Eunomia
April 10, 2011, 05:05 PM
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Daniel Larison of The American Conservative notes:
The arbitrariness of the Libyan intervention has been one of its defining features, but what hasn't been emphasized enough is its potential to subvert any and all norms governing relations between states. The principle of state sovereignty is something that could only be seen as a major problem by people who have enjoyed so many decades of general peace. Instead of being satisfied with the relative lack of international warfare, interventionists have to keep finding new reasons to initiate wars, and at some point this disrespect for other states' sovereignty may end up affecting allies more significant than Georgia. Believing that it is acceptable and even mandatory to attack another state on account of its internal conflicts is truly dangerous. It is a constant invitation for the U.S. to enter conflicts it has no reason to join, and it creates an opening for many other governments to exploit when it suits them. In practice, such interventions make it harder for small and weak states to preserve their territorial integrity, and it invites larger and stronger states to exploit their neighbors' weaknesses and divisions to their advantage.
I would add that the whimsicality of three of America's last four wars — Serbia, Iraq, and Libya — increases America's need to stay unquestionably #1 in the world militarily, at our vast expense. Our policy has been: We're #1, so we can start wars with other sovereign states as long as they are, at minimum, unpopular. In contrast, Switzerland's traditional policy — We won't attack you, but if you attack us, we will defeat you — doesn't require Switzerland to be #1, just strong enough to make invading Switzerland unprofitable for other countries. Moreover, the Swiss policy is generalizable like the Golden Rule: don't starts wars with other countries, and they shouldn't start wars with you. In contrast, post-Cold War America acts like it believes in the "Golden Rule:" he who has the gold, makes the rules. But are we always going to have the gold? After all these subsequent willy-nilly wars, the Kuwait War of 1991 now seems, in retrospect, a model of statesmanship. Saddam started the war by conquering Kuwait, and George H.W. Bush had reasons of principle (we don't like aggression across state lines) and pragmatism (we don't want fewer members of OPEC better cartelizing oil), and we were able to sign up three dozen other countries to accompany us. But, what happens when someday China is #1. We'll they draw their lessons from Old Bush or from Young Bush or Obama?