The End of Intervention?

I liked former Secretary of State Madeline Albright's essay on today's New York Times op-ed page, because it captures the dilemma at the heart of American foreign policy today. On the one hand, both our interests and our ideals compel us towards action. But on the other, we stagger forward with the hangover of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts that have justifiably left us gun-shy about future interventions, no matter how well justified. Albright -- a liberal hawk who championed the successful interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo -- lays out this debate in a very thoughtful way.

The next president -- whether Obama or McCain -- will have to do more than right the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. He must also decide what to do in places like Darfur, Burma and countries unknown, where both our ideals and interests will beg us to act. Other questions relate to this one, such as the role of international institutions and America's policy on respecting national sovereignty. But the crucial question for our next commander-in-chief will be whether, why and how he employs American power abroad.

By Phillip Carter |  June 11, 2008; 7:45 PM ET  | Category:  Emerging Conflicts
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"But the crucial question for our next commander-in-chief will be whether, why and how he employs American power abroad."


How you frame it says it all unfortunately. The world does not need another power projector - it is a failed concept of declining relevancy. It needs statesmen - men or women who can create the coalition for diplomacy and provide a reasoned leadership for organized efforts against the totalitarians and murderous despots. That capability has been purged from the Republican party with the rise of the moral majority and other forms of populist and neocon tripe starting with the Atwater presidency. I am afraid the current candidate is no exception.

Madeline has framed the issue well - common defense and persistence among principled nations.

As the rightful heir to the legacy of the last Kaiser leaves Washington in January, we should put our glass jaws away with the looking glass reflection of commander in chief and get on with the mission of statecraft in the 21st Century.

Posted by: Bill Keller | June 11, 2008 9:56 PM

Kosovo? Successful? Didn't the bombing campaign lead to Milosevic escalating his ethnic cleansing campaign?

Posted by: Cody | June 11, 2008 10:06 PM

I do not think I can add much to what Bill Keller has stated. Bravo Bill!

Posted by: ghostcommander | June 12, 2008 12:44 AM

I'm just curious how effective "soft power" can be with rulers who have proven abilities to lie, deceive and stall with straight faces.

Saddam Hussein set a precedent under Mrs. Albright and soft power without the real threat of consequences is likely to be useless on tyrants, IMHO.

Posted by: Scooter | June 12, 2008 8:11 AM

Ya well, all I have to say about it is this:

It's mistaken to think there are any profound policy questions here. George Bush and his administration are not only disgraceful war criminals, they are demented fools who lie about everything and operate in a delusional world of make-believe. The current US government is effectively brain-dead for all practical purposes, and as long as the Republicans are in charge, that won't change -- the entire party has degenerated into a criminal organization in the same sense that the Nazis and Soviets were criminal organizations.

And it's time to get real about it folks. The only thing we need to do in Iraq is GET OUT just as fast as we can. Afghanistan is a little more complicated, but not much. Our efforts in both countries to date have simply not been worth the cost -- not even close.

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 12, 2008 11:26 AM


Come on, we all know that is not "all" you have to say about this. I know you got more.

But for one moment, let's turn the page. Bush and his buddies are out, we have a new President in the White House. Back to the point of this posting, what should our foreign policy be? Should we go back to the days of being faux isolationists, pretending publically to avoid foreign intervention while our troops and interests were fought all throughout the world (Tripoli, Philippines, etc), or should we continue a policy of World Police?

Let's be honest with ourselves. The U.S. has never been non-interventionists. I think Phil's question of "whether" U.S. power should be used is an important argument, but it should be asked under the context of this: Are we ready and willing to change 200 plus years of intervention? Are we willing to accept the promises and actions (or inactions) of other nations in hope that these other nations will do what is best for our national interests?

Once the question of "whether" is answered, and we are all satisfied with the conclusion, we should the go on to ask when, where, what type and how much.

Posted by: bg | June 12, 2008 12:29 PM

Gittings...back to the sauce dude. Get a few months worth of catatonia and wake up to a new day. As for the same tired rant...get over yourself...the cool-aid has made you a bore.

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 12, 2008 4:34 PM

>>>will have to do more than right the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is, of course, an opinion that the courses in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be righted. Things are going pretty good in Iraq now. Afghanistan is an unknown...mostly because you don't hear much about it...which is telling don't you think? If there were sensational things to report, then wouldn't the sensationalist press report them? I'm all for bringing our kids home...but not until there is a logical and peaceful transition to Iraqi sovereignty. It seems like that is the present trend. It would be stupid to just pack up and leave when we're this close to leaving Iraq better than we found it.

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 12, 2008 4:45 PM

Charles Gittings wins it, and gets extra points for not hiding behind a screen name. He's exactly on target.

Posted by: Neil Elliott | June 12, 2008 6:49 PM


Charlie is a long time poster on Intel Dump, who has take a Sabbatical of late. He has always used his own handle.

Posted by: Eduardo, El Galgo Rebelde | June 13, 2008 12:36 AM

wins what?

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 13, 2008 9:43 AM

Albright: "... what we need to listen to is the voice -- and cry -- of the Burmese people."


Is this the same Madeline Albright who responded to 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl's question about "a half million children have died in Iraq" (a likely inflated early figure associated with UN sanctions) with "we think the price is worth it"?

As a liberal and a fan of Civil Affairs, Albright speaks about an important issue to me. But it irks me whenever Clinton people whitewash their record on Iraq by going to extremes to blame the Bush people, as though what happened in Iraq under President Clinton had nothing to do with what followed, rather than everything to do with it.

Posted by: Eric Chen | June 15, 2008 7:06 PM

I forgot to add: on the issue of humanitarian interventions under Clinton, one of the guaranteed ways to get me angry is to show the video of President Clinton's 'sorry, we didn't know and won't let it happen again' speech in Rwanda after the genocide petered out.

In my Intro to IR class, our professor used the speech video (apolitically) and Rwanda example to frame the question of intervention. So, for Madeline Abright to suggest that some kind of glowing standard for humanitarian intervention was set under Clinton, then subsequently squandered by Bush, shows gall, indeed.

Posted by: Eric Chen | June 15, 2008 7:24 PM

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