Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Neoconservative Foreign Policy

Another opinion piece.
The biggest problem I have with it is not an ideological one, it's an executional one. Where do we choose to get involved, or not? How do we do it? Iraq and Afghanistan have cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and Afghanistan will require a great deal more for success.
So yes, I do think the US needs to stand up for itself and for human rights, and no, I don't think negotiation with Iran or North Korea can work unless there's a major threat of consequences, which leftist foreign policy seems to ignore. But far right, interventionist foreign policy has quite clearly demonstrated its troubles - it reduces international support for our operations, spurs opposition and logistically fails.
So how can we intervene without hurting civilians in the country, and without a protracted invasion? The US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq spared civilians and remain quite popular in those countries, but have been logistical nightmares back home (By my estimate, every single person in the US's annual salary would be 1.5%-2% higher if the wars hadn't taken place and instead had come in the form of tax cuts... and that doesn't even count any supply-side economic impact). The Israeli operation in Gaza avoided a protracted invasion and stifled the rocket threat, but seemed to spawn civilian and international resentment that may undermine the long-term prospects for peace.
Short of fomenting and arming a civilian revolution against governments, or assassinating leaders, both of which are against international law (worth less than it used to be because of a mockery of a UN, but it still matters in both an IR and a moral standpoint), how can an injust and destabilizing government get upended without crushing civilians in the country? Because it seems to me that right-wing foreign policy tends to say "it's better to stop that government, and civilian impact is unavoidable but do your best to stop it" and left-wing foreign policy says "civilian impact is unacceptable, and if that means not stopping an injust or dangerous government, so be it". Both of those options suck. In the long term, it probably splits down the middle (in Cuba, the left-wing approach probably was better, while in Sudan the right-wing approach would almost certainly have been an improvement. The right wing approach has ensured Israel's continued survival but if peace is possible, elements of the left-wing may need to enter to provide it).
What else is there?

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