In my earlier post, I’m amazed that I didn’t get taken to the woodshed for saying “Bush has no ‘grand plan’ that he’s shared with us or our allies on how we deal with the real issues of the enemies of America and the West. We do, and here it is” (emphasis added) and not saying what the plan actually might have been…
So where’s the plan?
Calpundit (who I would choose in a heartbeat over Atrios as my liberal team’s Instapundit, in case anyone happened to ask) leads us to an article by John O’Sullivan in the NRO about appropriate standards for foreign military intervention, which seem like the core of a plan. Greg Wythe follows up with his own comments, and here I’ll add mine.O’Sullivan lists 6 basic principles:
# In foreign policy, prudence governs all and no principle is absolutely sacred.
# Humanitarianism is not enough. If the crisis has no effect on American interests, then we should be extremely reluctant to put American GIs in harm’s way in order to resolve it…
# National interest is needed to justify intervention … but national interest is not always self-evident…
# But be realistic, not optimistic, about the costs of intervention…
# Even so, where possible, have allies to share the burdens of intervention…
# As well a national interest to justify intervention, however, you also need a clear aim … which does not necessarily include an exit strategy…
bq. These principles would seem to require something more ambitious than a brief U.S.-led intervention in Liberia … something on the lines of an Anglo-French-U.S. condominium that, with the collaboration of West African states, would not only restore order in failing states there but also provide them with 30 years of good government in which civil society, an open free-market economy, and a tradition of democratic political restraint might develop and take root. In other words … liberal imperialism
I’ll suggest that these are somewhat limited, and don’t in themselves offer enough of a framework to make decisions, as well as offering enough weasel-phrases ‘… but national interest is not always self-evident…‘ to make it hard to determine whether a specific action fits or not.
Here is what I’ll set out as the initial draft of ‘The Armed Liberal Doctrine’, and intend as a framework to provoke some more discussion about all this and possible clarify my own murky thinking.
We have two hierarchies that determine our decision-making; one is threat, and the other possibility.
The threat hierarchy looks like this:
* A response to an attack on the American nation, our people, or our vital national interests
* An immediate threat to the American nation, our people, or our vital national interests
* An imminent threat…
* A likely threat…
* A possible threat…
At some point in between ‘Likely’ and ‘Imminent’ threat, our response changes from observation, through tacit intervention, to overt intervention. Note that all of these triggers are defensive in nature; i.e. we are responding to an overt threat of violence.
I’ll note that I specifically say ‘our people.’ I proudly carry a US passport, and I’ll suggest that we ought to make a habit of singling out and punishing people who harm Americans abroad and who otherwise might not be brought to justice. If other countries won’t protect our people as well as theirs, or won’t offer the same protections to our people, that’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
I’ll suggest an additional axiom to this basic hierarchy: political violence that threatens America is political violence, even if it is in a good cause. I won’t support – in any way – any cause that believes it can advance the interests of any group or the moral perfection of the world on the bodies of dead Americans.
The possibility hierarchy is harder to articulate (i.e. is not as well thought out) but is generally suggested by the notion that we have a hierarchy from chaotic failed states up through liberal (rule of law liberal) advanced states.
If intervention can keep a nation from slipping backward on that hierarchy (i.e. Yugoslavia) or stabilize it in moving upward (i.e. the UK intervention in Sierra Leone), it is likely to be a good thing.
The difference between the two hierarchies is that one is a hierarchy of national interest and the other a hierarchy of human interest…i.e. by definition transcending national interests. Clearly, there are intersections; there are connections between catastrophes of possibility and threats to our national well-being.
But it offers a useful dividing line between actions we should take alone, and those which we should take in concert with others.
Iraq was arguably undertaken to secure the US from further attack by radical Islamists – it did this, first, and foremost, by waking their financial and cultural sponsors up to the fact that attacking the U.S. is no longer something that can be done free of political/military consequences (as opposed to legal/individual ones), and by depriving them of a nation that certainly supported organizations with ties to Islamist terror (Hamas, etc.).
Now because we were arguably justified in invading by ourselves doesn’t make it a great idea. As we’re discovering, some help would be nice to have, and the burden – while not intolerable – would certainly be easier if shared.
Liberia is clearly a humanitarian intervention, and as such should be undertaken internationally. This doesn’t just mean under color of the UN, it means with troops from other nations riding alongside ours.
This is long enough. I’m not expert in large-scale military deployment, but there are some broader, citizen-level issues raised about the effects on the morale of the military and polity brought by the lack of a clear plan and the inability to connect goals with resources.
Over the weekend…good news only for tomorrow and Saturday.