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Supporting Countries at War?

March 12, 2011

It is without a doubt that the political turmoil unfolding in the Middle East has left several countries in warfare and chaos. Although not triggered by any wrongdoing by the United States it begs the question; under what situations are we able to intervene with a country at war? The United States has a long history of sticking its nose in such conflicts. Take the Iran Contra Affair of the 1980’s where we secretly supplied weapons to Afghan forces to fight the Soviet Union, or the Desert Storm operation of the 1990’s where the US helped liberate Kuwait of Iraqi troops.  In both these instances the conflicts did not directly threaten the security of the United States, yet we intervened anyways.

John Locke was famous for his belief in the ‘state of nature’ and is quoted in his Second Treatsie as saying “all men are naturally in…a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit.” Essentially I interpret this to mean that men are, by nature give certain freedoms that can not be taken away. He goes onto say that “whereby every one has a right to punish the transgressors of [the state of nature] to such a degree…and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders.” It would seem that this last statement gives justification for intervention, and I believe that it does just that. Locke is essentially saying that anyone who threatens the state of nature, and the state of perfect freedom must be held accountable.

Fast forward to the present and the talk is all focused on Libya and its ‘civil war’. Just this past week the United States was talking about implementing a ‘no fly zone’ to prevent the pro-Gaddafi forces from using fighter jets to bomb rebel strongholds. Not just the United States, but the Arab League has now backed it may go into effect. Clearly Gadaffi has breached the state of nature as described above and the countries that back the no fly zone also seem to agree that he did as well. So do they have the power to impose such a restriction? Absolutely.

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One Comment
  1. davidpadalino permalink
    March 13, 2011 1:13 PM

    You bring up some really good points in this post, Adam. Many Americans will often recognize the fact that we intervene in affairs around the world such as Desert Storm and the Iran-Contra affair, and then proceed to admonish the U.S for doing so. What you manage to point out though is John Locke’s interpretation of what should be done in the face of tyrannical and despotic regimes. According to Locke, it seems not only to be a right, but also an obligation to bring justice to an unjust state. Clearly this is what libyians are attemting to do as you point out. Some would say “let them work it out themselves”, but what if they aren’t able to successfully overthrow the current power? We have to mindful that we all live in a global community, and that we all have the right to stand up for justice, even if that means venturing beyond our borders.

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