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Another look at "humanitarian intervention" - May 8

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The moral maze around the recent UN actions in Libya and Ivory Coast, as well as the 'revelation' that oil was a factor in UK support for the Iraq war inspired this post on some history and thinking behind the policy of "humanitarain intervention".

Goodies and Baddies

Adam Curtis, The Medium and the Message blog - BBC online
The idea of "humanitarian intervention" which is behind the decision to attack in Libya is one of the central beliefs of our age.

It divides people. Some see it as a noble, disinterested use of Western power. Others see it as a smokescreen for a latter-day liberal imperialism.

I want to tell the story of how this idea originated and how it has grown up to possess the minds of a generation of liberal men and women in Europe and America.

It is the story of a generation who became disenchanted with traditional power politics. They thought they could leap over the old corrupt structures of power and connect directly with the innocent victims of war around the world.

It was a grand utopian project that began in the mid-60s in Africa and flourished and spread across the world. But in the 1990s it became corrupted by the very thing it was supposed to have transcended - western power politics.

And the idea seemed to have died in horror in a bombing of a hotel in Baghdad in 2003.

What we now see is the return of that dream in a ghostly, half-hearted form - where the confidence and hopes have been replaced by a nervous anxiety...
Adam illustrates his story with some great video clips. You may be familiar with his documentary work from the series The Century of the Self or The Power of Nightmares.
(28 March 2011)

Humanitarian Intervention: Whom to Protect, Whom to Abandon

Michael Elliot, Time Magazine
Death and taxes are always with us, and so are arguments about whether nations ever have the right or duty to intervene in the affairs of others. The case for "humanitarian intervention," under a variety of names, has been asserted at least since the great powers threw their weight behind Greece's struggle for independence in the 1820s, but in its modern form was developed during the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, when it appeared to many that armed force was the only way to end terrible atrocities. More recently, the U.N. has adopted as a norm of international affairs the "responsibility to protect," which contemplates the possibility of armed intervention when a state shows itself unable or unwilling to prevent grave human rights abuses.

The war in Libya has opened up the can of worms once more, with those on one side arguing that international forces can prevent or end great wrongs, while others assert that intervention is based on the inconsistent application of fuzzy principles and amounts to little more than imperialism dressed in a cloak of bleeding-heart piety.

First, it will indeed be applied selectively. There are leaders in the world at least as unpleasant as Muammar Gaddafi who sleep easily abed each night. In Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, peaceful protesters have been killed recently without anyone's arguing for a NATO mission to be dispatched...

First, it will indeed be applied selectively. There are leaders in the world at least as unpleasant as Muammar Gaddafi who sleep easily abed each night. In Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, peaceful protesters have been killed recently without anyone's arguing for a NATO mission to be dispatched...
(10 April 2011)

The Theory and Practice of Humanitarian Intervention and the Interest of Western Powers: Liberia, Darfur, Rwanda, Iraq, and Libya

Jerry M’bartee Locula, Peace & Conflict Monitor
In the vicinity of International Law, two significant achievements have been made since the beginning of the 21st Century. The first was the coming into force of the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 1, 2002...The next relevant development in international edict was the overwhelming approval from member states to accept the principle of humanitarian intervention, which was one of the outcomes of the Global Submit and inaugurated in September 2005...In the context of recent interventions, however, the question arises as to whether or not it actually is working in the interest of all humankind. Are the real global threats being targeted in the world poorest areas where in fact diseases, poverty, human rights violations and bad governance have become the reigning order? Well, our current social, economic, political, and cultural surroundings give an unmistakable answer.

By examining the theory and practice of humanitarian intervention, this paper will show how the standard has differed from the original intents and practice. In short, humanitarian intervention has turned into a tool in the service of Western interests through the absence of international political will on the part of the Security Council and the politics of selectivity as to where humanitarian intervention should occur, regardless of need. In this article, Liberia, Darfur, Rwanda, Iraq and Libya are critically reviewed in the context of the principle. It asserts that the international community has forfeited its responsibility to act justly...
(3 May 2011)
The author is a Human Rights and Governance Officer for the Lutheran Church in Liberia – Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Programme

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