Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

R2P Before The Fact

By Steve Hynd

Over at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Beast blog, Zach Beachamp responded to my last post on the ethics of R2P. Zach writes in defense of R2P interventions that "humanitarian intervention is often necessary to create the conditions under which aid can be effective in saving lives."

Food and medicine can't very well get passed out in war zones, and evil or corrupt governments will limit the ability of aid organizations to operate. Either way, aid doesn't get to the people who desperately need it.

That's why it's so critical to either end the fighting or, as the case may be, topple the government slaughtering its population. Civil wars and awful governments have tremendous long term consequences beyond the already-awful casualties caused by the fighting itself. They are, in some cases, the root causes of the spread of disease, famine, poverty, and other horrors. Further, both civil wars and bad governance prevent the international community from taking effective action to ameliorate the humanitarian crises they create. Somalia is one example. North Korea is another.

Steve's talking about Libya, a comparatively better off country. However, Qaddafi was directly responsible for dire poverty despite the country's wealth, and one can only imagine that conditions would have gotten worse as a result of a) the government diverting resources from economic development/basic subsistance aid to power consolidation after the likely slaughter in Benghazi and b) growing international isolation. The intervention in Libya likely headed off long-term humanitarian problems as well as a short-term catastrophe.

As I've been examining in the past few days, we aren't certain that the consequences of intervention will be comparatively better yet, though there are reasons for optimism. That's an important constraint on intervention: that the outcome be better than the consequences of doing nothing. Indeed, humanitarian intervention, like any other war, is subject to just war constraints.

This is one of those cases where I'd agree wholeheartedly if the real world matched the idealised one in which we often talk about ethical matters, but it simply doesn't - as Zach obviously recognises. If in the real world aid cannot be delivered to those who need it because of an oppressive regime that first needs toppling by external forces, it's equally true that in the real world those external forces are then unimaginably bad at delivering aid and development at gunpoint.

Take Afghanistan as just one example. Billions of foreign dollars delivered, massive surges of COIN armed intervention paired with grandiose externally developed plans for development - and yet there's very little to show for it. Corruption is rampant and a goodly portion of all those aid bucks has gone to enriching the kind of people who in other circumstances would be the subject of calls for regime change. Massive infrastructure projects which still don't touch the lives of those they need to - and in which the always-substantial profits get repatriated by foreign contractors. And the killing  - both of the humanitarian interveners and locals alike - continues. The overwhelming evidence is that armed humanitarian intervention is incredibly bad at delivering the "humanitarian" bit. Instead, those intervening invariably seem to turn into Hummvees in a china shop.

The same now looks likely to happen in Libya. The West will not stop the rebels from assaulting the town of Sirte en masse, despite the certain loss of civilian lives. The rebels estimate that 50,000 civilians have died in the Libyan conflict already - and they're only counting civilians on "their" side. The UN is planning what can only be described as heaby-handed running of the post-conflict situation. The rebels in Misrata are already rebelling against the Benghazi leadership, composed as it is of people parachuted in from exile in the US and ex-Gaddafi strongmen who have changed sides with the wind. Those strongmen and their militias are already acting like the old regime.

All of this argues that humanitarian objectives are extremely, I would say prohibitively, difficult to deliver at gun point. Instead of such armed interventionism R2P missions should be focussing on aid and development before the situation deteriorates to the shooting point. Zach's argument sounds to me (and Zach) like an argument for a Peace Corps to do aid before military intervention becomes needed, one that wears dungerees instead of uniforms and weilds shovels instead of assault rifles and airstrikes. Fund it to the tune of say $200 billion, taken right out of the Pentagon's over-inflated budget and put it to work on "pre-COIN", aid and development to promote good governance and helpful infrastructure before things in a country go so far South that airstrikes are needed. It would not only be a perfect utilitarian answer, it would even be useful on the home front.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent response, Steve
    What a wonderful world it would be if we could constructively engage all nations from a position of hard-won respect stemming from our upholding of the ideals we publicly promote. Sometimes even that would fail, and if armed intervention became the only option on humanitarian grounds, then that option would be exercised in a just-as-fanciful overwhelming peace keeping force that was both able and willing to defend itself and civilians with force. The main role of it, however, would be disarming everyone except the peacekeepers.
    And then international organizations promoting the honest goal of self-determination for the liberated people ... including allowing them to determine how they'll self-determine their future ... could come in with technical support and financial aid to help build a sustainable economic environment that met the needs and gained the approval of the newly liberated people.
    Sigh. We all know that's just a rotten, fucking pipe dream. What i don't understand is how on the heels of Libya, so many are willing to say, "Well, we don't have most of that description, but we can do the armed force part so we'll just go with what we have and hope for the best. See, it worked in Libya!" Even though Libya is not nearly over and even further from being a functioning society.
    I guess it's because a Democrat did it and everyone gets to use the word "humanitarian" like they mean it.