Intervention: The Use of American Military Force in the Post-Cold War

By Thomas, Troy S. | Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview
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Intervention: The Use of American Military Force in the Post-Cold War


Thomas, Troy S., Air & Space Power Journal


Intervention: The Use of American Military Force in the Post-Cold War World by Richard Haas. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2400 N. Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20037, 1994. According to Richard Haas, the post-cold-war world is characterized by a loss of political control, a resurgence in ethnic nationalism, and the proliferation of advanced military technologies. It is in the context of this "international deregulation" that Haas sees increased opportunity for the effective use of military force. Intervention is a concise, objective, and often controversial effort to provide guidelines on whether and how to intervene. Realistic about the unlikely prospects for the emergence of a new US policy paradigm, Haas accepts the fact that future decisions governing force employment will be made on a case-by-case basis. Critiquing the intellectual debate influencing decisions, he contends that "just war theory" and jurists of the past three centuries have strengthened the moral, political, and legal norms against using force. Moreover, modern scholars such as Thomas Schelling and Henry Kissinger created further constraints by emphasizing gradualism. Together, they have reinforced the norm of state sovereignty and its inviolability, embraced by the United Nations charter.

Although this right to self-defense is internationally accepted, gaining in authority is the idea of humanitarian interventions, evidenced by current US military involvement in Somalia, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia. Regarding force application in these cases, Haas reviews guidelines proffered during the past decade by Colin Powell, Les Aspin, George Bush, the Clinton administration, and others. The original texts of these policy makers are usefully provided as appendices. He also draws on traditional military strategists, such as Clausewitz and Jomini, finding their guidance eternally salient.

Haas admits that interventions are hard to define and offers further elucidation by positing an exhaustive list of 12 intervention categories. Included are traditional cold war missions of deterrence, compellence, and war fighting. Addressing the contemporary debate, he describes a range of humanitarian interventions, whose definitions falter for their imprecision. Peacemaking, for example, is broadly defined as those "activities between peace-keeping and war-fighting," while nation building refers to situations more in tune with political endeavors incorporating military aspects. As a whole, however, these categories can be useful in clarifying policy objectives.

Following an efficient review of 12 case studies that include significant military operations since 1979, Haas sets forth both conventional and more controversial guidelines for intervening. These guidelines are reapplied to the studies with all the benefits of hindsight. Regarding whether to intervene, he counters the recommendations of the Reagan and Clinton administrations by rejecting congressional and public support as necessary for action.

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