Paul Miller doesn’t like how the term intervention is used in foreign policy debate:
Furthermore, proponents of an intervention (in Syria, say) are not necessarily in favor of every possible intervention. Some might have opposed the war in Iraq but supported the one in Afghanistan. Others may have opposed the bombing campaign against Serbia but supported the one in Libya. Proponents of a given intervention are unlikely to describe their overall foreign-policy stance as “pro-intervention.” They are more likely to frame it in terms of the interest that an intervention purportedly serves, such as humanitarian aid, counterproliferation, or regional stability. Arguing about “intervention” as an abstract concept serves little purpose.
If anyone argued about it as an abstract concept divorced from any specific examples, I suppose Miller would have a point. As it happens, critics of military interventions are well-aware that people support such policies for a variety of reasons and don’t necessarily support them in every instance. Even so, most Syria hawks have also been hawks on Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia. These hawks tend to appeal to the same ideas and make similar arguments that reflect their shared assumptions about the U.S. role in the world, the efficacy of hard power, and the responsibility to use U.S. power to “shape” events abroad. As shorthand, the words intervention and interventionist convey a reasonably accurate picture of the views of advocates of military action in all of these specific cases. The interventionist normally believes the U.S. can use force (or support a party to the conflict) to alter the course of a conflict to the advantage of the U.S. and to the advantage of the country affected by the conflict. Interventionists are very often wrong on both counts, but this is what they usually say.
There are, of course, different degrees of military intervention in another country, and most of the other wars of the last twenty years have not been as aggressive as the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but not wanting to call them interventions because they differ in size and scale makes no sense. It is of necessity a catch-all term. We can always solve the “problem” Miller identifies here by returning to a regular habit of referring to these uses of force as wars, which is after all what they usually are. During the 2002-03 debate over Iraq and in the years that followed, war opponents often referred to supporters as being pro-war, and indeed they were for the war in Iraq. Many supporters complained that this misrepresented their views and portrayed them as more aggressive and bellicose than they were. By comparison, interventionist is a much more neutral way to describe what is still a pro-war position.