(American) Third Party Intervention in Civil Conflict
Struggles involving civil wars and violence far outnumber those dealing with external aggression and conflict, especially in todays society. These internal conflicts over identity, territory, and government are more difficult to resolve through peaceful negotiation, creating an augmented sense of collective responsibility to acknowledge. If handled incorrectly, the situation may worsen, causing tension and (possibly) execution. The use of third parties (military intervention) in civil conflict often creates national distress, reeking havoc and tremendous costs upon assisting nations.
One cost of military intervention is a rise in anti-American sentiment, freshly evident in Somalia. When United States Marines made their landing in Mogadishu eight years ago, the Somalis greeted them with acclaim. One year later, eighteen Americans died at the hands of the Somalis. Hatred of the United States was apparent, particularly in the published photo of content Somalis dragging an American corpse through the streets (Kressel 187). The gruesome scene triggered the U.S. to withdraw troops. Despite the apparent goodwill at the beginning of the assignment, American engagement was widely resented once they became part of the war. The intervention had created a threat to U.S. interests where there had previously been none.
Comparable ill will greeted United States soldiers when they attempted to land in Haiti in 1994. Based on preceding attempts to influence Haiti’s domestic affairs, such as withholding of financial aid in crude attempts to influence Haiti’s domestic affairs, the U.S. should have expected Haitian resistance (Kressel 122). Faced with violent opposition to the American presence, the Clinton Administration proscribed the ships to turn around and dismiss the original plan-landing the ships so that third party “peacekeeping” could take place. This fear of confrontation by the most powerful country in the world, the United States, did significant damage to American credibility (Kressel 123).
Interventionism also jeopardizes U.S. vital interests in other ways. The most obvious hazard is to the lives of American soldiers sent into the conflict. Once troops have been deployed, it becomes a critical interest to ensure their security. If they are in danger or if troops have been taken hostage, the United States has a responsibility to protect them. It was for that reason that President Clinton declared March 31, 1994, as the date for withdrawal from Somalia and, at the same time, took what appeared to be the contradictory action of sending thousands of additional troops to Mogadishu (Snyder 24). To guarantee the security of the troops already there, auxiliary forces had to be deployed. Again, the intervention threatened the interests of the United States.
Pointless interventions also waste the publics espousal for military operations. Failed missions produce tremendous cynicism about future operations, causing danger with future threats to national security. Support is vital to the success of the operation of the military. Lack of public support could endanger our ability to protect our interests.
In reality, American third party intervention is by and large not a feasible solution to regional conflicts and should not be undertaken except in the atypical circumstances in which American national security is at stake. In most cases regional conflicts cannot be helped, and may well be intensified, by the intervention of outside parties. United States intervention can be especially counterproductive, since it often exaggerates smaller, less powerful countries fears of Americas hegemonic goals. The United States is not proficient to suppress regional conflicts, in which warring forces commonly rely on devices that are not easily met by Americas high tech war-machine.
Military intervention for reasons dissimilar to American security also forces the United States to welcome naturally deceitful policies. Because it is impossible for the United States to intervene in every instance in which American values are offended, the necessary selection process unavoidably gives priority to some conflicts while marginalizing others. The international community is not disposed to deploying 20, 40, 60,000 military forces each time there is an international crisis in a failed state.(Oakley 24). To take action in some cases and not in others does not make for unswerving policy.
Third party powers are at a hindrance because their stake in the outcome is usually far smaller than that of the primary competitors (Kanet 67). Nationalism is a moral value for which many people are prepared to kill and die. Outside parties that become involved for essentially humane reasons are not equipped to fight with the same force or stamina. Humanity and nationalism simply do not motivate equal fortitude.
Moreover, the American public is notorious for its unwillingness to uphold heavy casualties in remote regional wars (Kanet 69). American support for military action in a foreign country tends to decline dramatically at the likelihood of an extended task that will lead to significant U.S. casualties. The corrosion of public support usually leads to the corrosion of congressional support, resulting in serious divisions within the government that is supposed to be commanding the intervention. With leadership divided, there is little chance for success. The military, already operating under handicaps natural to intervention, is practically assured of failure (Kanet 70).
When outside forces do have the ability to influence events, it will generally be best to encourage regional solutions. It makes far more sense for major international actors to take greater responsibility for the security of their own regions than to involve the United States, or other powers from outside the region.
Regional schemes (military or diplomatic) are also more likely to succeed. States in the region will probably have stronger economic and political ties with the warring parties. Also important, neighboring states will most likely have a better understanding of the conflict and know the most effective way to cultivate negotiations (Oakley 26). In the case of Somalia, leaders of other African countries understood the nature of clan warfare and realized the problems natural in trying to demonize a popular leader (Aideed). They also understood the uselessness of trying to exclude him from the political process. The United States simply did not have sufficient understanding of the culture and native politics to put together a feasible policy (Oakley 54).
Regional initiatives would also be more effective than American intervention because they minimize the likelihood of compulsory solutions. Few beings outside the United States have the political and military capability to influence a settlement; a regional solution is therefore more likely to represent genuine agreement among the parties. A good-faith agreement will not require iron-fisted enforcement or long-term pursuit to maintain peace. Furthermore, the absence of American involvement will relieve regional leaders of the shame associated with American puppets and alleviate the fears of foreign populations concerned about American hegemonic designs. U.S. intervention would wipe out all of those advantages (Snyder 203).
The United States should avoid third party intervention except in cases in which there is a direct threat to national security or American vital interests. No matter how apparently appealing the foundation, third party intervention in civil conflicts generally does not work and often creates threats to U.S. security where none previously existed. In this era of multiplying regional wars, the United States must resist the urge to intervene. To do otherwise is to invite further tragedy, increasing the misery of America.