Like ambition and ice cream, government is a good servant but a bad master. In a republican system of government, the state is (ideally) kept appropriately subject to the people it serves. Its system of checks and balances guard against both the turbulence and factions of democracy and the subjugation of autocracy.
It is for this reason that interventionism is never a good policy. Intervention in the affairs of another state – whether it take the form of “democracy building,” “humanitarian intervention,” or eliminating an “axis of evil” regime – by definition puts the intervening government in a position of mastery. The people of the state which suffers the intervention are not citizens of the intervening country. They cannot participate in its government; they can have little or no say in its decision making. The intervening state will not and indeed cannot operate in the best interests of the victims of its intervention: its responsibilities are not to them but to its own citizens. The intervening state cannot be the servant of the people in whose nation it intervenes.
By default intervention demotes the people of the subject state to a lower class: they have no effective government of their own and they cannot truly influence the intervening government. If the intervening state becomes a master, then it also becomes a bad master. It cannot operate in the interests of the people in whose country it has intervened, so it will act against their interests. Thus an endeavor which may have been begun with some beneficence can never fulfill its stated goals. As Dennis says in Monty Python, “come see the oppression inherent in the system!” But even so, our involvement in Afghanistan, at the very least, will apparently continue.Published in