When Not to Intervene

Monday, August 20, 2007

The past five years should have taught us that elective wars are likely to unleash a host of unintended consequences that should call into question the wisdom of such intervention in the first place. Most Americans have learned this lesson. Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan have not ["The Next Intervention," op-ed, Aug. 6].

Large-scale military intervention is often counterproductive to fighting terrorism. U.S. interventionism has prompted Iran and North Korea to accelerate their nuclear programs to deter attacks against their countries. Meanwhile, the estimated 2 million Iraqis who have fled the killings and sectarian bloodshed can legitimately question how the war has advanced the cause of human rights.

Most curious is Mr. Daalder and Mr. Kagan's advocacy of military intervention on behalf of "others whom we are obliged to protect." But they don't begin to explain from whence those obligations derive, much less why the supposed obligations benefit Americans.

When we act on the assumption that we are responsible for policing the planet, dangers have often been visited on the American people.

Not surprisingly, many Americans are looking for a credible candidate from either of the two major parties willing to make the case for less, rather than more, military intervention. Mr. Daalder and Mr. Kagan are satisfied with the interventionist status quo. The American public should not be.


Director of Foreign Policy Studies

Cato Institute


© 2007 The Washington Post Company