Class and Humanitarian Intervention

I’ve been slacking off on the blogging lately, which is why it took me no less than six days for me to shamelessly hype my latest Salon column in this space. Turns out the topic is still relevant, though I get no pleasure from saying so.

The piece lays out the argument that part of the reason we’re embroiled in yet another hazily-defined, ill-considered military conflict is that the rich are very nearly this country’s only meaningful political constituency, and the costs of warfare are, for them, very low.

I struggle to phrase the thesis in a way that doesn’t come off sort of tortured or overparsed because you’ve got to be careful when making arguments like this. This is a structural argument, and people who aren’t intuitively sympathetic to the starting premises of such arguments — in this case, that intervention in Libya was a bad idea — tend to respond oddly to everything that follows. Myself included. We’ve got some sort of neurological block on structural arguments so that they tend to get broken down into much muddier sub-arguments about intent and whose fault everything is.

So for the record: I’m not saying rich people hate poor people, or Libyans, or poor Libyans. Nor am I saying rich people love war, or humanitarian interventions, or whatever. The point is one about shared burden. Actual shared burden, not Paul Ryan’s crypto-Randian notion of what that’s supposed to mean. When you’ve got a group of people whose interests policy makers disproportionately represent, and those people are unaffected by the consequences of a state of perpetual warfare, than policy makers have few incentives to avoid perpetual warfare. And that’s where we are now. And here, again, is the column.

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