In response to Kristof’s post about hugs:
“But weighed against those uncertainties are a few certainties: If not for this intervention, Libyan civilians would be dying on a huge scale”
How huge? Compared to which countries? China? Certainly not. Iran? Not even close.
Libya has 6.6 million people, less than the state of Ohio, roughly 1/3 of the metropolitan area of NY, slightly more than Wisconsin. If we really wanted to achieve the greater good, why not step in the Ivory Coast, which has almost twice the population? Obviously human rights is not the only factor here, why are our messages so freaking simplistic?
Why can’t we just use language that is more realistic about which humanitarian actions we choose? Our track record speaks to the fact that US is the only leading state when it comes to human rights. We often go above and beyond national and strategic interests. Why can’t we just hedge as to when we decide to do it?
If we wouldn’t cloak our FP rhetoric in so much polyanna BS, maybe people would take it more seriously. Something like: “Yes we try to support democracy and prevent genocide, but will only do so with military force when our interests are clear, an exit strategy is cleear, and there is broad international support for it. The US is not the sole guarantor in the world when it comes to spreading democracy, don’t count on us all the time everytime”
Instead we get Obama and Clinton defining human rights as a “vital strategic interest” which makes us look like huge hypocrites, and frankly pretty dumb. The examples of human rights abuses going un-‘punished’ by the US are Legion. Maybe this is the idea; to make others doubt our intentions and create strategic ambiguity. But it will eventually drain the US of any moral authority it may have on issues of human rights and liberties.