Reviewed by A.J. Andreas Ringl, Ph.D.
The Case Against Military Intervention: Why We Do It and Why It Fails by Donald M. Snow, New York: Routledge, 2016, 192 p., $38.96.
Snow has written a book most apropos for current discussions regarding American politics and policy. For those involved in teaching, public office, or private enterprise, this book should not be ignored. Snow builds a researched explanation for his case against military intervention, but more importantly, offers a five-point decision matrix for assessing the contemplation of future military engagements.
Snow’s arguments against intervention include the notion that U.S. involvement in developing world internal conflicts (DWICs) rarely, if ever, rise to the level of U.S. vital interests, and should therefore be avoided (page 10-11). Furthermore, the U.S. attempt at understanding its military role is still based in the Cold War mindset, hindering a sober analysis of current policy decisions. Our current mentality is well explained as a transitionary paradigm from colonialism to World War to Cold War, with no regard toward DWIC dynamics. The fact that the U.S. has had only one unquestionable military success since World War II (Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait) (page 79-80) suggests that American exceptionalism may require rethinking (page 27).
Indeed, the very philosophy of American intervention might need an overhaul. American interference, however well intentioned, may certainly make matters worse (page104), and is often driven by the national security myth of American invincibility (page 144). Is there a true national interest at stake in our DWIC adventures or is it self-interest? Snow examines this question as well because American treasure is often expended by the military-industrial-governmental triad without regard to realistic evaluations (page 151-154).
Since American military actions have both international and domestic consequences, or an “intermestic” impact (page 155), the decision for DWIC involvement should be carefully weighed. Here, Snow offers “five hard questions,” which are sequential and must be answered in order and satisfactorily so before moving on to the next. The first question, “Why is this happening” (page 175), is key. According to Snow, U.S. assessment of this basic question is often misunderstood, misappropriated, or manipulated. Yet our interventions persist; our failures continue.
This book is an eye-opener. Some may chastise Snow as un-American; some may applaud his realistic analysis. If America intends to prevail however, perhaps the nation should learn to update to a more contemporary geopolitical reality. This book offers one rationale for doing so.