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Dependence On Intervention

Via Yglesias [1], Matt Bai [2] tries to make sense of McCain’s interventionist standards:

“I think in the case of Zimbabwe, it’s because of our history in Africa,” McCain said thoughtfully. “Not so much the United States but the Europeans, the colonialist history in Africa. The government of South Africa has obviously not been effective, to say the least, in trying to affect the situation in Zimbabwe, and one reason is that they don’t want to be tarred with the brush of modern colonialism. So that’s a problem I think we will continue to have on the continent of Africa. If you send in Western military forces, then you risk the backlash from the people, from the legacy that was left in Africa because of the era of colonialism.”

Fortunately, he said this “thoughtfully,” so I suppose this means we can forget about his apparent ignorance of the Near East’s colonial past.  By this standard, McCain could not support interventions on most continents, since every one has experienced some form of foreign, usually European, colonialism at some point.  (This is true of Europeans as well–eastern Europeans have experienced Ottoman, German and Soviet colonialism.)   Antarctica would theoretically still be available.  If McCain applied this standard consistently, most of our bases and deployments around the world could be shut down right away. 

While I don’t believe for a moment that McCain’s reluctance to intervene in Africa has something to do with concerns about the legacy of colonialism, McCain’s answer on Zimbabwe is the right one, though it doesn’t go quite far enough.  The complete answer would be: it would be resented as neo-colonialism and we have no reason to interfere in the affairs of Zimbabwe, bad as the situation may be.  A truly superior answer would include the added point: if these countries are ever going to be free of the effects of colonialism (and these effects include the abuses of the regimes created by old, kleptocratic anti-colonialists), they and their neighbours must solve their own problems without the possibility or expectation that outside forces are doing to sweep in and attempt to fix things.  Never mind that the attempt may make things worse or change nothing–even the expectation of intervention is the kind of crutch that you hold out to developing nations only if you want to keep them perpetually in a position of weakness and dependence.

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1 Comment To "Dependence On Intervention"

#1 Pingback By Eunomia » Zimbabwe On June 24, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

[…] While the calls for intervention in Zimbabwe grow louder, it’s worth remembering that no less than McCain himself has already essentially ruled out meddling there.  On the main blog, Patrick Ford responds to the interventionist arguments, noting renewed enthusiasm for international institutions in them: The real novelty is that the go-it-alone liberators are looking to the United Nations for help. NR wants the UN involved, and if not the blue helmets, then the British should stop “posturing” and get in there themselves. The Right–even the neocon Right–used to rightfully criticize the UN for sending peacekeepers everywhere and achieving progress nowhere. Now they want peacekeepers in Zimbabwe, at the behest of the U.S. government. […]