The Threat of Violence… Justified Politics or Meddling?

I was perusing the news today while on a dinner break at work and stumbled upon this article about how India was poised to attack Pakistan over the recent terror attacks in Mumbai. I will link to it below. Apparently the US and Britain talked them off the ledge. But that got me thinking about the discussions that we have had on this blog about the United States constantly being involved in the affairs of other nations. Furthermore I was wondering how we can define the line that our country should not be allowed to cross….

So we have all heard the ramblings of the extremist muslims who hate that the US gets their hands into the affairs of the Middle East, and the rest of the world for that matter. All the anti-war folks are usually quick to point out the multitude of incidents where the US has put their nose where it doesn’t belong. Ron Paul, famous for his strict policy of nonintervention, has made clear that there should be no time when US troops are deployed to enforce US will.

But what I don’t hear much of is all of the things that the US does right with its foreign policy. Do we simply live in a country where we cannot acknowledge that deep down, however misguided, most of the time we are a country that tries to do the right thing. I understand that we also sometimes do not try to do the right thing. But you can bet we hear about that stuff all the time.

In the instance mentioned above we stopped two Nuclear powers from having a backyard brawl that may have erupted into World War III. Was it any of our business? Yes and No. No because if India and Pakistan want to blow themselves up what do we care? Yes because an escalation of tensions between two nuclear powers is bad for everyone. And this is not the first time we have stopped the fight rather than starting it.

How many times have we stopped Israel from unleashing on the middle eastern neighbors who constantly threaten and harass them? 30? 40? more? How about North Korea, who in desperation would love to roll south and re-join the peninsula? I could come up with literally dozens and dozens of instances such as these where the US has been the instrument for peace rather than war.

But we also find that the line starts to get muddled. In Bosnia, we saw genocide and stepped in to act militarily. In Panama and Grenada we stopped tyranny by flexing military muscle. In Somalia, we acted militarily to stop local warlords from stealing UN food shipments. In the Iraq/Iran war we provided military weaponry. You see where I am going here…. we don’t seem to know where to draw the line between helping the world and making it worse. In most of these instances we started out with a noble premise, only to overstep our bounds.

Let’s take, for example, Somalia. Corrupt warlords were stealing the food that the world sent to a starving nation. We sent the military to protect the food. Protection eventually became initiation of force when we began seeking out and capturing the warlords responsible. It was the only way we could see for the military to leave, eliminate the problem so the people could feed themselves after we leave. And it culminated in a giant battle on October 3, 1993 that was chaos epitomized. See our intention was good. And to all those who say we only fight for our benefit, I submit to you that there is nothing in Somalia that we were after. So where did we go wrong?

So there is the quandary. I do believe that the United States is right to intervene politically in order to broker peace. But we cannot be blind to the fact that we broker peace so well because we conduct war so well. When my dad said “knock it off you two” I knew implicitly that he meant “or I am going to come in and whip both of you”. So that threat of violence makes us a very powerful negotiator in world affairs. I am OK with our wielding that power. No country on earth attacks us because of the might we wield.

But where do we draw the line? Do we never, ever initiate violence? Do we ask Bosnia to stop the Genocide please and that is the extent of our involvement? When they tell us to go to hell, do we say “OK”, and then ignore what is happening, knowing we have the power to stop innocents from being wiped out?

Take the Somalia example. Many of you are thinking we went wrong when we started the initiating violence part of capturing warlords. But to simply not take that step would have meant literally having five times the number of troops there to ensure convoys weren’t attacked. And it would have meant that we had to stay there doing that job for eternity, because the warlords weren’t going to go away on their own. Others will say we should not have sent troops in the first place to guard food convoys, but that means we are choosing to let the people starve at the hands of the warlords.

So this is what I want to discuss with all of you. Where do we draw the line? Do we say that anything outside of our borders is not our right to physically intervene in? Do we set strict rules for when we can and cannot physically intervene? Or do we recognize our powerful position and attempt to use it in any way possible to make the world a better place? What should be our role in the world? And before you say none think about some of the things that can happen in the world if they aren’t nipped in the bud early. India and Pakistan starting World War III is just one example of how things can spin out of control and affect us directly.

So what say you all? Tell me my new foreign policy position. And be rational!


  1. And before I forget to add it down here, this is the link to the article that I was reading about India being ready to attack Pakistan,2933,463126,00.html

  2. Walkndude,

    I am struggling to understand what you are saying here dude.

  3. Nothing is ever as easy as get involved, or don’t get involved. My question goes further…why are we the policeman of the world? We have taken it on ourselves to decide what is right and what is not. Genocide and Nuclear war are never the way to go. But realistically, we base our decisions on hidden agendas, not always known to the public.

  4. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.– C. S. Lewis

    If you wish to become a mercenary and go to other lands to fight for freedom and justice, go right ahead. It is simply that government has no place doing so. You can’t “do good” through wrong.

  5. But that is my point Kent. We were doing good through right, not wrong. Somewhere along the way we crossed over into what you term as bad. But was there wrong in a bunch of troops simply trying to ensure food got to starving people? We weren’t trying to impose Democracy or change their thoughts. We were just trying to make sure they got fed.

  6. Jen,

    That is an interesting comment. “We have taken it upon ourselves to decide what is right and what is not”. There is some validity there. Perhaps it isn’t for the US to decide if genocide on the other side of the world is right or wrong. It isn’t our country and therefore, I guess, isn’t our business. I am willing to hear that argument. And I say that knowing that you don’t want to see genocide happening to anyone, but for the sake of argument, do we have the right to intervene in that situation?

  7. SpittinBob says:

    Let the rest of the world burn. maybe if we get ourselves to caring only about ourselves we can get things fixed in this country. if isreal wants to blow up iran let them. if the somalia people don’t raise up against the warlords, then they starve and the warlords have nothing left to lord over. if north korea takes over south korea we won’t have to keep soldiers there any more. why are we forced to care and forced to act? the rest of the world seems content to sit on their ass and do nothing and nobody seems to hate them the way they hate us.

  8. By using tax money, which is taken by threat of force from its rightful owners (I call this “theft”; you do not), you are trying to “do good” using bad methods. If you are mugged, but the mugger promises to buy food for homeless children with a percentage of your money, is he Santa Claus?

    It was only a matter of time until those who think it was OK do do what they were doing (which you call “good”) let their morals slide a little further into even more wrong actions (which you acknowledge are bad). It is inevitable.

  9. No the mugger is not Santa. The mugger is someone who is breaking the law. A group of soldiers guarding against the theft of food destined for starving people are not breaking the law. The comparison doesn’t fit, although that might have worked against a lesser opponent, lol.

  10. Spittin Bob,

    Two posts and quite a bit of angst I see. Perhaps you are fine with that train of thought but others may not be. A little quote for ya:

    With Great Power comes great responsibility.

    Where that responsibility stops and tyranny begin is certainly a good question, but there are many people that feel that as one of the world’s biggest powers and a wealth of resources, we should be helping our fellow man. And yes, should you actually do a little research, you will find that many countries in the world are hated. Have you not noticed that terror attacks are happening all over the world?

    That was an extremely well thought out post though…… not

  11. The “law” is the rule established by the government. It is not based upon any real morality; only upon the false belief in the legitimacy of certain actions that would be wrong for freelancers, but not for members of this particular gang.

    There is no moral difference between a government stealing money in accordance with the rules it established, and a mugger stealing money in accordance with the rules he established. The actions do not differ, except that you can shoot the mugger and not face extermination by his cohorts to the cheers of throngs of his fans.

  12. Yes I understand your position on the law. But that still doesn’t answer the fact that soldiers guarding food are not doing something evil or unlawful or immoral. We aren’t discussing the government’s right to tax you, we already know your position on that. We are talking about the current social issue of our troops being used in a good way and then crossing a line somewhere to a bad way.

    And that isn’t to say that I don’t see how you thread it all together. I do. I disagree, as you know, but i see the thread. We cannot get anything accomplished if on every single question asked, the answer just goes back to anything the government does is wrong because they can’t do anything without taxes which are theft. I know you feel that way, but I want to find where we can move forward. I accept that you feel that way. Now what about those soldiers feeding people? Forget how they are paid for, were they wrong in what they were doing? Was the government wrong for using them in that way? At what point did their actions switch from right to wrong, or were they never right at all at any point?

  13. Yes, the government is wrong for using them in that way. Even using your own standard: It is “illegal” according to the Constitution. If they were not there in the first place, their “mission” couldn’t be drifting off into doing wrong.

    So, lets pretend for a moment that the military is paid for by private voluntary contributions from its supporters. Isn’t their job to “protect the country”? If a foreign army suddenly attacks across the Canadian “border”, those troops off feeding people will not be available to do their job. They may be able to get here soon, but they failed to protect those “citizens” who died before they could get here. To the dead, the failure is absolute.

    Who decided this is the military’s “job”? Form a charity to feed hungry people across the world, and finance it privately, if this is what you feel should be done.

    A more permanent solution would be to arm those starving people while you feed them, and teach them safe weapon handling, while encouraging them to kill their oppressors, and take care of themselves. ONLY if privately financed, of course. If you don’t educate them as to the evils of government and the superiority of liberty, they will continually fall into the same pattern. But you must give them the choice to accept or reject your advice. “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day; teach him to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime (and he will pass the knowledge on to his children)”.

    It is important to remember that “we” can’t fix everything everywhere. While it is noble to try to help where you can, it helps no one to spread your resources too thin, and certainly is counterproductive to set up a situation where there is a temptation to feel superior. Look how many former US charity cases go on to become “America’s enemy”.

  14. Some good points Kent. I suppose that I can get behind the idea of having this done privately. But a private “army” probably wouldn’t have the resources to do what the US military can do. That is irrelevant to the discussion though, so I won’t get into it.

    We consider ourselves a moral country and as one of the strongest in the world, we are expected to do things to protect those in the world that cannot protect themselves. Is this correct? I am not the one to say. But do we have no moral obligation to step in a stop a problem when we see it. If that hypothetical mugger is doing his thing, and Superman were watching, wouldn’t we expect him to do something? I guess the point I am getting at is that it is hard to do nothing in the face of evil when you are looked upon as the strongest force in the world. I don’t know whether it is right that the world expects that of us or not. But I know that my moral conscience says we should help where we can.

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