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.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Where's The Billions For R2P Against Famine?

By Steve Hynd

In comments to my last post on the dangerous precedent of R2P interventions that are really all about picking favorites, my friend and Newshoggers colleague B.J. Bjornson asked:

How many thousands of civilians being in danger of massacre would be enough? If you believed that it actually was hundreds of thousands, would you then have supported the intervention? Tens of thousands? Just a few hundred? ... Are there any circumstances where you would call for the US and other nations to step in and try to prevent the worst from happening?

It's a question worth addressing, of course, and my first impulse is the strict Nuremberg answer: that the only legal armed intervention should be responding to aggressive warfare by a state on another state, otherwise the intervention itself would be the aggressive war and thus a "crime against peace". But we live in times of "non-state actors" and there's also at least some case for saying that a state waging aggressive warfare on an entire segment of it's own population qualifies as a case for legal armed intervention.

But in response to the "how many" question, I have another.

Do you think the dead care how they died?

Right to Protect interventionism is essentially a utilitarian argument - that by using violence in reply to violence the greater good of the greater number can be achieved - specifically, that fewer people will die if there is an armed intervention than if the state or non-state actor is allowed to continue killing unopposed by external forces. But it largely ignores a wider utilitarian argument to do so - that the resources required to intervene could be put to better use saving more lives elsewhere.

The war in Libya has cost the US somewhere in the region of $1.2 billion over six months, at a rough guess. That's a drop in the ocean compared with the hundreds of billions so far spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the bloated overall defense budget. But State spends far less on core foreign assistance - including food aid - than is spent on America's wars. That stands at only $32.9 billion in the FY2012 request. DoD will get three and a half times that money for Afghanistan and Iraq alone.


Drought, conflict and a lack of food aid have left 3.6 million people at risk of starvation in southern Somalia. The drought, the worst in decades, has affected about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa.


Famine in parts of southern Somalia has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly children, the United Nations said Wednesday in an official declaration of what aid officials describe as the worst humanitarian crisis in the troubled country in two decades.

I doubt the dead care whether they are killed by a bullet or starvation - they're still just as dead. Utillitarian ethics, such as those used to justify R2P interventionism, dictate that resources should first go to missions which would help the greatest number - yet the budget for Somalian aid is a measly $105 million.

My utilitarian answer to the question of when R2P armed interventions would be justified is the same I think J.S. Mill would have offered: when the other, greater threats of massacre by any cause have already been dealt with. Where are the billions for Right To Protect against famine? Where are the Beltway foreign policy insiders advocating allocating scare resources where they will do most good?


  1. Good response BJ. It's even longer than the OP though - you should have made it a post :-)
    "I�m not in the habit of opposing the defeat of small evils just because larger ones haven�t yet been dealt with."
    Nor am I. However, the evidence suggests that violence isn't the best way to go about it.
    Regards, Steve

  2. I'm going to take Steve's point about Somalia as a general example rather than what he thinks should be done first. Mostly, because there are no clear-cut situations and this one at least has the benefit of being almost front page news.
    I'm of the opinion that the philosophical idea of "humanitarian intervention" is deeply flawed. After all, Doctors without Borders was big on helping the mujaheddin in Afghanistan as a humanitarian outfit, and we saw what the long term effects were there. Guys like Col. Q. made a big deal about humanitarian interventions too. So the issue is that it's real, real tough to come up with an objective definition of "humanitarian."
    And if we do, then we also have to answer for using violence to protect people. It's not like all the bombs dropped on Libya killed not a single civilian; so to argue for that kind of "responsibility to protect" requires arguing that it's also ok to kill other people in the process. And in this case, leaving Tripoli without water or electricity. I'd be grateful if someone could explain how that falls under the definition of "humanitarian."
    The biggest question, however, is the one Steve never directly asks: who makes the decision as to where/when to intervene and why do they make the decision?
    The only answer i've been able to come up with is that i have to trust people like Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy. Trust that they have people's best interests at heart. Trust that they'll do things the right way, for the right reasons.
    To which i can only hold my stomach in bitter, bitter laughter.
    Oh, and if the United States of America feels a responsibility to protect, then it should stop selling weapons all over the mother fucking world. Notice that the US/NATO never include "disarm the population" in their nation building exercises. That alone puts paid to any humanitarian fluff they try to sell us.

  3. Oh, and if the United States of America feels a responsibility to protect, then it should stop selling weapons all over the mother fucking world. Notice that the US/NATO never include "disarm the population" in their nation building exercises. That alone puts paid to any humanitarian fluff they try to sell us.Right on Lex! The US never really does anything for humanitarian reasons. Selling weapons means large corporations make money, war means large corporations make money and limited operations like Libya means large corporations make money. There is very little money to be made feeding the hungry.

  4. @Steve - Yeah, I am getting a little wordy in my responses. Anyway,I�m not in disagreement that violence is usually a bad way to go about things, but once that line gets crossed, it�s really, really hard to go back. In Libya the line was crossed fairly early, though in fairness to the Libyans in regards to the Foreign Policy article you linked, it�s not like the Egyptian and Tunisian uprising were entirely non-violent either. In Egypt particularly, there were more than a few early battles with the police, and later ones with Mubarak supporters brought in from the rural parts of the country. The main difference there was the refusal of the military to take part in the suppression, which gave the protesters the breathing room they needed to continue a mostly non-violent resistance. I also note the FP fails to mention �Arab Spring� non-violent protests in the Gulf States that were pretty brutally supressed in its determination of recent trends either.
    How much of a provocation Gaddafi needed to declare the resistance violent enough to crack down on with force was probably pretty minor as well. In any case, once the line was crossed in Libya, the choices were either to help the rebels or watch them get crushed. And while the crushing may have led to fewer deaths in the short term, Gaddafi's proven track record of purges of those he considered possible threats, means it would have been a pretty long time before there was another opening for a non-violent protest movement to again have a chance.
    @Ron - Somehow I�m sure that so long as those large corporations can find a way to get contracts to deliver the food aid on the government�s behalf, they�ll be more than enough profit in it for them, much as they seem to find in reconstruction work. Think positive!

  5. From what I've been reading of current Republican ideology on th ecampaign trail the poor are not suffering nearly enough. Let 'em starve...it's God's way...
    When there's oil involved THEN we can bomb. God's down with that too, apparently

  6. Unfortunately the 'serious' people in DC are very often all for bombing anything that they think can be bombed, at almost any cost, but not often for fixing the many things that can be fixed more cheaply.