Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Worst Consequence of the Iraq Invasion?

The situation in Sudan is making me wonder again whether the worst consequence of the Invasion of Iraq will be that of making humanitarian intervention less likely now and in the future. It is, of course, not at all clear that we would intervene in the Sudan anyway, but intervention seems out of the question given how thinly-stretched our forces are now. That, sadly, seems to leave the unreliable Europeans as the only plausible candidates for the job.

My guess is that humanitarian intervention will be less likely in the future as well, regardless of who wins the election. Conservatives have usually been against intervention on purely humantarian grounds anyway, and, having re-cast the invasion of Iraq as a humanitarian war, they can now point to the difficulties there as further reason to avoid such intervention in the future. The left has recently made matters worse by frequently condemning the war on the grounds that Iraq did not attack us--an argument that seems to presuppose the illegitimacy of humanitarian interventions.

One might think that Kerry would offer us some hope on this score, but he has repeatedly said that he would only take us to war if he has to. That sounds on its face like the claim that he would only take us to war for defensive reasons. However he does sometimes include a list of conditions under which we might have to go to war, including "to defend our principles," which offers some hope.

But what I expect in the future is even more inaction against mass murder, inaction by the international community in general and the United States in particular.


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