Posted by: bklunk | June 14, 2007

If You Really Want to Help

Here is an interesting plea for MORE military intervention in the Global South. If rich countries are to take the “Responsibility to Protect” seriously, they may have to consider argument’s like Kristof’s.  Better find some more puppies.

Africa’s World War – New York Times

One essential kind of help that the West can provide — but one that is rarely talked about — is Western military assistance in squashing rebellions, genocides and civil wars, or in protecting good governments from insurrections. The average civil war costs $64 billion, yet could often be suppressed in its early stages for very modest sums. The British military intervention in Sierra Leone easily ended a savage war and was enthusiastically welcomed by local people — and, as a financial investment, achieved benefits worth 30 times the cost.

Josh Ruxin, a Columbia University public health expert living in Rwanda, notes that a modest Western force could have stopped the genocide in 1994 — or, afterward, rooted out Hutu extremists who fled to Congo and dragged that country into a civil war that has cost millions of lives.

“Had an international force come in and rounded them up, that would have been the biggest life-saving measure in modern history,” he said.

So it’s time for the G-8 countries to conceive of foreign aid more broadly — not just to build hospitals and schools, but also to work with the African Union to provide security in areas that have been ravaged by rebellion and war. A starting point would be a serious effort to confront genocide in Darfur — and at least an international force to prop up Chad and Central African Republic, rather than allow Africa to tumble into its second world war.

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  1. I think the author’s point would be valid if we lived in a perfect world. However, we do not. States are not going to act every time there is a civil war, genocide, etc. This is due to many reasons. First, third-party military intervention may make the conflict worse. This is because third-party military intervention may cause an internal war to become international. In addition, military intervention may build support for those committing terrible acts domestically because the citizens of the state may oppose foreign intervention and may see it as the West pursuing imperialistic policies. Secondly, according to the realist theory, states are self interested and only pursue foreign policy decisions that enhance there security. If a state’s security is not threatened by a civil war, genocide, etc, then that state will not act to end it because it will be a waste of their resources. Thirdly, there is often tremendous backlash, both domestically and internationally, to military intervention. For example, take the Battle of Mogadishu (1993). Clinton pursued military intervention in Somalia, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. The Clinton administration was quickly criticized and many American citizens felt that the U.S. should not concern itself in the affairs of Third World countries. This is one of the reasons why the U.S. was reluctant to pursue military intervention in Rwanda.

    In summation, I do not see in the immediate future that the G-8 states will use military intervention in Africa, especially when its not in each states national self interest to do so.

  2. I see Antohony’s point and I do agree, to a certain extent. The U.S. certainly rushed to the aid of Kuwait when it was taken over by Iraq… and we are also very dependent on their oil exports- I think this is more than just a coincidence. I know that states are more likely to intervene in paces where their interests are being threatened so from a realist perspective, there really is not a reason for the United States or Great Britain or anyone else to have intervened in Rwanda, nor is there a reason for them to intervene in Sudan now.
    However, I think that times have changed since Rwanda. Perhaps I am overestimating my fellow citizens, but I think that since films like “Hotel Rwanda” have come out and exposed the horrors of genocide to the masses, people would be more receptive to the idea of intervention. Furthermore, I think that in a way we do have some sort of moral responsibility to help those who clearly can’t help themselves. In terms of resources, the $64 billion mentioned in the article is a small amount in comparison to what we have to spend. And if the President explained it correctly, I don’t think the people of America could get that upset if they were truly aware of what is going on in some corners of the world. There is a lot to be said for how you present your information, and I think that while we cannot be everywhere all the time, we also cannot turn our back to everyone who needs out help. Call me idealistic, but I agree with the article. Lets end the violence before everyone is in such desperate need for those hospitals we keep building.

  3. Military aid in Africa is a complicated issue. On one hand it could help save millions of lives, on the other is creates an increasing dependency on foreigners. Sure we would love it if everyone rushed to the side of countries in need maybe violent conflicts would not erupt. However, as Anthony said, people usually do not come to one another’s aid without good reason. Foreign aid would also perpetuate the Dependency theory. Not only would countries in the periphery depend on the core’s manufactured goods and technology, now they must depend on the core’s military too! This could lead to perpetual poverty for those countries. I’d like to see the kind of comradeship that allows countries to rely on each other, militarily and economically, but if everyone is self-interested then that is no likely.

  4. My question is this, since the Iraq War everyone has stated how the U.S is not the world power it once was, and most even say that the U.S has abused its power as the world policeman. Going off this international sentiment, why should the U.S continue to stick its neck out for foreign countries?
    It becomes the paradox that we see in Iraq right now, Iraqi citizens jeer the American troops because of the violence in their country but when a suicide bomber hits the marketplace they cry out for the American troops to help.
    Call it an overly conservative point of view, but concerning this Western nation, I don’t think it’s in our country’s best interest to jump to the rescue when someone blows the whistle on African genocide. If we have truly become the most hated country on the planet, then don’t ask us for help. I don’t want to send our troops off to die for an ungrateful foreign country. Simply put you can’t have it both ways.

  5. One correction and a quibble: correction: the US intervention in Somalia began under the first President Bush; quibble: I don’t believe Kristoff is proposing that the US be the sole or primary humanitarian intervenor.

    Otherwise, the comments show a good appreciation for how complicated these situations are. Yet, how do we sit back and watch a situation like Rwanda in 1994 unfold?

  6. Like Anna, I also agree with the article… to an extent. I like the fact that he’s trying to be an economist and looking at the situation now vis a vis how much it would cost later. However, this is both the blessing and the curse of his arguement. For one, it is a fresh way to look at things. What if civil wars in certain countries boil over into other countries, and before you know it, it’s an international crisis, the UN is involved and the US has to make a few costly decisions, not only for its political “face” and possible security (a failed government is a haven for terror networks), but also for economic benefits it poses to lose.

    On the other hand, when one looks at these crises in a “do it now before it gets worse” kind of way, it becomes the most preemptive of preemptive strikes. A preemptive strike is like a shootout. You draw and fire while he reaches for his holster. But this method is basically what Klunk was calling a preventive strike, which is like shooting your adversary while he is on the way to the gun store.

    I do not agree that peacekeeping in Africa is exactly like the Iraq war, (which has really never been about aiding Iraq), but I do agree with Phil that there will be whiners from the global south (the El Fisgon types) that will say this is more neocolonialism, if the western powers (not just the US) intervene.

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