Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations

Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations

Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations

Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations

Synopsis

Does humanitarian intervention 'work'? Could it work better if approached differently? Or should we just, in the words of one critic, 'give war a chance'?Since the end of the Cold War and the subsequent surge in civil and international conflicts, the UN has been faced by an ever-increasing set of demands on its military capacity. This book traces the evolution of its armed humanitarian intervention from the grand ambitions for forceful collective security through the 'brushfire' peacekeeping of the cold war years to its engagement with the present globalised yet fractured world order. Key Features Presents a concise analytical overview of the theoretical, moral and practical issues Explores the general setting of contemporary humanitarian intervention Assesses the actual record of post-Cold War humanitarian intervention on a region-by-region basis, from the Balkans to Africa and Southeast Asia Compiles a balance sheet of success and failure in the UN's efforts and confronts hard questions about their short and long-term value

Excerpt

The origins of collective humanitarian intervention long pre-date the end of the cold war. Although the intensity of intervention and public awareness of it as a phenomenon have grown enormously, it has a protracted historical ancestry. At different times and in various places the collective and the humanitarian elements in military interventions may have been questionable. But in the eyes of those who have advocated such interventions over the centuries, as well as those who have carried them out, an ethical dimension has usually been at least claimed for them. What were the medieval crusades if not ‘collective humanitarian interventions’ at least in the justifications, and usually also somewhere in the consciences, of the crusaders themselves? Those who bore the brunt of those Christian onslaughts obviously did not see things quite in that light. But then, as now, such operations are defined differently when seen through different lenses.

There are also continuing arguments about not just what constitutes humanitarianism, but also the nature of ‘intervention’. In one view the application of any sort of pressure on a state, whether it involves a military presence or not, would be intervention. Economic and diplomatic pressures, however mild and subtle, amount to intervention and when applied for humanitarian purposes these too would constitute humanitarian intervention. The United Nations itself is empowered by its charter to apply such pressures and has proved reasonably adept at doing so. The diplomatic isolation of errant states and the application of economic sanctions against them have long been weapons in the UN’s non-military armoury. Often the UN will approach intervention in an incremental way, applying these milder tools before committing to military actions. While this book is mainly concerned with intervention by military personnel acting under mandates provided by the United Nations, we need to be aware at the outset that this is not the beginning and end of ‘humanitarian intervention’. Nor, as we have noted, is it a uniquely UN activity. Its pedigree in world politics and history is long and complex.

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