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Thread: The Ethics of Foreign Intervention

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    Default The Ethics of Foreign Intervention

    We've seen a lot of news and action regarding military intervention in foreign countries in the past year, and though it seems reasonable to take these on a case by case basis - both in terms of determining whether to enter, and assessing how bad we **** things up - I think there's an interesting fundamental question about the ethics of intervention regardless of where it is.

    Do you have any opinions on the general concept? And can you point me to any good journalism or other articles on it?

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    It's basically determined by conventions of international law. Eg. Geneva Convention is one of these instruments, as are various UN declarations. Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has written a few books around these issues (specifically re war crimes). I have studied this as part of history studies but ages ago.

    It's a vast area. But some interventions are justified, based on international law. Eg. the Invasion of Uganda to get rid of Idi AMin by surrounding countries, around 1979. Amin's regime had not only caused suffering for his people, but seriously destabilised the whole region. So leaders from around Uganda's borders, the countries there, got together and invaded to get rid of him. Nobody I think could blame them, this is near to a righteous invasion, they were interested in the interests of Sout-East African region as a whole.

    By contrast, things like various invasions done by USA and former Soviet Union (USSR) are agreed by experts in international law/history field to be illegal. Eg. USA into Vietnam, or more recently Iraq. & USSR into various East European countries, esp. Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Afghanistan in c.1979.

    The Korean War is a more curly one, the defence of South Korea led by USA was under the aegis of the UN. The Communist north was trying to get the whole Korean peninsula for themselves, it was a political land grab, nothing more. Compared to that, Vietnam was different. The French colonialists left, after President De Gaulle's policies of decolonisation, and USA simply moved to fill the void, and they thought that Vietnamese Communism was a threat to the whole region, which it was not. All those scare tactics like "reds under the bed," all that Cold War rubbish.

    So it's complex as to what invasion/intervention is right and what's illegal. In any case, history and hindsight often decides. But maintaining national sovereignty as much as possible is paramount.
    Last edited by Sid James; Mar-15-2012 at 04:29.
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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Thanks for the interesting post Sid, but I'm more interested in ethical rather than legal arguments.

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    Senior Member graaf's Avatar
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    Henry Miller once said: “Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. . .The other eight are unimportant”.
    Similarly, money is one of nine reasons for invasion of foreign countries, which renders other eight unimportant.
    Mass media are brainwashing us to the point that we might see something cynical in the truism above.

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    Senior Member Amfibius's Avatar
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    A good read is Bertrand Russell's Ethics of War.

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    Thanks for the interesting post Sid, but I'm more interested in ethical rather than legal arguments.
    Your welcome. The mention of Bertrand Russell above - whose history of Western philosophy I started reading but not finished - is interesting. In terms of he was against Israel's going into Palestine way back then. So I think it's hard to separate all this - history, politics, & philosophy - ethics. Of course law is based on ethics, and other things.

    There is broadly ethical reasons for "righteous" intervention as I discussed above re Uganda. Eg. the greater good of a region. I'd argue similar with India's intervention in East Pakistan, which subsequently became independent Bangladesh (1970's). Intervention like that of coming to the aid of a country asking for it can be okay. Defending your country against attack as well. Things like the Korean War are maybe curly as I said, also Afghanistan, can be argued both ways (USA was attacked by Al-Quaeda with links to Taliban). But legitimizing invasion of Iraq with this kind of reason doesn't work. Whether right or wrong, the Afghan thing is a disaster, not a good idea to invade a country that has so many problems without added complications of maintaining an invading force - manpower, cost, dealing with the locals, etc.
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    Ethics is dead, and rightfully so. Neither the good guys or bad guys are interested in hearing about ethics. Nor a battling husband and wife. Nor Republicans and Democrats, when confronted by an Independent or Libertarian.

    Ethics has the smell of good sportsmanship.

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