intervention in Sudan is in our national security interest. It would expend our human and financial capital, but I have yet to hear what positive return we would get for it. In terms of foreign policy, I think we ought to retain our capital for missions relevant to our national security strategy. Otherwise, the scope of government is as wide as the public whim. That’s a recipe for overextension.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
When is allowing genocide to occur, the right thing to do?
What the heck, when is allowing wrongful killing to occur the right thing to do? Never? So you’re in favor of the immediate invasion of China?

Look, if there was a reasonable and cost-efficient probability that we could turn Sudan into a sustainable democracy, I could see how it would coincide with our national interest. Since it looks to me like another Algeria in the making, I don’t see what we’d get out of it? A temporary cessation of conflict, followed by an indefinite low-level insurgency and/or civil war? What’s in that for us?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Hey, don’t make my statement that broad. Wrongful killing = genocide?

I’m all for spreading the cost and risks abroad, per the Barnett plan.

I’m also for finding the least riskiest course of action that has a chance for accomplishing the goal. Supporting a real peace-making effort through air-power and logistics for instance. There are alternatives to invasion by US troops. I mentioned a few of them. We’re a creative bunch, we should be able to figure out more ways. Like making it in China’s best interest to send peace-keepers there.

Personally, I’ve always felt we could do the world a lot of good by air dropping "at risk" indigenous populations, a six gun and a copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (in the local language.)

Sure it will be messy, but once the "ruling factions" no longer has a monopoly on the use of force, then the real work of creating a civil society can start.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
"As long as there are..."

Didn’t I hear this speech in "The Three Amigos"? Welcome to history. Seriously though, this would require an eternal pax americana, and we just don’t have the forces to rule the world(for its own good, of course).

"When I think "relatively small number", I’m thinking less then 50K, but more than several hundred"

More than we sent to Somalia, but fewer than we sent to Iraq? Take a good look at a map of the area. How are we going to feed and supply this "small number" of troops, some of which will be 1,000 miles from the nearest port, and even farther from the nearest friendly airfield? It would take more than a "small number" just to secure supply lines. None of the surrounding countries are good candidates for allowing us to use their airfields, unless you count Saudi Arabia, which is across the Red Sea. And for how long? It’s just not feasible, militarily or politically.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Jon, I’m trying to tease out underlying premises here but all you’re giving me is vague statements that I can’t even make sense of until I understand what’s underpinning them. First you referred to "the interest the US government has", but in what sense could possibly be meant other than doing what the public wants? The only other sense I could think of was what the actual people in the government want, but I discounted that because I didn’t think that’s what you could possibly mean either. You say that popular support for something doesn’t make it a good idea and I agree, but neither is what the elected officials and such want.

If all you mean is "what actual good would this do for the people of the US?" then that’s something I can understand. But that pushes us back to underlying principles again: why is the set of US citizens the morally relevant set? Why don’t foreigners count for much in your ethical universe? Like I said before, I’m not pushing for any particular course of action here (you can always try to make the case that a particular course of action is infeasible or would have worse results on net than inaction), but I don’t understand why you seem so eager to dismiss intervention in Darfur-type situations even in principle. I have a hard time taking you for a nationalist/nativist, but I’m having an equally hard time making sense of this position any other way.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Blackhawk Down was about urban combat (which we probably are better at now.) Darfur is not urban terrain, and would give US forces the advantage.

I was reading a Richard Burton biography and they seemed to have the same problems in Darfur a couple hundred years ago as they do now.

Anyone else think we should enthusiastically be agreeing to help in Sudan...by offering to fly in French and German conscript forces?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Just think, we could help Europe solve youth unemployment by helping them send 200,000 troops into Chad on the Darfur border.

Then we could hem and haw and suggest a 6 month waiting period for the Sudan to shape up...I’m sure the Frogs would agree to leave their troops sitting in the desert for prospect of peace in our time!
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Actually it would be more economical to offer to fly Indian or Chinese troops to the Sudan.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
OK, via the Reuters article...
African foreign ministers are due to decide on Friday whether to ask the United Nations to take over control of their 7,000-strong mission currently monitoring a shaky cease-fire in Darfur. The AU lacks both funds and equipment.
How about we start by funding and equiping the AU forces??

So that they can do the job for us...
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
"Blackhawk Down was about urban combat"

It was about sticking your hand in a fish tank of piranhas; sooner or later you will get bitten. It was about the overconfidence of the US, thinking that a handful of our elite super-soldiers could dominate a country of wogs with impunity. It was about acting on bad intelligence, and trying to impose our will on barbarians for their own good.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
huh...

And here I thought it was a lesson in giving the military the support they need (men and material), a clear mission, and the political will to back the commanders.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
You describe your part of the elephant, and I will describe mine.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Jon, I’m trying to tease out underlying premises here but all you’re giving me is vague statements that I can’t even make sense of until I understand what’s underpinning them. First you referred to "the interest the US government has", but in what sense could possibly be meant other than doing what the public wants?
The US government — and specifically the part responsible for ensuring national security — has an agent responsibility to the US people to provide protection, stability, etc. If your argument is that the governments interest is simply whatever the majority of the people will support, then you’re probably correct from a strictly function viewpoint. The government is merely an agent, and it will (broadly) be responsive to the will of the people.

But then, that would also make arguments to limit the scope of government somewhat irrelevant. After all, if you can vote for it, then it’s in the interest of the government to give it to you.

The People can want anything, they can change their whims on a moments notice, and they can want things that conflict with other interests. My argument is that the people responsible for national security have an agent responsibility to use our resources in a way that contributes to the interests of national security and our long-term national security strategy.

Maybe the electorate would vote to send troops to Sudan, and maybe they wouldn’t. I don’t know. But I don’t see how it enhances our national security. In fact, it seems to me that it’s a quagmire waiting to happen — another Algerian abyss. At some point, the agents appointed to enact the national security strategy ought to recognize that, rather than simply deploying the armed forces on the basis of polls.
But that pushes us back to underlying principles again: why is the set of US citizens the morally relevant set?
Because it’s our government, our resources and our butt on the line.
Why don’t foreigners count for much in your ethical universe?
Again, I’m not really sure that we can help them. We can temporarily reduce the problems, but I don’t think there’s much reason to believe we can eliminate them. Ultimately, though, our responsibility is to ourselves.

I’m not a nationalist by any means. I don’t even believe in the notion of "patriotism". What I do believe in are ideals, principles and preferences. But I don’t see much utility in failing to impose my ideals in a place where I/we won’t see any benefit for the failure.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon,

I’m still a little confused. Your argument seems to be: because it’s American sweat and treasure being expended, Americans should be selfish with it. But this seems like a nonsequitur — normally we’d say that someone can altruistic with his own effort and money if he wants to. (Again, I want to stress that you can still reasonably hold that some sort of proposed action would do more harm than good.) Alternatively, you could take what we’ll call the Beck Position and say that you just don’t want your money being forcibly taken from you to fund such "altruistic" ventures, which is also a consistent position, but I think we both know where that argument leads.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
I think you’re looking at this from an democratic "the will of the people is all that matters, government only exists to execute it" viewpoint. Functionally, I pretty much agree. A government is merely a broker in the power market, carrying out the sufficiently-expressed will of the people.

But I think government is a bit more complex than that — and, from a foreign policy perspective, that’s pretty important. The "will of the people" can be pretty much anything a persuasive politician, media, etc decides it should be. The US government is a Republic, though — we elect agents to execute our interests. The People may believe a lot of things, but ultimately it’s the experts and politicians we hire to specialize in these areas who make the decisions.

The (democratic) "national interest" may briefly be to invade Sudan...or to do any number of things. That doesn’t necessarily mean those are a good idea, or in the broader, long-term national interest. We could have an argument over each individual unit of measurement (citizen, voter) on the merits of an invasion of Sudan, but that’s somewhat pointless. Those citizens also have an aggregate interest in the security of the United States, as expressed in national security strategies, etc. What I’m discussing is the "national interest" in security (both short and long term), not the "national whim" of the people". I refer to the "national interest" as elucidated and executed by the agents we elect.

Similarly, if we polled all the stockholders of Acme Corp on the subject of whether Bob Smith should be let go, they might all vote that, hey, he’s a swell fellow, what’s that $50,000/year hurt us? We’ll feel better by keeping him on. But the company interest is not really a democratic process, and the CEO doesn’t poll stockholders to ask how they feel about each move. He operates in what he perceives — and has been told — is in the best interest of the company. Sometimes that involves keeping the Bob Jones’s of the world on payroll — sometimes it means firing them. Even if the majority of stockholders think it’d be swell to keep Bob around, what with the holidays coming up and the hungry kids and stuff.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon, you know I’m not a populist so I won’t bother defending that point of view. But the argument here isn’t a political one or a question of means, it’s a moral one about what the goals of foreign policy ought to be. I think that in principle that helping people outside of the US morally ought to be a goal for the same reasons I think you ought to help a person who’s being assaulted on the street. It’s just the right thing to do. (Though sometimes it might not be, say if the assaulter is armed and would probably just assault you too.) "What’s in it for me?" doesn’t constitute an objection in my view.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
How is a a foreign policy based on helping people in need any different from a political philosophy based on the idea that when "someone is hurting, government has a responsibility to step in to help".

In any event, that’s a recipe for disaster. Even Raison d’etra foreign policy is subject to the danger of over-extension. If you define raison d’etra so broadly that it encompasses "helping foreigners, despite no selfish interest", then you’ve got no end to the number of monsters you must seek out and fight.

I’m actually in favor of some intervention. If we could stop a genocide in Sudan and replace it with a sustainably decent government, I think it would be in our national interest to do so. That’s one significant reason I supported the Iraq war.

As far as the "help a person who’s being assaulted on the street" metaphor, I agree that one ought to help. And if a foreigner is attacked within our own country, or if a neighboring country is attacked/suffers a devastating civil war, I can see the merits of intervening. As in the case of the street assault, that’s our own neighborhood. But, despite the fact that you know that quite a lot of assaults happen in certain places in the US, you don’t travel there looking to help. That’s an explicit expression of self-interest. Similarly, there’s a lot of merit — both practical and philosophical — to Adam’s idea that we ought not venture overseas in search of monsters to slay.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
How is a a foreign policy based on helping people in need any different from a political philosophy based on the idea that when "someone is hurting, government has a responsibility to step in to help".
This confuses ethical principles and political means again. I think the purpose of government, if it has one, ought to be to enable people toward "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I just don’t make any ethical distinction based on citizenship. There’s a wide latitude for argument over what policies would best promote this ethical goal, and often refraining from doing something might be the best option. Foreign aid and welfare state programs have done more harm than good, for instance.
If you define raison d’etra so broadly that it encompasses "helping foreigners, despite no selfish interest", then you’ve got no end to the number of monsters you must seek out and fight.
Jon, you know well enough that I’m not proposing an invasion of China. First of all "helping foreigners" does not equate to "fighting" — eliminating import tarriffs and subsidies, and making the legal immigration process simpler would do more to help foreigners than Iraq did. (Helping Americans in the process, too.) Secondly, in this as in everything else you direct your efforts in ways that make the most sense — what is the opportunity cost of occupying country X? Is there a better way we could get the desired results? Are there other things more worthy of attention? Etc. The devil is always in the details and there’s only so much that can be done, but that isn’t an excuse for throwing up our hands and saying "it’s all too much."

IMO, the overarching goal of grand strategy for this century should be to help individuals all over the world get linked up to the global economy, giving them a chance to do better for themselves. How best to further this goal is very much up for debate, but I fail to see how it’s incompatible with the general thrust of classical liberalism. Quite the opposite, I think it’s a natural fit.
I’m actually in favor of some intervention. If we could stop a genocide in Sudan and replace it with a sustainably decent government, I think it would be in our national interest to do so. That’s one significant reason I supported the Iraq war.
Okay, we’re more or less on the same page here then. I too think it would be good for Americans in the long term, incidentally, though I still don’t understand the attachment to the term "national interests" when you say you’re not a nationalist. In the long term it would shrink the zone of operations for transnational terrorists by giving them one fewer failed/evil state to use as their playground.
And if a foreigner is attacked within our own country, or if a neighboring country is attacked/suffers a devastating civil war, I can see the merits of intervening. As in the case of the street assault, that’s our own neighborhood.
Then welcome to the 21st century, where the entire world is our neighbourhood. Remember, 9/11 was caused by a terrorist network that spans the globe. Geography matters less now than ever and it will metter even less going forward.
But, despite the fact that you know that quite a lot of assaults happen in certain places in the US, you don’t travel there looking to help. That’s an explicit expression of self-interest.
No, I don’t — that’s opportunity cost. My wellbeing matters as much as everyone else’s, and expecting me to devote my whole life to helping other people at enormous cost to myself is unreasonable. That’s what I mean about directing your efforts where it makes sense — the fact that you can’t help everyone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help out anyone when the cost to yourself is reasonable. (Just for the record, any policy I personally would endorse wouldn’t require raising taxes or raising military spending beyond 4% of GDP.)
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
IMO, the overarching goal of grand strategy for this century should be to help individuals all over the world get linked up to the global economy, giving them a chance to do better for themselves. How best to further this goal is very much up for debate, but I fail to see how it’s incompatible with the general thrust of classical liberalism. Quite the opposite, I think it’s a natural fit.
Yeah, I’d pretty much agree with this, though we might differ on the degree of latitude we ought to have in accomplishing it. But I think that ought to be our strategy because it best ensures and enhances our own "life, liberty, etc". If such a path were likely to endanger our life, liberty, etc, then I’d have no major qualms about allowing bad to happen to other people in order to prevent it from happening to me.

At the end of it, there’s always an ultimately self-interested regulator.
In the long term it would shrink the zone of operations for transnational terrorists by giving them one fewer failed/evil state to use as their playground.
If such an intervention was likely to be successful, perhaps it would. I see little reason to believe that would be the case in re: Sudan.
Then welcome to the 21st century, where the entire world is our neighbourhood.
That’s a sometimes accurate cliche, but it’s not always apropos. Some foreign problems have national security implications for us, and some do not. Some may cause destabilization likely to affect us, and some may not be worth the "bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier", as it were.
My wellbeing matters as much as everyone else’s, and expecting me to devote my whole life to helping other people at enormous cost to myself is unreasonable. That’s what I mean about directing your efforts where it makes sense — the fact that you can’t help everyone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help out anyone when the cost to yourself is reasonable.
Then, what, exactly, is the disagreement? I argue that there’s no marginal benefit to the US in militarily stepping into the Sudan morasse, while you argue that we ought to direct our efforts where it makes sense for us to do so. Seems like, unless you see some potential positive outcome in Sudan that I don’t, we agree.

Perhaps you have a more altruistic view of foreign policy than I do, but we both seem to agree that increasing the size of the "core" is a US national security interest, so we arrive at the same place on that calculus.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I agree, we mostly end up in the same place. What I’ve been picking at here is the underlying premises of how we respectively get there. You seem to think that the wellbeing of people in the US takes priority, whereas I start from the premise that all people deserve equal moral consideration. Self-interest and benevolence tend to overlap quite a bit, which is why we agree so much, but from my POV the case for some sort of action on Sudan is much stronger.

As to what that should actually be, I lean much more toward Keith’s/Barnett’s position — get a credible permanent international peacekeeping presence there to keep them from killing eachother (which means the peacekeepers themselves won’t hesitate to kill if need be — these aren’t UN troops) and get as much pressure on Sudan’s government as possible to get its sh*t together and start acting like it has an obligation to the people. Make it clear that if it doesn’t, it’ll be deposed and hauled off to the Hague. But this would require some collaborative effort internationally, an area in which Bush has shown the least imagination. Better luck next President, I hope...
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
You seem to think that the wellbeing of people in the US takes priority, whereas I start from the premise that all people deserve equal moral consideration.
Yes, an individuals moral system — if consistent — would give equal fundamental consideration to everybody. But the US government is our agent — it acts in our interests, has obligations to us. Much like a company has a direct agent responsibility to its stockholders, a government has a primary concern for the security of its people. Indeed, a sole concern for the interests of its people — though that security may include tangential incidents like conditions in Sudan, etc.

I just don’t see how you can find an obligation to the people of Sudan within the US government.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon, I thought I already pointed out the circularity of this argument to you. If you want to say that the USG is an agent acting on behalf of its citizens, then fine — but then logically that means it’s supposed to do what the people want it to do, and if the people want to lend a hand in Sudan then it should do that. What the people ought to want the government to do is an entirely seperate argument.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
I think we both understand that government will do what it’s driving forces want it to do. Pontificating what a government should do and what it’s people should want is pretty much the same thing. Of course I’m arguing an "ought" here.

If you want to argue about what the government will do, we’ll turn to public choice, opinion polls, relative political power, etc. But I’m arguing that our national security and resources are not best cared for by intervening militarily in Sudan. At least, not according to the circumstances I can see. If things change, if some keen new plan comes up, or if my perception of the possibility of stability in Sudan is incorrect, my perception of the "ought" might change, too.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net

 
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