We Can’t Cure All Global Ills

This article originally appeared in USA Today.

Yet another crisis hasflared overseas. The images never change: starving people fleeing murder,rape and war. Only the victims differ.

Such conflicts seem to cry out for Westerninvolvement. Some call for massive new aid programs to buttressfragile nations. Others propose military intervention to stopconflict. A few even advocate a new colonialism, using force toremake failed societies.

None of these strategies is likely to succeed.Certainly none is likely to work at a cost acceptable to theAmerican people, who would be doing the paying and dying.

First, if foreign aid could prevent chaos inpoorer states, then Haiti, Burundi, Rwanda, Zaire, Somalia andSudan should all be thriving. Between 1971 and 1994, thesenations received $3.1 billion, $4.1 billion, $4.5 billion, S7.8billion, $8 billion and $13.4 billion, respectively, in so calledforeign assistance. In fact, international financial transfersoften have proved to be harmful, subsiding dictatorial regimesthat impoverished and brutalized their own people.

Second, sending in the Marines would notautomatically bring peace to shattered lands. The bitter convictsaround the world grow out of ethnic, religious and tribalhatreds, many of which go back centuries. These underlying causeswill not disappear with the presence of U.S. soldiers. At best,international intervention will create a temporary cease firelikely to break down once the outside forces depart. At worst,Americans will find themselves taking sides and dying in a civilwar, as they did in Lebanon a decade ago.

Finally, a long-term Western occupation ofpoorer lands is no option. Casualties would be inevitable aswarring factions coalesced against the outsiders Even averageforeign citizens, the supposed "beneficiaries" of U.S.intervention, would soon grow to resent their new overlords.

Nor is it right to expect 18-year-old Americansto be guardians of a de facto global empire, risking their liveswhen their own nation's security is not at stake. There isnothing humanitarian about Washington policymakers sending otherpeople off to fight and possibly die.

Americans like to solve problems, but wecan't put dissolving nation-states back together. And weshouldn't compound foreign tragedies by making casualties of ourfellow citizens.

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He served as a special assistant to President Reagan.