United States military interventions are usually framed in humanitarian rhetoric. The typical argument is that military intervention is essential to prevent an impending genocide.
This genocide argument is not totally false. Often an endangered population does exist. Nevertheless, a longer view of history and a broader conception of human welfare advise against United States military intervention, even when confronted with an apparent threat of genocide.
President Obama has used humanitarian rhetoric to justify the most recent intervention in Iraq. According to Obama, we must intervene in Iraq once again to forestall a slaughter of Yazidis by the brutal ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) regime. Given below are eight reasons why I oppose all United States military interventions, including the current military intervention in Iraq.
1. Military intervention is a terribly blunt instrument, often killing as many or more people than it is (supposedly) designed to protect.
2. Military intervention does not solve the underlying social and political problems that led to the genocide threat in the first place. Indeed, intervention often exacerbates these problems causing even larger and more destructive calamities in the future.
3. The facts surrounding the purported genocide threat are often seriously distorted by partisan ideologies. These ideologies sometimes magnify the genocide danger, demonize the enemy, emphasize fear rather than objective reality, and obscure other serious perils. For example, the justifications for the current military intervention exaggerate the number of Yazidis threatened and magnify the strength of ISIS,
4. Limited military intervention is a slippery slope often leading to extensive or even total military engagement. Such engagement can wreck the entire society causing far more harm than the original situation. The histories of Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Iraq are gruesome cases in point.
5. Real political stability requires something like a balance of internal social forces. While oppressive stability is surely a bad thing, prolonged instability usually entails terrible hardship and violence. Military intervention disrupts the internal balance of forces and frequently leads to long intervals of chaos, destruction and killing.
6. Our government's concern about genocide is highly inconsistent. Some genocides are deemed intolerable while others are ignored or even justified. It is striking that the Obama administration feels obliged to forestall a purported genocide of Yazidis, but has actually facilitated Israel's ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.
7. Our own country's obsessive thrust for global imperial domination is one of the greatest dangers confronting humanity. This thrust, if unchecked, will generate numerous regional wars and, very possibly, a global nuclear catastrophe. Our overriding political purpose should be combating U.S. imperialism and therefore opposing all American military interventions.
8. Long-term effective protection against genocide requires establishing a democratically controlled international authority that protects endangered human communities everywhere. A structurally transformed and democratized United Nations could be such an authority. Military interventions by the U.S. or other national powers weaken the United Nations and thereby undermine durable and universal protection against genocide.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.