Perpetual War

I think readers on both sides of the political divide will find this article fascinating. I know I did.

The United States has found itself in a seemingly endless series of wars over the past two decades. Despite frequent opposition by the party not controlling the presidency and often that of the American public, the foreign policy elite operates on a consensus that routinely leads to the use of military power to solve international crises.

Neoconservatives of both parties urge war to spread American ideals, seeing it as the duty of a great nation. Liberal interventionists see individuals, not states, as the key global actor and have deemed a Responsibility to Protect those in danger from their own governments, particularly when an international consensus to intervene can be forged. Traditional Realists, meanwhile, initially reject most interventions but are frequently drawn in by arguments that the national interest will be put at risk if the situation spirals out of control.

While reading it, I realized that both sides have their own reasons for going to war or intervening around the world. Since the internet, we now get a real sense of what people are going through in other countries. I know I have been riveted on twitter to tweets from Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya.

Realist arguments about national interests, unknown risks, and post-conflict reconstruction have proven far less able to sway Americans than are television images of humans being slaughtered. Whereas the victims of Idi Amin were statistics, those dying in the Arab Spring have faces, names, and Facebook accounts.

What does this mean for us? Will we continue to war over all the world’s conflicts? Even those that do not affect us? It’s a question we need to ask. We are a compassionate people. When we see suffering, we react. Look at how we responded to the Asian Tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti and Japan. We gave hundreds of millions of dollars and help. As suffering becomes more real to us through the internet, what will we do? Will we always intervene in conflicts where innocent people are being oppressed? Is it even possible? If not, then what will be the standard for intervention? We never want to ignore another Hitler. But who decides and how will it be decided?

These are all questions we will have to answer in the coming decades, as the faces of the people around the world are in our living rooms, chatting with us on facebook, and tweeting with us on twitter.

Tell me what you think.

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