What you are describing is a political events based on ideological values and norms which you consider important. Politicans, strategists and military planners often work on timescales far in advance of the average voter or world citizen; attempting to shape the world on a micro, macro and international level. This requires frequent deviations from stated values.
The interventions you speak of are known as Realpolitik.
Realpolitik (from German: real "realistic", "practical", or "actual"; and Politik "politics", German pronunciation: [ʁeˈaːlpoliˌtɪk]) is politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism. It is often simply referred to as pragmatism in politics, e.g. "pursuing pragmatic policies". The term Realpolitik is sometimes used pejoratively to imply politics that are perceived as coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian.
The policy of Realpolitik was formally introduced to the Richard Nixon White House by Henry Kissinger. In this context, the policy meant dealing with other powerful nations in a practical manner rather than on the basis of political doctrine or ethics.
Realpolitik is distinct from ideological politics in that it is not dictated by a fixed set of rules, but instead tends to be goal-oriented, limited only by practical exigencies. Since Realpolitik is ordered toward the most practical means of securing national interests, it can often entail compromising on ideological principles. For example, during the Cold War, the United States often supported authoritarian regimes that were human rights violators, in order to theoretically secure the greater national interest of regional stability. After the end of the Cold War this practice continued and still continues to this day.
Realpolitik is closely linked to Containment.
Containment is a geopolitical strategy to stop the expansion of an enemy. It is best known as the Cold War policy of the United States and its allies to prevent the spread of communism. A component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet Union to increase communist influence in Eastern Europe, China, Korea, Africa, and Vietnam. Containment represented a middle-ground position between detente and rollback
By engaging an ideological enemy in a neutral territory, superpowers can avoid direct conflict which runs the risk of escalating into a global catastrophe.
Containment can distract and weaken an opponent as they become mired in a conflict far beyond their capabilities or political will (See Russia in Afghanistan, the USA in Vietnam or Iran-Iraq).
Containment has always existed in military strategy, from the tiny scale (Chess) to the regional and beyond. However it came to prominence with the Domino Effect theory. The domino theory was a theory prominent from the 1950s to the 1980s, that speculated that if one country in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. The domino theory was used by successive United States administrations during the Cold War to justify the need for American intervention around the world.
Are all interventions Realpolitik or Containment?
In short; no. The reasons behind intervention can vary widely and rely largely on your prism or viewpoint. The World Bank often consider the International Monetary Fund interventions in foreign economies to be harmful and aggressive despite the IMF feeling that they are imposing long-term benefits. NATO, led by the USA, intervened in Afghanistan for genuine reasons without any kind of economic gain from natural resources.
Humanitarian crises can and do occur and superpowers will take action if possible. For instance, the United Kingdom has not intervened in Zimbabwe despite the crisis because the United Nations strongly condemns former colonial rulers going back into their former territories (and there is no suitable deep water port to launch an assault) so the humanitarian situation is allowed to progress as the world watches.
Most importantly, humans are extremely poor at estimating third and fourth order effects. Extremely extremely poor. Who could possibly predict that the first Gulf War would lead to the destruction of the Twin Towers 10 years later? (Bin Laden took offence at the buildup of Coalition Troops in Saudi Arabia and thus AQ was born) so many interventions may be well intentioned but the variables are just too complex to predict how it will turn out.
Real World Case Study
There is only one true corridor within which to attack the Russian state - via the European Plain. Attacks from the South are buffered by troops stationed across the landstrip of Georgia etc. Attacks from the East are impossible since troops would need to travel over 4000 miles just to reach the mountains before Moscow. An attack can only come through the EU/NATO nations in the European Plain. The weak spot in the Russian suit of armour is the Ukraine.
Russia formerly used Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany and Poland as buffers to US expansion however the fall of the USSR, free market reforms and the EU have enabled NATO membership to expand ever closer to the Russian border leaving only Ukraine (which formerly included the Crimea) as the last nation before NATO could threaten the entirety of the Russian state.
The Russian Navy is penned in in the North via the GIUK corridor and thusly can only launch from the Black Sea.
Under containment it is now impossible for Russia to allow the Ukraine to adopt true self-determination. It is geo-politically impossible since to do so would be to effectively expose themselves to a military rout.
Now knowing what you have learned about containment; it is increasingly difficult to see the Ukraine as a sovereign territory; they are simply part of a larger geopolitical game.
Once you see the world through the eyes of realpolitik it can be difficult to reconcile small interactions with the needs of the global order. For instance, Vietnam is now a modern, vibrant free-market economy but it required war to get there. South Korea also. Was the Korean War the correct price to pay for modern freedom and economic progress for millions of people in the modern era?
The stated reasons for a interfering in a sovereign nation affairs can vary widely from the actual reasons which may form part of a larger strategy known only to political parties and military/intelligence services. Such unknown motivations to civilians are typically revealed by academic study many years later, sometimes decades, if at all.
In addition; domestic enemies lie in wait to pounce on political weakness even if the intervention was well intentioned.
- George Bush intervened in Iraq - the monster! [Democrats]
- Barack Obama neglected to intervene in Syria - the monster! [Republicans]
- Russia annexed Crimea which is primarily Russian citizens - the monsters! [EU]