The political policies that are called conservative these days would appal any genuine conservative, if there were one around to be appalled. For example, the central policy of the Reagan Administration - which was supposed to be conservative - was to build up a powerful state. The state grew in power more under Reagan than in any peacetime period, even if you just measure it by state expenditures. The state intervention in the economy vastly increased. That's what the Pentagon system is, in fact; it's the creation of a state-guaranteed market and subsidy system for high-technology production. There was a commitment under the Reagan Administration to protect this more powerful state from the public, which is regarded as the domestic enemy. Take the resort to clandestine operations in foreign policy: that means the creation of a powerful central state immune from public inspection. Or take the increased efforts at censorship and other forms of control. All of these are called "conservatism," but they're the very opposite of conservatism. Whatever the term means, it involves a concern for Enlightenment values of individual rights and freedoms against powerful external authorities such as the state, a dominant Church, and so on. That kind of conservatism no one even remembers anymore.
The business of buying weapons that takes place in the Pentagon is a corrupt business - ethically and morally corrupt from top to bottom. The process is dominated by advocacy, with few, if any, checks and balances. Most people in power like this system of doing business and do not want it changed.
[Q: what did the United States have to gain by intervening in Somalia?]
In Somalia, we know exactly what they had to gain because they told us. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, described this as the best public relations operation of the Pentagon that he could imagine. His picture, which I think is plausible, is that there was a problem about raising the Pentagon budget, and they needed something that would be, look like a kind of a cakewalk, which would give a lot of prestige to the Pentagon. Somalia looked easy.
Let's look back at the background. For years, the United State had supported a really brutal dictator, who had just devastated the country, and was finally kicked out. After he's kicked out, it was 1990, the country sank into total chaos and disaster, with starvation and warfare and all kind of horrible misery. The United States refused to, certainly to pay reparations, but even to look. By the middle of 1992, it was beginning to ease. The fighting was dying down, food supplies were beginning to get in, the Red Cross was getting in, roughly 80% of their supplies they said. There was a harvest on the way. It looked like it was finally sort of settling down.
At that point, all of a sudden, George Bush announced that he had been watching these heartbreaking pictures on television, on Thanksgiving, and we had to do something, we had to send in humanitarian aid. The Marines landed, in a landing which was so comical, that even the media couldn't keep a straight face. Take a look at the reports of the landing of the Marines, it must've been the first week of December 1992. They had planned a night, there was nothing that was going on, but they planned a night landing, so you could show off all the fancy new night vision equipment and so on. Of course they had called the television stations, because what's the point of a PR operation for the Pentagon if there's no one to look for it. So the television stations were all there, with their bright lights and that sort of thing, and as the Marines were coming ashore they were blinded by the television light. So they had to send people out to get the cameramen to turn off the lights, so they could land with their fancy new equipment. As I say, even the media could not keep a straight face on this one, and they reported it pretty accurately. Also reported the PR aspect.
Well the idea was, you could get some nice shots of Marine colonels handing out peanut butter sandwiches to starving refugees, and that'd all look great. And so it looked for a couple of weeks, until things started to get unpleasant. As things started to get unpleasant, the United States responded with what's called the Powell Doctrine. The United States has an unusual military doctrine, it's one of the reasons why the U.S. is generally disqualified from peace keeping operations that involve civilians, again, this has to do with sovereignty. U.S. military doctrine is that U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat. That's not true for other countries. So countries like, say, Canada, the Fiji Islands, Pakistan, Norway, their soldiers are coming under threat all the time. The peace keepers in southern Lebanon for example, are being attacked by Israeli soldiers all the time, and have suffered plenty of casualties, and they don't like it.
But U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat, so when Somali teenagers started shaking fists at them, and more, they came back with massive fire power, and that led to a massacre. According to the U.S., I don't know the actual numbers, but according to U.S. government, about 7 to 10 thousand Somali civilians were killed before this was over. There's a close analysis of all of this by Alex de Waal, who's one of the world's leading specialists on African famine and relief, altogether academic specialist. His estimate is that the number of people saved by the intervention and the number killed by the intervention was approximately in the same ballpark.
That's Somalia. That's what's given as a stellar example of the humanitarian intervention.Talk titled "Sovereignty and World Order" at Kansas State University (September 20, 1999)