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Things look different from the top. Government decisions are not -- and should not be -- made on the basis of one's gut reaction to a situation, doubly so in cases of large-scale conflicts. There are questions that precede that of whether the bad guys du jour deserve some serious smacking around -- questions of international responses to an intervention, diplomatic relations with the countries involved, economic expenses, expected chance of success, possible domestic and foreign casualties etc. Generally speaking, there is little opportunity for a ruler to express his or her own personal morality, and when they do it's usually not scandalously psychopathic. While they may not be role models of ethical behavior, at the same time not every politician is Elizabeth Bathory. After all strategic considerations are made, there's little wiggle room for how one's instinct of right and wrong may sway.

In the particular case you mentioned, many people see American interventionism as eventually worse than every country sorting out its own problems. Playing world police can be easily interpreted as hegemonic action against other states; even though there's some sense in which you think you're helping, other states can interpret it as a threat to their own sovereignty.

No, citizens can't be considered complicit in most government policy, considering that we don't vote on policy, we vote on policy makers (which can very well make decisions independently of what they had promised to do while in office). To a large degree people are subjects to their government rather than participants in it.






many people see American interventionism as eventually worse than every country sorting out its own problems.


Many people see it this way and in numerous cases they are correct. Still, it is scary to imagine how the world would like if the U.S. stood aside during the WWII.

No, citizens can't be considered complicit in most government policy, considering that we don't vote on policy, we vote on policy makers


The importance of votes should not be underestimated. The problem is that voters are pretty indifferent to the results of foreign policy unless they have domestic implications. The failed invasions of Haiti and Somalia and the failure to intervene in Rwanda had not stopped Clinton from winning reelection. Bush’s later failures in Iraq had not stopped him from winning his.
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melian
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One can argue that by doing nothing to change the government policies, every individual citizen is complicit. There are ways citizens can affect the policy: by activism, writing a blog, educating other people through various outlets etc. If they try and fail to affect the policy, it's another story. But are they morally obligated to try?

Is there really that much difference morally between governments standing on the side and ignoring mass murder and individual citizens doing the same?

Also, do you seriously believe that if some country mass-murders or ethnically cleanses its people (like what happened in Rwanda), it is morally justified to let this happen, when an intervention could make a difference and save millions of innocent lives? Another example is the hunger in North Korea in the 90's that killed millions - all these people could have been saved, even if it meant forcibly removing their regime.
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julia1
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