A good point from Nadezhda

I always recommend reading chez Nadezhda for good writing and good insight. Here is a point that has certainly been made many times before, but it is ignored at least twice as often as it is made, so why not make it again:

"....the fact that intervening to halt genocide is easier to justify than interventions in other violent conflicts doesn't make it a "fundamentally different phenomenon" for other purposes. Putting a halt to the killing is only the beginning, not the end, of any intervention. Whether a conflict involves genocide or just terrible violence does not change the fact that those who intervene should have a pretty clear idea of what the desirable "end game" will be for neutralizing, if not permanently resolving, the conflict. There also must be a consensus on how to get to the "end game," the military and non-military resources required, and what impact the desired outcome would likely have on neighboring countries. Regardless of whether the methods used by one of the sides in a violent internal conflict is "genocide," those who intervene will have taken upon themselves the long-term responsibility for overseeing the hard political and practical challenges of peace-keeping and peace-making, reconstruction, and -- depending on the political outcomes -- reconciliation or separation of the conflicting groups."

Symbolic half measures and instrumental declarations of victory are poor substitutes, and are just as likely to prolong damage as anything else.


nadezhda said...

Welcome back! and thanks for the link. Yeah, it's down right tedious how we have to keep reminding ourselves of some basic principles. Somehow people from all parts of the political spectrum tend to think good intentions (theirs, of course) are enough. "Unintended consequences" isn't a good enough excuse when those consequences could have been, at least in part, anticipated. Ethical action involves responsibility, not just sympathy. Though I'm often accused of lack of the latter when I mention the former.

Eric Gordy said...

There is probably also a question of attention span involved here. Once governments get past the point of mobilising people for the grand moralistic gesture, what remains is long-term and unpopular practical work, without an obvious immediate payoff. It often seems pointless, and there is always an opening for charges of "imperialism." So there is a strong temptation to get out as quickly as possible with the work unfinished. The effects are obvious enough in the Balkans, and it also produces consequences like an Afghanistan returning to the opium economy and an Iraq rushing toward theocracy.