Politics of International Humanitarian Intervention
POLITICS BY RASHID RAINA
The world hegemon is again on a prowl, once again on a mission to “civilize” the world and this time the victim is the “dictatorial regime” in Libya. The heavy bombing by the NATO forces on Libyan cities has already consumed hundreds of civilian lives and left thousands of them injured; the country has been pushed to the brink of a civil war, which will surely take its toll for years to come. In the uprising against the Ghadaffi regime the allied forces saw an opportunity to settle their scores. The ‘Arab Spring’ enabled the United States and Company to anticipate the uprising before hand and hectic preparations had already begun, even before the actual uprising, to support the rebel forces in their mission to “liberate” their country from a regime considered to be totalitarian in its outlook. With the eruption of the clashes between the rebels and the government forces the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution 1973, mandating a No-Fly Zone over Libya and a bombing campaign was started by the allied forces. In a recent announcement the NATO has extended its Libyan war by three months. The intervention comes at a time when the scars of the Afghan and the Iraq war are still raw. Against this backdrop it becomes imperative to go deep down in to the politics involved in the intervention based on ‘humanitarian’ considerations. The concept of the humanitarian intervention has remained as one of the contentious issue in the world politics, on the level of discourse surrounding the issue and more so on the basis of practical considerations. More than once under the guise of intervening on humanitarian basis the self proclaimed guardians of the democracy and freedom have used it as a smoke screen to consolidate their own interests. Intervention is a novel thing only when the interest of the humanity as a whole can be served, not of a particular country or grouping as the case in point depicts. In the arena of international relations, the realist thought conceives of foreign policy decisions as interest based, morality has a role to play but it comes second. The intervention in Libya against a regime considered hostile to the western interest puts the logic of intervention, under the guise of protecting the civilians from their own governments, in jeopardy. The case in point is not isolated. The history of the world is witness to numerous such adventures; who will forget the killing fields of Vietnam and Cambodia. The duality was more visible when the world community stood as a mute spectator to civil war in Rwanda in 1994, which left an approximate million people dead and an equal number of them were forced to leave their country. The lack of interest of the world community to intervene in Rwanda had nothing to do with non-intervention in the domestic affairs of a country. It was linked, albeit intricately, to an earlier adventure of the United States in Mogadishu, the Somalian Capital, where scores of the American military men were killed, including the destruction of two black hawk helicopters. The resultant domestic opinion in the United States proved very hostile. And a year later, sniffing a civil war in Rwanda, United States was the first country to withdraw, followed by the rest of the companions. The country was left at the mercy of just a handful of twelve peacekeeping soldiers, including a commanding officer. One wonders where did the conscience of the world community go when thousands of the impoverished citizens were butchered in the heart of Africa.
The decision of non-intervention was politically motivated and well calculated, at least strategically. What interest would an impoverished African nation serve to the west? And certainly intervening in East-Timor really served an interest and so do intervention in Libya, considered as a threat to the western interests in the resource rich middle-east. The interest of the United Sates and co. were well defined when they intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan. Controlling Iraq you get more oil. Intervention in Afghanistan was imperative as it serves dual purpose; a base in the back yard of Iran and yet another platform for encirclement of a rising and “belligerent” China. The bottom line is clear; the intensity of the intervention is in a direct proportionate relation to the intensity of the interests served. Otherwise why would a state suffer losses without any visible gains? International politics is yet to reach a stage where altruism would rule over the perceived interests. Back to Libya we find that the Ghaddaffi regime is considered hostile to the West and the intensity of the intervention is high. The NATO and its allies have remained consistent at least on one count; they always overrun the mandate accorded to them by the UN Security Council, time and again. The BRICS nations were applauded for opposing the resolution and most of them abstained from voting. Under the sounds of the loud applause everyone forgot about the basics of the international politics, that is to say the interest of the states were served. China and Russia could have vetoed the resolution simply, but they didn’t do that. One simple explanation of the behaviour of the two permanent members is that the intervention would serve their interests that too without assuming a direct responsibility.
India’s decision to abstain from voting was rational because it could not afford one when it comes to its adventures in Kashmir. The Arab countries which support the operation have their own interests. No one is against an Intervention which is truly humanitarian in character, but care should be taken that the provisions are not misused by vested interests to serve their own purposes. The world community should learn to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the hard earned freedom of nations before embracing any such adventure. Letting the reign loose would plunge the international system into anarchy and we would be left with no option, but to regret.
(Rashid Raina, PhD Student, Diplomacy and Disarmament division, School of international Studies, JNU, New Delhi)
Lastupdate on : Wed, 29 Jun 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 29 Jun 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 30 Jun 2011 00:00:00 IST
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