Doctrine Of Humanitarian Intervention Dissertation Or Thesis Complete

Length: 8 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: History - Israel Type: Dissertation or Thesis complete Paper: #94827685 Related Topics: Humanitarian Intervention, Syria, Rwandan Genocide, Arab Spring
Excerpt from Dissertation or Thesis complete :



In the spring of 2011 -- the Arab Spring -- I was living in Cyprus. From the deck outside of my bedroom I looked out over the Mediterranean, where the sun was setting, towards the north coast of Africa. Across that water, in Libya, civil war was breaking out. A Libyan fighter pilot flew across the water to Malta, asking for asylum (Hooper & Black, 2011). Libya's leader, Muammar Qadafi, had ordered the pilots to attack protestors in the country, many foreign diplomats resigned, and things only got worse from there.

The international community has long struggled to lay out clear rules for humanitarian intervention. In the 1990s, when humanitarian intervention was utilized on multiple occasions by the international community, civil war was the cause on a few occasions. One such occasion was during the Rwandan genocide. The UN's response during that time, with peacekeepers, no end of bureaucratic bungling, and other issues, was fairly weak, did not stop the slaughter, and became a black mark for the UN because the international community was seen as failing. Humanitarian intervention, in principle, does not imply the use of force, but rather to enter a sovereign state to restore order and begin the rebuilding process.

Later in the same decade, Kosovo became another test for the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. The preconditions for intervention were present -- crimes against humanity and apparently intractable conflict -- but in that case the international community was divided. In particular, the UN Security Council could not reach agreement on intervention, because Russia was a strong supporter of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. Henkin (1999) points out that the doctrine as humanitarian intervention, as written in law, under Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, "prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state" (p.824).

Kosovo represents a critical case study because with the UN unable to intervene because of Russia's veto power, NATO unilaterally entered into conflict with Serbia over Kosovo. This was an unprecedented action. In Rwanda, the UN failed to prevent genocide, and that sting on the international community loomed large in Kosovo, where genocide was also occurring. But there were significant political dimensions to Kosovo as well -- Milosevic was supported by Russia, and reviled in the West. The fall of Yugoslavia had been bloody, and the West saw this conflict as an opportunity to expand its sphere of influence, not just in Europe but in the Muslim world, as Kosovars are Muslim ethnic Albanians.

Libya represented a similar situation to Kosovo in some respects, and Syria also draws certain corollaries as well. A key similarity was that the ruler, Qadafi, had clearly authorized the use of military force on civilian protestors. In this case, they were not an ethnic minority -- everybody involved was Arab -- but they were the voice of dissent in a country that had existed under dictatorship for decades. The use of force internally is not by any means unknown in the world, and as such Kosovo presents a fairly flimsy precedent for military action. Doubtless this was one of the reasons why there was no consensus in the international community with respect to action against Libya. For their part, Russia and China specifically opposed intervention. Russia had on several occasions fought battles against its own insurgents, especially in Chechnya. China, having invaded Tibet and brutally repressed those people, surely did not want to set the precedent that the concept of humanitarian intervention could be invoked to defend an oppressed group.

Without the support of the international community, NATO did as it had in Kosovo and acted unilaterally to intervene militarily in Libya (Meo, 2011). As in Kosovo, NATO saw in the Arab Spring an opportunity to extend its sphere of influence, in particular in the Arab world. NATO intervention was only really considered in nations that were traditionally antagonistic towards the West -- Libya and Syria in particular -- while more Western-friendly countries with similar uprisings were never subject to the same sabre-rattling (i.e. Bahrain,...


Qadafi had made more than his share of enemies over the years, especially in the West, but also within the Arab League. As such, Qadafi was particularly vulnerable to NATO intervention, because the Arab League had little interest in standing up for Libya's sovereignty. The West saw an opportunity not only to depose an enemy and increase its sphere of influence in the region, but also to gain access to oil that had otherwise not been made available to many prominent Western companies for many years.

As with Kosovo, the political opportunity was simply too great. In the years since 9/11, there has been significant discord between the West and the Muslim world. The West has an interest in promoting its values in the Muslim world, as secularism, democracy and freedom of thought/speech are all aspects that would serve as a counterbalance to Islamic extremism in these societies. Thus, there was likely the perspective among NATO leaders that by lending support to the overthrow of a brutal dictator, that it could then fill the power vacuum in its own image. Such a thought would have been naive, optimistic, or both, because the reality was certainly nothing of the sort. But the underlying logic at the time would have been to support the Arab Spring, or in a more cynical take to leverage the Arab Spring to increase the West's influence in the Middle East.

The NATO actions in Libya were limited to air support. They neutralized Libya's air force, which provided better opportunity for opposition forces to combat the Libyan military. Unlike in Kosovo, NATO did not put the proverbial "boots on the ground," something that may have allowed it to avoid too many accusations of outside interference, and to maintain the veneer of humanitarian intervention. However, it is worth remembering that a key tenet of humanitarian intervention is that it is supposed to provide help to ordinary citizens, not to rebel militias. Humanitarian intervention, under the UN charter, is not about becoming involved in military conflict, or about taking sides.

The actions of NATO did not extend to actual humanitarian acts. They did not provide the sort of support for refugees, health care, reconstruction or other elements that would normally all under the rubric of humanitarian intervention. NATO merely provided a counterbalance to Qadafi's air power, allowing the rebels to take over the country. This simply does not meet the criteria of humanitarian intervention. It is intervention, but military, and the fact that NATO limited its actions in Libya does not negate the fact that it did not contribute to any actual humanitarian efforts in the country.


The Syrian situation bears some similarities with the Libya situation but for a key difference that had a dramatic effect on the outcome. The West was interesting in intervening, and indeed, there was talk for the first couple of years of that conflict that intervention would be necessary. On the surface, this was Libya 2.0, with a brutal anti-West dictator waging civil war against his own people. The Assad government was not only anti-West but had also made enemies within the Arab League, the powerful body in Middle Eastern politics. Unlike Qadafi, who was Sunni, Assad is Alawite, which is a branch of Shia Islam. The backdrop of the schism looms large in Syria, where the Shia minority rules over the Sunni majority, to the consternation of the largely Sunni Arab League. So like Qadafi, Assad was an enemy both of the West and of his own neighbors.

The key difference in Syria, the one that prevented intervention, is that Syria is the home of Russia's Mediterranean naval fleet. Russia had long maintained a massive fleet at Sevastopol, in Crimea, which at the time was part of Ukraine, a situation that has since changed. But this fleet could only operate in the Black Sea, as getting beyond would mean passing through the Bosporus, controlled by Turkey, a NATO country. The presence of a Russian naval station in Syria allowed Russia for decades to get around this logistical issue. As such, Russia would remain strenuously opposed to any intervention, military, humanitarian or otherwise. Where Russia and China could scuttle action against Libya at the UN Security Council, they had no forcible means of preventing NATO intervention there. In Syria, Russia's military presence provided such a buffer against NATO.

NATO had a desire to enter Syria, and resolve the conflict. Doubtless this would have involved removing Assad from power, and opening Syria up to Western oil companies in particular. It has nothing to do with Israel, nonsensical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories notwithstanding. NATO's interest was the same in Syria as Libya -- to remove an enemy and open up an oil market long closed to Western companies. Russia prevented that.

While nobody really predicted ISIS, it is worth remembering that intervention in Syria would have at least brought stability to the country. ISIS arose because…

Sources Used in Documents:


Hooper, J. & Black, I. (2011). Libya defectors: Pilots told to bomb protestors flee to Malta. The Guardian. Retrieved May 16, 2015 from Henkin, L. (1999). Editorial comments: NATO' Kosovo intervention. The American Journal of International Law. Vol. 93 (4) 824-828.

Meo, N. (2011). Libya: NATO warplanes kill 14 rebels. The Telegraph. Retrieved May 16, 2015 from

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