Blogs > Liberty and Power > Unintended Consequences and Iraq

Sep 10, 2004 8:44 am

Unintended Consequences and Iraq

F.A. Hayek's insights have helped shape the skepticism that a generation of scholars brings to the study of government action in the public sphere. As a follower of the Austrian school of economics, Hayek believed strongly that one of the fundamental problems with government"planning" was that we lack the knowledge necessary to foresee all of the potential outcomes of our actions. Concern about the unintended consequences of something prompted Hayek to preach caution when it came to government meddling in a wide range of areas.

It's time someone in this administration picked up The Road to Serfdom. Consider this piece in today's NYT on Colin Powell's testimony about Sudan yesterday. If you set aside the annoying inconsistency and hypocrisy voiced by U.S. officials, you'll note an interesting passage on the second page of the piece. Why have Bush administration officials been reluctant to be firmer with this government that has killed and raped tens of thousands of its citizens?

"The administration is also concerned that threats and punishments against Sudan would antagonize the Arab world, which already sees the Bush administration as being too eager to punish it. The conflict in Sudan is waged by an Arab-dominated government against non-Arab people in Darfur."

Iraq has led the U.S. to underman our efforts in Afghanistan (and I know there is significant aversion to that conflict for some in this blog) and now tied their hands in Sudan, a country that harbours terrorists including Bin Laden in the 1990's. Would this administration have cared one way or another about Sudan even without Iraq? It's hard to say since the neo-cons have always cared very little about the plight of black Africans. But it serves as a powerful example of what we cannot because of our commitments in Iraq.

Imagine say 75,000 of the troops we're currently using in Iraq helping hunt for Bin Laden? Imagine what might happen if terrorists were to strike using Sudan as a base of operations? Our ability to legitimately defend ourselves is severely happered by the occupation of Iraq supporting a puppet government in a badly divided state. Non-interventionism does not mean avoiding all armed conflict. It means defending yourself - full stop. The reason you follow George Washington's warning is simple, you never know what these messes can lead to.

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