The view that humanitarian intervention is justifiable is debatable. This is due to the fact that in many cases there are two sides to a judgement, the side of the country or countries intervening and the side of the country that is being subjected to intervention. An example is the Iraq war in which the USA and Great Britain intervened, the US and UK may have viewed intervention as inevitable and necessary while the Iraqi’s had many other views and in hindsight many see intervention as a way of worsening matters. Furthermore the idea that humanitarian intervention is justifiable could indeed always depend on the situation and to what extent is intervention needed.
Intervention can be justified by the idea of ‘common humanity’, this is the idea that moral responsibilities cannot be limited to a country’s own people and country but essentially to the whole of humanity. This can also be called indivisible humanity due to the claim that we are all humans no matter where we are on the planet. For example the Syrians may be different in geography and language to citizens of the western countries however; this doesn’t mean that they should be subjected to mass murder. As a result there seems to be a necessity for able countries to intervene, able in reference to resources and money and therefore humanitarian intervention can be viewed to be justifiable
However, this can be argued against by the possibility of countries intervening for themselves and to pursue their own national interests rather than the country which they are supposedly offering help to. There is an argument that states that countries wouldn’t deploy a great amount of soldiers overseas if there wasn’t a possibility or even a certainty of personal gain and also it is argued that on the subject of whether to intervene or not, some countries calculate national interest and decide then to carry out the intervention or not.
A possible example of this occurring is when the US sent troops to Iraq and there was a general view that this happened due to the possibility of gaining oil. This therefore shows political untruthfulness due to the fact that nations are using humanitarian intervention as a cover for their personal interest. Additionally, there is also a view that the citizens and the issues of a certain country are of that county’s business only and outside intervention is unnecessary. Therefore, this shows that humanitarian intervention isn’t justifiable
Moreover, the idea of humanitarian intervention can be justified by the fact that in some cases countries act out of a need to prevent a conflict occurring in another country that could have an effect on the country’s own citizens. This is related to the idea of global interconnectedness, currently there are several countries that depend on another for a key reason, for example the exporting and importing of goods. As a result this leads to these countries siding with each other in matters of hardship for either one of them. Also the idea of global interdependence is important because it sheds light to the other side of self-interest; enlightened self-interest. An example of this is ‘Operation Provide Comfort’ (1991) which is when the US intervened in Iraq to defend Kurds that were fleeing their homes in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war.
On the other hand, the issue of double standards arises that argues against the justification of humanitarian intervention. This is when there is clearly a pressing humanitarian emergency but certain countries decide not to intervene and go to the extent of ruling intervention out completely. For example, the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the USA had just come out of a terrible peacekeeping mission in Somalia and vowed never to get involved in a conflict between clans and tribes where there was no national interest. This shows that although the Rwandan genocide was such a pressing situation as there was no national interest in getting involved the US avoided it showing that they had double standards as years later they involved themselves in Iraq where there was a possibility of personal gain and national interest in the form of oil.
Additionally, humanitarian intervention can be justified due to the concept of regional stability. This means that when one country is being affected to the extent of there being a need for intervention it will have a certain effect on the countries surrounding it. As a result many neighbouring countries of an affected country will support humanitarian intervention in fear of the effect that regional instability may have on them. If there is severe unrest then this may call for intervention from major powers such as the USA in order to prevent a possible regional war. For example, the humanitarian crisis in Syria is posing a threat to regional stability due to the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries are in dispute because Iran is adamantly backing the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad while Saudi Arabia is strongly anti-Assad.
This is causing regional instability due to the fact that several Middle Eastern countries are now forming two sides; pro-Assad and anti-Assad, for example the highly influential religious group Hezbollah are on Assad’s side as they sided with Iran on the matter. Furthermore this issue is severe due to its highly religious nature. This is shown in the fact that Shi’ite Iran and Hezbollah are supporting the Alawite Assad while Saudi Arabia a Sunni country are against him. Religion is a hugely influential and motivating factor for war and dispute and this issue is emphasising this further. Therefore the need for regional stability is key, and it justifies the need for humanitarian intervention as it seems like it is an important factor in preventing regional unrest and possible wars.
On the other hand, it can be argued that humanitarian intervention isn’t justifiable due to the matter of ‘simplistic politics.’ This is when conflicts have been simplified to a basic good versus bad concept in which complexities of potential intervention and its consequences are ignored or belittled and certain aspects have been exaggerated such as the amount of atrocities committed or murders that have occurred. This then results in a distorted view of humanitarian intervention which leads to devastation once it happens as things are underestimated or overestimated. Distortion has a key role in the argument against humanitarian intervention being justifiable.
This is because of the fact that the west have a false view of human rights in other parts of the world, for example the USA may have a different set of human rights to those of a middle eastern country and this distorted view can have many disastrous consequences as humanitarian intervention may occur due to a misinterpretation of the human rights of the countries involved. This shows that humanitarian intervention isn’t justifiable because of the different political systems around the world.
In conclusion, the evidence shows that whether humanitarian intervention is justifiable depends mostly on the situation. There are views that support intervention as it is viewed as an act for the greater good and must happen to prevent mass murder occurring, while others view it negatively as a seed of double standards and national interest as shown in Rwanda in 1994 where the US didn’t intervene due to no personal gain being offered in return. As a result humanitarian intervention is justifiable according to the situation.
Is humanitarian intervention justifiable?