Author: Chet Yarbrough
Idealism is a fine quality within the borders of one’s own country.
America should drive to be the best democracy in the world. However, idealism outside the borders of one’s own country leads to disaster, not peace or prosperity.
Barack Obama’s tenure as President of the United States made America a better country.
Because of idealism, Obama succeeded in improving race relations, medical treatment for millions of uninsured citizens, and return of some American’ international respect.
However, Obama’s success in international intervention is arguably less exemplary. That is true of many Presidents of the United States who fail to gain the explicit cooperation of other sovereign nations when intervening militarily in another country.
Our intervention in Libya had 4 U.N. abstentions for U.S. bombing of the country. After America’s intervention, Muammar Gaddafi is murdered by the Libyan people. This is not to say Gaddafi did not deserve his fate, but American intervention left Libya a failed state that remains failed 9 years later.
With the exception of WWI and WWII, America’s history of military intervention is abysmal. One must ask oneself–are Bosnia/Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or Korea better off today than before American intervention? Idealism is not exportable, whether it is America, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, or any other militarily powerful sovereignty.
Travelling to other countries reminds one of how complex other nations cultures and histories affect their domestic policies.
Every country has their own unique identity founded on their collective experience, and beliefs. For one country to presume they know what is best for another is hubristic.
Though people of the world may have similar ambitions and motivations, they are raised in countries that have their own cultural traditions, religions, legal systems, and histories. Even if all humans have a desire for money, power, and prestige; they are bound by their own country’s history and culture.
One might argue Khadafy, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hosni Mubarak, Xi, Putin, and Kim Jong-un either led or are leading the most repressive and authoritarian countries in the world. Their reigns are readily associated with imprisonment, torture, and murder. (Some would argue America has a history of the same transgressions.)
In America’s recent history, with the exception of H. W. Bush’s ejection of Hussein from Kuwait, American Presidents have improperly intervened in other countries’ sovereignty.
H.W. chose not to eliminate Hussein once America achieved its objective of removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia/Herzegovinian, George Bush’s intervention in Iraq, and Obama’s intervention in Libya are three examples of countries that remain in turmoil. America had little effect on meaningful change from American intervention in these countries.
Sovereign idealism is not exportable. Only national examples can be set for sovereign nations to show how their form of government is better than another’s. “Example” is the best one country can do for another. In the world of realpolitik military intervention, without overwhelming international cooperation, is a fool’s errand.
This is not to argue that international influence and political diplomacy should not be used to fight against false imprisonment, torture, rape, and murder but sovereign nations must be respected for their own choices. Only a sovereign nation’s citizens can make right or wrong decisions about their country’s leadership.
This is not to argue for isolation but to realize no nation has a right to invade another nation’s sovereignty. It is up to each nation to choose their own path.
Every sovereign nation has a right to condemn another through national example, economic sanction, economic support, or political persuasion. But, American military intervention in a sovereign country is an error of immense consequence. In the case of Iraq—American soldier’s deaths, injuries, and American dollars are wasted. The evidence of that waste is in the Iraqi government’s continued dysfunction.