In today’s Washington Post, Op-Ed journalist and Neocon scholar Charles Krauthammer reminds us that, when dealing with instability in far corners of the planet, nothing beats a good military intervention. He begins by explaining the rescue of Columbian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt–who was held captive for six and a half years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC)–earlier this month. The hostages were freed by Columbian security forces posing as a leftist organization. A simple story of the Columbian government dealing with the crimes of a revolutionary faction in its own country, it would seem. But to Krauthammer, their are lessons to be learned:
Betancourt languished for six years in cruel captivity until freed in a brilliant operation conducted by the Colombian military, intelligence agencies and special forces — an operation so well executed that the captors were overpowered without a shot being fired.
This in foreign policy establishment circles is called “hard power.” In the Bush years, hard power is terribly out of fashion, seen as a mere obsession of cowboys and neocons. Both in Europe and America, the sophisticates worship at the altar of “soft power” — the use of diplomatic and moral resources to achieve one’s ends.
To Krauthammer, Betancourt’s rescue is a perfect example of how “soft power” is an ineffective foreign policy strategy meant for left-wing wimps, pinkos, and appeasers, while “hard power” is for the brave, vigilant, and realistic hawks. While European powers pleaded for negotiations, Columbian president Alvaro Uribe decided enough was enough, sent in the cavalry, and saved the day. Think the Clinton Justice Department’s Waco raid of the Branch Davidians without all the dead bodies. This, to Krauthammer, is how things get done.
[Betancourt] was, however, only one of the high-minded West’s many causes. Solemn condemnations have been issued from every forum of soft-power fecklessness — the European Union, the United Nations, the G-8 foreign ministers — demanding that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe stop butchering his opponents and step down. Before that, the cause du jour was Burma, where a vicious dictatorship allowed thousands of cyclone victims to die by denying them independently delivered foreign aid lest it weaken the junta’s grip on power.
And then there is Darfur, a perennial for which myriad diplomats and foreign policy experts have devoted uncountable hours at the finest five-star hotels to deplore the genocide and urgently urge relief.
What is done to free these people? Nothing.
Krauthammer goes on to outline how–as evidenced by the Columbian government’s military actions within its own borders and the campaign to weaken FARC, the government’s main domestic enemy–hard power must be used to save Zimbabweans and Sudanese, and as soon as possible. And who are the ones who must do the saving:
The only country that could is the country that in the past two decades led coalitions that liberated Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Having sacrificed much blood and treasure in its latest endeavor — the liberation of 25 million Iraqis from the most barbarous tyranny of all, and its replacement with what is beginning to emerge as the Arab world’s first democracy — and having earned near-universal condemnation for its pains, America has absolutely no appetite for such missions.
To Krauthammer’s credit, he does finally get something right. With the needless expense of blood and treasure in the broader Middle East, America has no appetite for costly military intervention divorced from national security. Innocents languish in Zimbabwe and Darfur, and in both cases the suffering is terribly unfortunate. But what has become apparent is that middle-America, where most of the dying is done for Krauthammer’s liberation interventions, just isn’t as high-minded as he is. When dealing with Darfur or Zimbabwe, most Americans will chose soft power over hard power because it means less folded flag-carrying widows and less “Taps” playing buglers.
How selfish of us.