POLS 1501 HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION Essay Question: Humanitarian Intervention is one of the key features of post-Cold war international politics. What exactly is it? What are the arguments for and against it? Discuss your answers in the context of a recent case, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan or East Timor. Hypothesis: That despite the incidents where humanitarian interventions have proved seemingly unsuccessful, they are, nonetheless, a vital tool in alleviating the human suffering that so plagues contemporary society. The post-Cold war world is one that has been riddled with conflict, suffering and war.
In the face of such times, the issue of humanitarian intervention and about who, when and how it should be employed, has become hotly debated. While some critics declare this kind of intervention to be a violation of national sovereignty, others believe that relief efforts aimed at ending human suffering are perfectly justifiable. (7) The key question here is, if internal wars cause unacceptable human suffering, should the international community develop collective mechanisms for preventing or alleviating it? (5) This essay will attempt to address such a question, by outlining the arguments for and against humanitarian intervention in the context of the Bosnian crisis of 1991. In light of the evidence, it will be proven that although humanitarian intervention does have flaws, it is a vital tool in alleviating the human suffering that so plagues contemporary society. The complex issue of humanitarian intervention is widely argued and inherently controversial. Humanitarian intervention involves the coercive action of states intervening in areas for the sole purpose of preventing or halting the killing or suffering of the people there.
(1, 9, 5) It is an issue argued fervently amongst restrictionists and counter-restrictionists, who debate over whether humanitarian intervention is a breach of international law or a moral requirement. (10) Restrictionists argue that Articles 2 (7) and 2 (4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter render forcible humanitarian intervention illegal. The only legitimate exception to this, they claim, is the right to self defence, as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. (1-472) This position is contested by counter-restrictionists, who insist that any and all nations have the right, and the responsibility, to prevent humanitarian disasters. (8-5) Despite the declaration of a 'new world order', the post-Cold war world has not been a more peaceful one: regional and ethnic conflicts have, in fact, proliferated. Between 1989 and 1993, for example, thirteen new peacekeeping operations were launched by the UN.
This equals the total amount of such operations initiated during the previous forty years. (3) From this it is easy to see how humanitarian interventions have become a key feature of the last decade. A perfect, recent example of humanitarian intervention can be seen in Bosnia, when, in 1991, four of the six republics of the Yugoslavian federation declared independence, with various levels of violence accompanying. Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter 'Bosnia') suffered the worst brutality with the Muslim population (45%) being outgunned by the better equipped Serbs (32%) and the Croats (18%). (8) Ethnic cleansing, particularly as practised by the Serbs, included large-scale starvation and massacre of unarmed civilians. The UN Security Council authorized the deployment of a peacekeeping force whose mandate was later expanded to include more forceful military action.
Although it is argued that the intervention helped bring about the end of the war in 1995, some 200, 000 people had already lost their lives. (3) While some coined the intervention in Bosnia as a failure, others hailed it as a triumph of human rights liberations. What is important to note is that the arguments for and against the Bosnian humanitarian intervention are similar to the arguments inherent in the majority of post-Cold war interventions. Humanitarian interventions, because of their complex and highly controversial nature, are open to wide-scale criticism within the international community. Furthermore, many claim the intervention in Bosnia is an example of how these flaws hamper peaceful solutions. Firstly, there is the issue of motives.
Realists argue that states don't intervene for primarily humanitarian reasons, but for national interests. While this may not be so evident in Bosnia, many argue that when the French intervened in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, they used humanitarian reasons as a cloak for pursuing national interests. (1) Secondly, many argue whether soldiers' lives should be sacrificed in the name of humanitarian reasons; taking human lives to prevent humanitarian abuses is often a strange equation. Again, realists argue that what goes on within a state is that state's responsibility, not the responsibility of foreign soldiers. (2-256) Thirdly, the question of selectivity and consistency of response is another flaw.
(5-156) A recent example of the selectivity of response is the critics' questioning of why the US and NATO were so quick to respond to the Bosnian crisis, and yet so willing to ignore the plight of the East Timorese or the Turkish Kurds. (1-474) "The Progressive' even went so far as to say 'The Clinton Administration has, shall we say, a selective conscience." (6-2) Furthermore, as there is currently no criteria or requirement for humanitarian intervention, there is much stipulation over what is classified as a humanitarian crisis. Many argue that the Bosnian crisis is a prime example of why humanitarian intervention is a flawed and unsuccessful option. Critics argue that, even though the UN prevented hundreds of thousands of Bosnian in besieged towns from starvation, it did little or nothing to stop Bosnian Serbs from shelling these areas and ethnically cleansing them of Muslims. Furthermore, others claim that NATO'S degrading of Serb military capability from the air did nothing to save those civilians trapped in UN-created safe areas.
In 1995 at least 7, 414 Muslim men were rounded up in a Srebrenica enclave and systematically killed in the worst war crime of the whole war. However, while such examples may indicate that humanitarian interventions are not a legitimate option, there are also positive aspects that in some cases, compensate for, and override these negative flaws. However, such a definition is open to much controversy. Who can authorise such interventions? What is classified as human suffering, and furthermore, what type of action is considered a legitimate response? (5- pg 155) These are the questions that underpin the issue of humanitarian intervention, questions that remained unanswered today.