One of my courses that I’ve mentioned before is Ethnic Conflict, Peace-building and Democratization. In this course, as it sounds, we talk about different cases of ethnic conflict, as well as many other themes such as power-sharing, federalism, decolonization, and state building. One of the recurring themes is the question of foreign intervention, and when states should get involved in a conflict abroad or when the international community should stay out of it. This question has been one that I’ve thought about quite a bit, especially when learning about the historical frequency of U.S.’ failed intervention efforts abroad.
This post will not be a historical analysis, rather, a very quick emotional look at whether to intervene or not. My time in Denmark has shown me that there are fundamental differences in the way that states perceive their responsibility to encourage democracy. The U.S. is widely criticized for its tendency to involve itself in civil conflicts happening far away, and many of my classmates have made this point. However, this leads me to question why people aren’t more critical of their own states. Sure, the U.S. has tried to institute peace and hasn’t always been successful, but what has Denmark ever done to help people being oppressed or abused by their governments?
Of course, artificially imposing democracy on nascent states can be detrimental. Theories time and time again have shown us this, and that’s not a point I disagree with. Rather, I personally struggle with the claim that we should avoid a “fake peace” and simply let the state sort it out themselves. If we leave this developing state to its own devices, it’s very possible that people will suffer at the hands of their government. New governments often have trouble providing the necessary services to their citizens, and the established states choose to sit idly by because of fear of being criticized by the international community?
As I said, there is a great deal of historical context that determines each and every case of intervention. To fully understand the impacts of intervention would take days, and several very lengthy blog posts. Rather, I just wanted to provoke the inner conflict that I’ve been having in a more public space.