Yglesias: The Bush Doctrine ‘Doesn’t Go With International Law, Practicality, Or Morals’

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"Yglesias: The Bush Doctrine ‘Doesn’t Go With International Law, Practicality, Or Morals’"

Last Friday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund hosted an event in which blogger Matthew Yglesias discussed his new book, “Heads In The Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats.”

Afterward, Yglesias sat down with ThinkProgress. He shared his views on a liberal paradigm for the appropriate and productive use of military force. Yglesias said that it is important, first of all, “to have a recognition of what it is possible to achieve with military force”:

One thing that the United States has great success with over the past couple of decades is sort of blowing up discreet, physical targets, and you can accomplish a lot with that.[...] We’ve also seen a lot of success with multi-lateral peace-keeping forces — where different sides in a civil war…say “We want to stop this…but it’s hard to end the war, because we don’t trust each other.” [...] The United States has not historically done a ton to support those kinds of missions, and I think we should do more.

We should of course use force to defend ourselves, to defend our allies, and try to expand this sphere of who our allies are and who we can work with in a sort-of defensive way. I think those two kinds of things more or less sum up what you need to do in the core instances when force works and when force is legitimate.

Yglesias also noted the ways that this liberal internationalist approach differs from George W. Bush administration’s reckless and radical doctrine of preventive war:

No president before George W. Bush ever suggested that American security required us to just go decapitate regimes on the theory that they might some day in the future acquire weapons that would be dangerous. So, it’s only been tried once. It’s been a huge disaster. Other countries that have launched preemptive wars historically have always suffered for it. It doesn’t go with international law, and it doesn’t go with common sense—either practicality, or morals.

Watch it:

Full transcript below:

YGLESIAS: But I think the most important thing to recall, which is not a particularly a liberal point, but just a true point, is that we need to have a recognition of what it is possible to achieve with military force.

One thing that the United States has great success with over the past couple of decades is sort of blowing up discreet, physical targets, and you can accomplish a lot with that. You can convince Serbia that it needs to take its military out of some province where it’s not wanted, because otherwise too many of their power-plants will go “boom.” You can even cause an authoritarian state like Iraq to disintegrate.

We’ve also seen a lot of success with multi-lateral peace-keeping forces—where different sides in a civil war—sometimes they say, “You know—we want to stop this. Killing each other is not great. We would like to make money, grow food.” Whatever, but it’s hard to end the war, because we don’t trust each other. We’ve been fighting each other. We need to get some guys with blue helmets in here. Those kinds of missions, which you can think of as humanitarian missions, but it’s not just any old humanitarian cause—you know, it works better if you bring some guns into the situation. But it’s this specific kind of dynamic that has worked well. The United States has not historically done a ton to support those kinds of missions, and I think we should do more there.

We should of course use force to defend ourselves, to defend our allies, and try to expand this sphere of who our allies are and who we can work with in a sort-of defensive way. I think those two kinds of things more or less sum up what you need to do in the core instances when force works and when force is legitimate.

It’s a weird thing where just by boldly and audaciously asserting that prevention is going to be our non-proliferation policy, the Bush administration has managed to make that idea sound mainstream, so that rejecting it sounds weird and radical. None of the Democrats running for president have done it. John Edwards did, but not Clinton and Obama who are left.

No president before George W. Bush ever suggested that American security required us to just go decapitate regimes on the theory that they might some day in the future acquire weapons that would be dangerous. So, it’s only been tried once. It’s been a huge disaster. Other countries that have launched preemptive wars historically have always suffered for it. It doesn’t go with international law, and it doesn’t go with common sense—either practicality, or morals.

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