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It doesn't follow

Reader comment on item: War as Social Work?

Submitted by Jim Ryan (Canada), May 6, 2003 at 21:49

Dr. Pipes, you say that we shouldn't evaluate an American military operation simply according to the extent to which it helps the foreign country in which it occurs. Correct. The Pipes philosophy is spot on, just as it is in the case of Palestinians, where we should not evaluate Israeli and American efforts to solve the conflict merely on the extent to which Palestinians are living good lives. It's mainly their duty to see to it that they live good lives; it's not our duty.

However, it simply doesn't follow that "each state's obligations, in other words, are ultimately to its own citizens." If "ultimately" means "only," this is simply wrong. We could imagine reasonably low risk interventions with great humanitarian payoff, such that it would even be wrong not to intervene. At the very least, we could imagine cases in which military intervention would not be wrong. It would not be wrong for us to stop Saddam from butchering another million, even if there were no U.S. interest in stopping him, and even though we lost over a hundred soldiers and quite a sum of money. It's debatable. But the point is that while it is wrongheaded to evaluate an American military operation simply according to the extent to which it helps the foreign country, it doesn't follow that all purely humanitarian military operations are wrong.
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