The Mix

Humanitarian hubris?

A response to Zachary …
I don't have time for a long post this morning, but I just have to pen a few sentences responding to Pascal Zachary's "Good Guys' Guide To Overthrowing Governments," an argument for progressive humanitarian intervention.

Zachary seems to be unfamiliar with the fifty years of progressive thinking on this difficult question, and has come up with a framework for intervention over a chat in Zimbabwe.

The result is that, like 99 percent of those who call themselves "liberal interventionists," he's advocating what amounts to progressive cover for imperial hubris.

Again, I'm limited by time, so let me point out the two truly fatal flaws in his argument. First, he suggests that it is the United States that should lead the way in intervening. By not even mentioning multilateralism, the implication is we should do it alone if need be. Under international law only the United Nations Security Council can authorize such an action, and for a host of very good reasons, not least of which is the temptation for powerful states to use humanitarian excuses to topple ideological opponents.

Second, and just as bad, he suggests an ad hoc approach on when to intervene, and he gives us some subjective criteria to guide us. There are some terrible governments that we need to endure, he says, and others that clearly need to go. This invites a domestic debate about each and every potential intervention. When the left wins the debate, Sudan's government will go, when the right wins, it'll be Hugo Chavez. This is a recipe for disaster.
Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.
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