Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Some points regarding humanitarian interventions:

  1. In Kosovo, military intervention was an unimitigated disaster as far as the humanitarian aims that were claimed (falsly IMHO) are concerned. Not only did the bombing directly cause the sort of atrocities the intervention was supposed to prevent (via the withdrawal of the OSCE monitors on the ground and the reprisal strategy of the Yugoslav army as a response to NATO's bombardment), but it ended up causing an inverted but possibly even more diastrous pogrom against Kosovo's non-Albanians more than 200.000 of whom are still 10 years after the conflict, still refugees, with little hope of ever returning to their homeland. The confict was thus "resolved" in the time honoured method of wiping the losers of the map, a not very humanitarian outcome, I think.

  2. This brings us to the selectivity of intervention. It must be noted that while deploring the (undoubtedly deplorable) Serbian and Bosnian-Serb ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia, the West was rather understanding of the Croatian cleansing of over 200.000 Croatian Serbs from its territories with the approval of the US. Beyond that one of the countries taking part in the aggression against Serbia in 1999 was Turkey, a country with anti-insurgency tactics and results in that same decade, against its separatist/autonomist Kurdish movement, that make Serbian actions in Kosovo pale in comparison.

  3. Note also that despite common misconceptions it was not NATO's military might that forced Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo (neither was it in Bosnia btw). Rather it was Russian pressure applied because of western blackmail to the Yeltsin government (through IMF loans and such), that made Milosevic capitulate. When he did he agreed to a plan with which he agreed already in Rambouillet, before being presented with new Appendices that were "intolerable". Generally I can't think of a single so-called military "humanitarian intervention" that achieved its goals. The idea that conflict can be solved by force without the agreement of the participating partied seems surreal to me and certainly not grounded in experience. In fact massive investment in conflict prevention and economic motives for reconciliation seem much more effective tools for peace, love and mutual understanding than sending in the marines.

  4. I suspect most people would be rather sceptical of Russian intervention in, say. Central Asia, in the name of democracy. How can one then be less sceptical of intervention by the West, collectively an assortement of ex-colonial powers plus the country with the greatest number of foreign interventions, dictatorship prop-ups etc? This is not a small issue and it is pervasive. There is zero tolerance from the rest of the world to western adventurism and neo-colonialism dressed up in the guise of "humanitarian intervention", western military humanitarianism has near-zero credibility. And of course no one is seriously suggesting bringing to court the masterminds behind the most murderous intervention of recent years, the invasion of Iraq, a war resulting in both a higher death toll than Darfur and more refugees.

  5. Note also that "humanitarian" interventions by non-western countries were strongly opposed by the US and the rest of the Western powers: Despite the obvious good that Vietnamese intervention resulted in by deposing Pol Pot, the US was against it and supported the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese intervention.

  6. Finally there is the question of realism: the only possible effect AFAICS of the warrants against Bashir is the subversion of negotiations and diplomacy, which still seem the best bets for anything resembling peace in the area. How is this going to help at all? Is the West going to start a new all-out civil war in Sudan attempting to capture Bashir? Why is giving the impression of doing something impartially, more important than actual improvement of the situation on the ground? Is it some sort of puritan fixation on punishment that I don't get?

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:54:10 PM EST

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