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Reasons for Intervention

September 28, 2014

Why do countries intervene in the affairs of other countries?  At the worst, intervening means finding a reason to attack a sovereign country.  It’s generally a compelling reason.  Often it’s completely false.  Often it’s arbitrary because the same reasoning could apply to many other countries.  Sometimes, it even requires an advertizing campaign to stir up public support for the intervention.  It doesn’t have to be a military attack, of course.  Economic interventions, such as sanctions or blockades, are weapons too and may be more effective than a military campaign.

What reasons have we seen reported?  Weapons of mass destruction is one.  We’ve heard that before, perhaps with slightly different wording.  The danger could be chemical and biological weapons, or nuclear weapons.  How about protection of foreign citizens?  This concept comes from a recent United Nations policy, one that has been widely misused as an excuse to intervene.  Then, of course, are  human rights abuses.  That one could certainly be arbitrary, because there are human rights abuses of various degrees in many countries.  What about a threat to the homeland, that is the country that is going to intervene?  This one plays on fears of the population.  Often the threat is doubtful or even non-existant.  The latest reason is just that this group must be stopped.  The country about to intervene is a force for good who are going to destroy the evil that has appeared in the world.  Sometimes they claim that the leader of the group is insane, and the members are deranged.  Not so long ago, they used to call them savages or unfeeling animals.  Sometimes they still do.

What’s behind all of this?  What are the real reasons?  Age-old and traditional reasons, of course.  I heard that the Roman empire conquered the known world in self-defense.  I heard that the European crusades against cities in the east were simply attempts to extend their territory.  It’s all happening again.

Commercial reasons are at the forefront.  We’ve had lots of examples of shutting down the competition lately.  Western nations are imposing economic sanctions against Russia.  Saudi Arabia is bombing ISIS oil refineries in Iraq.  There are also sanctions against Iran.  Isn’t Russia in the aircraft market?  How about Saudi Arabia and oil?  How about the US and nuclear power plants?  Of course, all of the countries that have intervened want to sell more military equipment.  I heard that cited as  one reason why France was so quick to drop bombs in Libya.  Many interventions are said to be all about oil.  Iraq and Libya are recent examples.  Maybe they really were all about oil.

Sometimes there are hidden motives.  Sometimes people have long memories of past wrongs.  Sometimes they want to make them pay.  Maybe these motives are behind the US blockade of Cuba and their sanctions imposed on Iran.  Sometimes the motives are quite clear, as in the western revulsion over the activities of ISIS.  It seems that everybody is against ISIS.  Attacking them is doubtless a popular move.

The case of economic sanctions is a curious one.  They seem to be used to obtain concessions or favourable treatment.  It’s a bit like saying “I’ll stop hitting you if you say that you like me”.  Nevertheless, it seems to be effective, at least in the examples of US sanctions against Iran or Israeli sanctions against the Palestinian territories.

The real reasons are often political.  Countries often want to build alliances.  For instance, the US wanted the Muslim Brotherhood to be suppressed in Egypt.  They got what they wanted with the new military government there.  Sometimes they want to enable a regime change in another country, usually by covert means.  The West wants al-Assad to step down in Syria.  The US wants a friendly regime in Cuba.  All sides seem to resent a country that tries to be independant of the power blocs.  Iran is an example here.  Of course, if a country leans in one direction, another power bloc will attempt to induce them to change.  Sometimes a political reason is simple, just an attempt to introduce their culture and ideology into another country.  That didn’t work well in Iraq, I understand.  The invading solders expected to be welcomed as liberators, but instead they were met with anger by the ordinary people.

Whatever a country does, it’s always in the self-interest of that country, even if they try to explain that they are intervening for the highest of reasons.  Follow the money trail to know the truth.  Above all, be skeptical.  If all of the news media are saying the same thing, be even more sketpical.


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