Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Foreign military aid ... When it comes to foreign affairs, there's no more difficult question to answer than whether it is better to grant military aid to non-democratic regimes in the hope that such aid will promote reform or refrain from such aid in the fear that it will be used illicitly.

I used to think that we should always refrain. After all, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden each received arms from the U.S. Further, you can trace the largest and most destructive conflict of the last decade -- the war in Congo, which has claimed around 2 million lives -- to militias funded by the American military.

In the past year or two though, I've started to come around on this issue. In no circumstance should we be granting aid carte blanche to whoever seeks it. But the question should be framed, I believe, with a regime's regional context in mind.

Just look at Uzbekistan. As the Times noted in a great piece on today, on the one hand U.S. mililtary training and aid did help secure a peaceful revolution in nearby Georgia. Even more, the U.S. would be wise to counter regional pressure being exerted on the country by both Russia and China. However, the Uzbeki government isn't exactly deserving of our assistance: it recently authorized its troops to open fire on -- and indeed massacre -- anti-government protestors.

My own guess is that Uzbekistan may be a battle we have already lost. In the next year or two, they'll likely begin insisting that we close our base there. And since we won't have the resources to counter Russian and Chinese pressure, we'll likely yield.

But the ethical complexity of dealing with the Uzbeki regime underscores the need, in my view, for a foreign policy based on what might be termed negative exceptionalism: the belief that America ought to extend its influence not because it is morally right, but because not doing so would be morally wrong.

Or as Michael Ignatieff wrote recently, if you think the American military is contemptible, just imagine what the world would be like without it.


Post a Comment

<< Home