We discussed in class the other day the United States’ moral obligation to intervene during the Serb genocide in Bosnia. At the heart of this issue are two often conflicting moral philosophies. One, which values rational self interest, prevents a country from intervening in foreign affairs that negatively effect it. This philosophy therefore also condemns the imposition of anything that would restrict the ability of an entity to pursue rational self interest. This is the same philosophy from which Adam Smith was able to create the idea of laissez-faire. The other, however, values inherent rights in humans over self interest, which encourages the action of intervention in order to defend human rights. The United States eventually intervened in this conflict in order to preserve human rights within Bosnia.
I think it is interesting that if we look at another instance of American intervention–the Iranian Revolution–the United States’ motivation for intervening is far different. Whether you believe the reason the United States intervened was to rid the world of communism or purely economical, it can be said that the U.S.’s reasons for intervening was to pursue its self interest. However the method with which the U.S. achieved its self interest seems to conflict with the philosophy that justifies this altruism. By pursuing its self interest to rid the world of communism and to obtain oil, the United States effectively limited the ability of Iran to pursue its own rational self interest, for the majority of the Iranian population supported Mossadeq. It seems that the United States therefore violated the same philosophy which it used to justify its intervention in Iran.