The obvious problem with Samantha Power’s theory that the U.S. should act to prevent genocides, which now, apparently, includes culminating battles in civil wars, is that U.S. military power, as great as it is, is a scarce commodity.
It is not the instrument of a universal police force.
Her formative moment was Bosnia. Here’s a hard fact about Bosnia: It’s in Europe. As the ethnic cleansing proceeded, might I be so bold to ask, where were the Europeans?
The United States has an essential geopolitical role for which the scarce commodity of its military power must be conserved: The U.S. is the status quo superpower, which means that it can restore a breach in the sovereign state system (but not everywhere or all the time), and it is the guarantor of strategic peace, which means that it has sufficient military power to deter wars, and that includes nuclear deterrence. Those are its chief “humanitarian” missions and they must not be compromised.
In the general run of things, the U.S. will deploy its military to help in disaster relief. That’s not warfare. And will occasionally help to alleviate man-caused suffering, with minor incursions where violence is rife.
Ms. Power should think hard about her role in launching hundreds of cruise missiles and flying hundreds of bombing missions against Libya’s army in the name of “humanity.” That was “humanity” on steroids, and it was taking sides in a civil war where we have a known tyrant and a supposedly unknown “rebel” force.
Humanitarian relief in Libya, as inconvenient as it might have been for such a newly ambitious CINC, would consist of setting up a zone protecting civilians who chose to flee the war. The “rebels” could continue at their own risk and peril to challenge the government.
Warfare was the choice, not humanitarian relief, in the face of this prospective genocide.