Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Five D's of Token Intervention

In my posts at Political Violence at a Glance and at the Globe and Mail, I tried to explain the choice of multilateral cooperation and who is likely to get involved, respectively.  I did not argue whether intervention is a good idea or not. Given my posts on the war cap and such, you can guess where I stand.

The basic problems are the following:
  • Token intervention, which is what lobbing some cruise missile be, will not change anything of consequence.  Assad will not fall, the rebels will not gain heaps of advantages, and the punishment for using chemical weapons will be modest at best.  Indeed, cruise missiles, like economic sanctions, sends a signal: we don't care that much.
  • What happens then?  Not clear what the next steps would be.
  • If this is all about protecting American credibility, the social science indicates that reputation really does not matter too much.  Countries will focus on today's pattern of interests and not yesterday's weakness.  
  • Oh, and intervening on side rebels apparently does not help that much in the short term.
Much discussion today on twitter and various blogs has been about the imperative to do something as the key force driving the US.  If so, well, that is a lousy reason to kill people, spend heaps of dollars and distract from every other problem.  Yes, the Mideast is the Land of Lousy Alternatives (tm), but I am not sure that token intervention is the least bad option.

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