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Iraq War: Humanitarian Intervention?
No news item garners more interest and more debate today in America and around the world than the impending second war against Iraq. President George Bush led a coalition in a war against Iraq over a decade ago after Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, attacked and overran the small princely state of Kuwait.
Coalition forces "drew a line in the sand" and forced Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait. Of course, the popular mandate at the time was a liberation of Kuwait, but truly the only rallying cry could have been sovereignty, as the Kuwaiti people - subjects of a princely state - were anything but liberated according to the de Toquevillian version of liberation and democracy under which American and its allies function.
Today, a similar situation has reared its head. After prosecuting a war on terror in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bali and other distant locales, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have set their sights unerringly on yet another war in Iraq under the rallying cry of both a war against terrorism and a war for humanitarian intervention.
The subject of this paper is not the war against terror and its merits in Iraq, but the humanitarian intervention prong. Coalition forces - primarily Britain, the United States and Spain - have been urging the United Nations to understand the vast human oppressions Saddam Hussein allegedly has inflicted, is inflicting and will continue to inflict upon his own people. The coalition is asking the United Nations for a general mandate to stop such oppression through force.
However, the humanitarian intervention argument crumbles when placed against the analysis constructed by Richard Falk in "Human Rights Horizons." Falk writes:
This conceptual effort to sort out the issues associated with humanitarian emergencies induced by governmental failure must contend with two further sets of conditions. First of all, an unresolved internal struggle among various factions or regions to reconstitute governmental authority frequently gives rise to the perception that external actors, whether under the auspices of the United Nations or not, are taking sides. This pattern complicated, and some say doomed, the latter phases of the Somalia operation in 1993-94. Second, external actors have been accused of reconstituting governmental authority in a manner that confers benefits on them, a process that seemed to occur in Kuwait after the Gulf War, when lucrative construction contracts were awarded to foreign firms from the main intervening states. In both instances, it can be seen that sovereignty, in its negative aspects, is not necessarily suspended by governmental failure.
In other words, competing factions in a state must clearly be mapped out and understood before any humanitarian intervention can be successful. There are several competing factions within Iraq, as there were in Afghanistan before the coalition forces occupied it.
However, the situation in Iraq is different, as no clear leader has been chosen or has stepped forward to institute humanitarian governing after Saddam Hussein is deposed. In Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai stepped forward and was supported by the coalition forces.
Falk would argue that humanitarian intervention will collapse without a solid plan for further rule in Iraq. Falk also argues that "prevailing international morality is generally respectful towards territorial sovereignty." Here, Falk implies that even though Iraq's human rights schema may seems sub-par to Americans - even unto accusations that Saddam Hussein gasses his own people and will use chemical weapons against the Kurdish minority again if given the chance - Iraq is a sovereign nation, and may act as it pleases within its own borders.
Even though the coalition forces may feel that they have a mandate to enter Iraq's sovereignty and impose a new government, Falk would caution that morality is actually on the side of sovereignty and a healthy distance from humanitarian intervention.
But there is some support for a war of humanitarian intervention in Iraq in the United Nations Charter: "The Charter of the Untied Nations (1945) begins by reaffirming a faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small."
Under this construct, the coalition forces, if they can prove that Saddam Hussein is not respecting human rights in Iraq, may have a better argument to interfere with Iraq's territorial sovereignty. However, the proof is essential. But once that proof is established, a strong coalition and the support of the United…[continue]
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