Tag Archives: Ingrid Betancourt

Hard power

A people oppressed by years of military rule is a little like a hostage: they're oppressed against their will (no surprise), and they're subject to all sorts of unspeakable brutalities (including murder).  But that's pretty much it.  However difficult it is to rescue hostages (and it's very difficult I'm sure), it's rather easier than rescuing an oppressed people with "democracy" or "humanitarian intervention").  For that reason, Charles Krauthammer's analogizing the Columbian hostage rescue (which used "hard power"–no shooting, however!) to the invasion of Iraq (which used shooting) makes one cringe:

And who's going to intervene? The only country that could is the country that in the past two decades led coalitions that liberated Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan [The only country?  Not only are these situations significantly different from each other, but, Europe participated in all four of them–eds]. Having sacrificed much blood and treasure in its latest endeavor — the liberation of 25 million Iraqis from the most barbarous tyranny of all, and its replacement with what is beginning to emerge as the Arab world's first democracy — and having earned near-universal condemnation for its pains, America has absolutely no appetite for such missions.

And so the innocent languish, as did Betancourt, until some local power, inexplicably under the sway of the Bush notion of hard power, gets it done — often with the support of the American military. "Behind the rescue in a jungle clearing stood years of clandestine American work," explained The Post. "It included the deployment of elite U.S. Special Forces . . . a vast intelligence-gathering operation . . . and training programs for Colombian troops."

Upon her liberation, Betancourt offered profuse thanks to God and the Virgin Mary, to her supporters and the media, to France and Colombia and just about everybody else. As of this writing, none to the United States.

All of this to claim the French are sissies (yet again).  But, as certainly the French know, libertating a hostage from a captor has one clear marker of success: the hostage's life and freedom.  The success metric of an invasion?  Perhaps when they see us, their liberator, as their oppressor.  For then they are truly free.