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Does humanitarian intervention work?

Humanitarian intervention, or the military involvement in a foreign nation to protect human rights, has been a hotly debated topic for the past 75 years. Since the end of World War II, human rights and international peace have become paramount to the foreign policies of many countries. However, there is no consistent methodology for how to address human rights abuses, genocide, and conflict abroad. The challenges of sovereignty, international policing, and the efficacy of intervening have plagued the diplomatic minds in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Humanitarian intervention does not work

While the better angels of our nature may think intervening will help, that is often not the case. In addition to the practical and diplomatic hurdles, having a foreign military in a domestic conflict does not ease tensions.

Intervention can lead to extended conflict

If we look at the example set by Iraq, which was often framed as an intervention, it becomes clear that military involvement can come at a greater cost than inaction. The collateral damage and prolonged war caused by the Iraq War spells the dangers of intervening.

Intervention is unpopular in practice

In the US, polls indicate high concern for deadly civil wars such as in Syria, but low support for military intervention. A similar scenario has played out in past examples of genocide and suffering, such as Rwanda and Cambodia.

Humanitarian intervention is a moral responsibility

If violations of human rights are occurring, we have a moral obligation to intervene. Not every instance of humanitarian intervention will be identical, so we cannot assume it will be ineffective. Even if it does not work, we must try and help.

Humanitarianism creates a responsibility to protect

Sovereignty is predicated on the social contract between the people and the state. If a leader of a nation violates this responsibility, other actors must step up to maintain the rights and safety of those at risk.

Past humanitarian atrocities have gone unhindered

The world learned a horrific truth once the realities of the Holocaust became clear. Despite calls for 'never again,' the world has yet to show a commitment to stopping mass atrocities.

Military intervention is risky, but other forms of aid can help

Military intervention in foreign conflict may sometimes help, but there have been to many instances of failure. Instead of rolling the dice, we should use other means of aid and diplomacy to help.

Diplomatic and economic intervention is more practical

Through sanctioning and diplomacy, foreign powers are better positioned to limit the military and economic investment in a conflict. Diplomacy avoids the protraction that war can create.

This page was last edited on Sunday, 9 Aug 2020 at 17:02 UTC

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