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> Other countries' civil wars, when should we get involved?
Jobius
post May 30 2006, 04:13 AM
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Sectarian violence in Iraq has killed thousands of civilians in recent months. Iraq is said to be in a civil war, or "on the verge" of a civil war. If it is a civil war, it could clearly get much worse.

In the former Yugoslavia, over 100,000 died before peacekeepers could put an end to the civil war between Serbs, Bosnians and Croats. It's likely peace wouldn't have come so soon, or at all, without the NATO bombing of Serbian forces.

In Rwanda a million were killed in a four-month period of civil war in 1994. In Congo-Kinshasa, 3.8 million people died in a civil war between 1998 and 2003. Even now a civil war in Sudan has killed hundreds of thousands.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein's war against Iraqi Kurds killed 182,000 according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, there were reports that up to 300,000 Iraqis had been killed by the regime, and buried in mass graves. (I don't think there's been much work to confirm this, given the security situation since the "end of major combat operations.")

When should the U.S. involve itself in another country's civil war?

What does that suggest for American policy in Iraq?
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Victoria Silverw...
post May 30 2006, 08:24 AM
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This is an extraordinarily difficult and heartbreaking problem. Human suffering and death goes on around the world on a scale which cannot be imagined. Often, there is very little which can be done. For example, the Second Congo War -- the deadliest war since World War Two -- was a horror on such a vast scale that it is difficult to imagine that any intervation by any outside power would have done anything but dragged that power into a gigantic conflict.

When the conflict is not quite so huge (with a pause to remember that that it is a very dangerous game indeeed to attempt to measure atrocities) it may be possible for outside forces to minimize the evils which are done. The war in Yugoslavia is an example where intervention was of benefit. The war in Rwanda is an example where intervention might have been of benefit.

The powerful nations of the world are more likely to intervene when their own interests are at stake. This is a fact which is unlikely to change. It also seems to be true that events in Africa are of less interest to these nations than events elsewhere.

The least of all evils would seem to be for the United States, and other powerful nations, to work together to combat atrocities when it is possible to do so without making the situation worse. It will not always be possible to tell when this might be. As flawed a tool as the United Nations might be, it is the best thing we have for this kind of international effort.

American policy in Iraq involves an even more complex situation than usual. If there had never been the attacks of 9/11, would there be any American military effort directed against the crimes of Saddam Hussein? The fact that the American invasion of Iraq is, in some way, justified as part of a war on terrorism, makes it somewhat different than an intervention into a civil war. (In fact, it could be argued that the invasion may cause a civil war.) In any case, now that the invasion is a fact, the United States has the responsibility to try to make sure that things do not get worse instead of better.
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Ted
post May 30 2006, 08:38 PM
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When should the U.S. involve itself in another country's civil war?

!. When it is in our strategic self interest to do so.
2. when we feel we have waited long enough for the UN and the international community to DO SOMETHING. We could have easily saved over ½ a million in Rwanda if we have just realized the UN never intender to do squat. The UN is a worthless organization in dealing with conflict. From Bosnia to Iraq they failed miserably.

What does that suggest for American policy in Iraq?

This was not a "civil war" issue.
We went in alone because we realized the UN would do the same (nothing) as they had in Bosnia etc. and we have strategic interests there. IMO we had little choice. We could have waited another year but the result would have been the same.
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psyclist
post May 30 2006, 10:04 PM
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QUOTE(Ted @ May 30 2006, 04:38 PM)
When should the U.S. involve itself in another country's civil war?

!. When it is in our strategic self interest to do so.



This ignores the fact that we can't see into the future. Heard of the term "Blowback"? At the time, it was (supposedly) in our strategic self interest to arm, train, and fund Osama Bin Laden against the Soviets. Guess that didn't turn out so well huh?

If the US is going to be the world leader that it claims it is, then it needs to do what is in the world's strategic interest and encourage other countries to do the same. That's what true leadership is.
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Jobius
post May 30 2006, 10:39 PM
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QUOTE(psyclist @ May 30 2006, 03:04 PM)
This ignores the fact that we can't see into the future.  Heard of the term "Blowback"?  At the time, it was (supposedly) in our strategic self interest to arm, train, and fund Osama Bin Laden against the Soviets.  Guess that didn't turn out so well huh?


This is one of my pet peeves. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone in the U.S. government armed, trained, funded, or had even heard of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet Afghan war. Nobody from the CIA, or from the Afghan Arabs fighting there at the time, has any recollection of any contact between bin Laden and any Americans. He may have received weapons funneled through the Pakistani ISI (they flowed pretty freely), but funding and training? No. Yet everybody repeats this story. I guess it's "too good to check."

QUOTE
If the US is going to be the world leader that it claims it is, then it needs to do what is in the world's strategic interest and encourage other countries to do the same.  That's what true leadership is.


I'm skeptical that the phrase "world's strategic interest" could have any meaning when we're talking about war. If the opposing sides didn't have competing interests, they wouldn't be at war.
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CruisingRam
post May 31 2006, 07:45 AM
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QUOTE(Jobius @ May 30 2006, 01:39 PM)
QUOTE(psyclist @ May 30 2006, 03:04 PM)
This ignores the fact that we can't see into the future.  Heard of the term "Blowback"?  At the time, it was (supposedly) in our strategic self interest to arm, train, and fund Osama Bin Laden against the Soviets.  Guess that didn't turn out so well huh?


This is one of my pet peeves. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone in the U.S. government armed, trained, funded, or had even heard of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet Afghan war. Nobody from the CIA, or from the Afghan Arabs fighting there at the time, has any recollection of any contact between bin Laden and any Americans. He may have received weapons funneled through the Pakistani ISI (they flowed pretty freely), but funding and training? No. Yet everybody repeats this story. I guess it's "too good to check."


*



That is because you put a complex spin on a simple explanation- OBL was muhadeen, which was funded by the CIA and the USA- no, OBL didn't have a CIA agent standing over him telling him what to do, but he was part of a force that worked for the CIA in an oblique way. NO, he wasn't directly trained by the CIA, YES- it could still be considered "blowback"
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Mrs. Pigpen
post May 31 2006, 01:07 PM
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When should the U.S. involve itself in another country's civil war?

This is a hard question. It also depends a lot on what you mean by "involve". Sanctions? Threats? Backing resistence movements? Employing force? How much force? Regime change, airstrikes, yadda yadda…I'll assume here that we are referring to actual force, or I'll be typing all day on this topic.

In almost any case involving the use of military force intervening in a foreign civil conflict, I would say the answer is DON'T become involved, but there are some exceptions. If it is in our interest to do so, and the consequences compelling enough we should become involved, or if the cost isn't too great and we can make a legitimate contribution we should get involved. I'm not sure I've ever seen the last criteria satisfied.

If we attempt to take no favorites and play referee (that was the initial intention in Lebanon and Somalia, for instance) we enrage everyone and become targets to everyone. But, once you pick a side you live with the consequences of that choice. There are no angels. The Mujahideen were not angels, but I do think we were right to support their fight against the Russians. There has seldom been so cut and dry a case of right and wrong (and it wasn't a civil war so it is offtopic anyway). It wasn’t the last time we backed the Mujahideen, either, incidentally….we did it again in our air campaign over Bosnia (which is on topic). Was that wrong too? Maybe.

It’s a matter of weighing the potential outcomes, many of which cannot be foreseen, so condemnations expecting precognition are ridiculous. "Hey! If we didn't fund warlord training and WWII era weapons (this was hardly high tech stuff), Osama wouldn’t have launched 911 twentysomething years later!" That logic is silly at best and dishonest at worst. There isn’ t anything close to that level of foresight available to us. Now, is it wrong to support “bad people” to fight a worse evil? We didn’t think so during World War II, was that wrong too? It certainly led to consequences...But again, what were the choices in that case?

There will always be unforeseen consequences to each and every action, but people seem to forget in these sorts of discussions that INACTION yields consequences, too. If you choose to do nothing, you still have made a choice. The difference is the press will follow the military action so we read about atrocities and mistakes, but in the situations where we do nothing the consequences lead to a small footnote of condemnation in an Amnesty International report and are quickly and easily forgotten, no matter how dire.

Now, let’s look at some civil interventions to gauge which ones were correct. Starting with Rwanda to juxtapose. We did nothing, hundreds of thousands were slaughtered in just a few days. Compare that with Somalia…we did something, but effectively armed warlords and escalated the violence. The place is as bad as ever now. In Lebanon our forces became everyone’s target (I think even the Israelis hit us there). Haiti…just a mess, as bad as ever from what I’ve read, though I am certainly not an expert.

Bosnia and Kosovo, air campaign which could have led to World war III, IMO, when NATO forces were met by Russian military forces at Pristina airport. It was a dangerous gamble but in retrospect probably worth the price because it didn't escalate. Of course it isn’t exactly over yet over there so I have to reserve judgement. I was against the action at that time. There was no UN mandate for the action (the Russians would have vetoed it), and no Congressional approval for that matter.

What does that suggest for American policy in Iraq?

Iraq mirrors Bosnia, IMO, with the absence of as much international backing. We have an obligation in Iraq because of our history there. I would argue that the rest of the world has an obligation, too, for backing sanctions and military action in the past. We have little choice now.

This post has been edited by Mrs. Pigpen: May 31 2006, 06:17 PM
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lordhelmet
post May 31 2006, 01:58 PM
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QUOTE(Jobius @ May 30 2006, 12:13 AM)



When should the U.S. involve itself in another country's civil war?

What does that suggest for American policy in Iraq?
*



1. When US national interests are at stake. Our national interests weren't at stake in either Somalia nor in Haiti yet two of our previous presidents inserted our troops there in order to (1) feed a people staved due to military starvation during a civil war and (2) install what turned out to be a very corrupt leader. Our national interests weren't in play in Kosovo either. Neither were they in Rawanda and Sudan. Yet, the previous administration bowed to press pressure in one case but not in the latter... possibly because the press itself feared venturing to the most vicious areas of Africa and therefore could not force our previous poll-and-image-driven president into action via their media drumbeat.

However, our national interests are very much part of the middle east whether we like it or not. And that includes Iraq, Iran, Israel, and the rest.

2. I'm not sure I understand your question. Our policy in Iraq (regime change) was decided during the Clinton administration and implemented during the Bush administration after a bi-partisan congressional authorization vote. Leaders of Both parties, including John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Joseph Lieberman, and Joseph Biden all voted YES to authorize President Bush to use "whatever force was necessary" to disarm Saddam Hussein. It was viewed by BOTH PARTIES in our nation's interest not to allow Iraq, given their historical close ties with terrorist organizations, their defiance of the gulf war cease fire provisions (and UN resolutions), and their attempted assassination of a former US president, to be allowed to continue along their current path. 3 years ago there was wide agreement on this point.

Democrat quotes on Iraq WMD's

Even a former democrat presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark (who has, along with a flock of other democrats flip-flopped on this issue when the going has gotten tough) testified UNDER OATH that Iraq was a serious threat that would continue to be a serious problem to our national interests unless it was dealt with.

Gen. Clark testimony before House

The General's quote:

QUOTE
But it was a signal warning about Saddam Hussein: he is not only malevolent and violent, but also unpredictable.  He retains his chemical and biological warfare capabilities and is actively pursuing nuclear capabilities.  Were he to acquire such capabilities, we and our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks.  Saddam might use such weapons as a deterrent while launching attacks against Israel or his neighbors, he might threaten American forces in the region, he might strike directly against Israel, or Israel, weighing the possibilities of nuclear blackmail or aggression, might feel compelled to strike Iraq first.


The problem with Iraq was not an issue of some other country's "civil war". It was, and is, a matter of US national security.

We will not enhance our national security if we cut and run ala Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, and Sheehan. We will only encourage the Islamist fascists to step up their fight against our nation, our freedoms, and our long-term security.
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Jobius
post May 31 2006, 09:59 PM
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When should the U.S. involve itself in another country's civil war?

What does that suggest for American policy in Iraq?

Someone once suggested three rules for getting involved in another country's civil war:

1. Never get involved in another country's civil war.
2. If for some reason you decide to ignore rule number 1, pick a side.
3. Make sure your side wins.

That's kind of simplistic, of course. I like Mrs. Pigpen's analysis of some of the civil wars where America has intervened, and not intervened, in the past. I think it's in our national interest to avoid seeing Iraq descend further into a civil war -- for humanitarian reasons, for the stability of the region, and not incidentally because it's the second-largest oil producing country in the world.

I would like to avoid having this topic turn into yet another argument about the initial decision to invade Iraq. Iraq was not in a state of civil war in early 2003, I think we can agree on that. Today, I think it's very likely that an abrupt withdrawal of American troops would be immediately followed by a very bloody civil war. Call it "blowback" if you will, but that's the reality we face.
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