Humanitarian Intervention : A return to core vales
The positive spirit of the International Community (IC) in the 1990s with regards humanitarianintervention was badly damaged by primarily the Iraq War but also the fatigue of the Afghanconflict. It goes without saying that Rwanda was a dark moment for the IC, but other events in theperiod, such as Sierra Leone or Bosnia (IFOR/SFOR not UNPROFOR), provided positive examplesof military intervention. The New World Order refereed to by President George H Bush in hisfamous 1991 speech was perhaps short-lived, yet the spirit of the period allowed for successfulintervention in several conflicts to the advantage of the residents of the areas affected.In the early 21st century military intervention became intertwined with neo-conservative policy. Anunderstandable result of the situation that occurred in Iraq and the war-wearyness that exists withregards Afghanistan is that politicians in both Europe and America have returned to a defensiveposture in terms of military expeditions. In many ways facets of isolationism can be seen in thediscourse that surrounds the topic. Few now speak of grand expeditions to intervene in trouble spotsaround the world.In the present economic climate this is perhaps understandable and none would question theeconomic rationality behind budget cuts in the military par se. Following Iraq and Afghanistan thereis a danger however that people associate intervention with interfering or see it as fear motivatedstrategy. While the threat of terror was a justifiable motivation for the 2001 Afghan operation, itshould not be looked at as the only factor. Humanitarian intervention rests on our sense of ethicsand this should be salvaged from the lessons learnt over the past decade of war. Failure to recognisethis will, as pointed out by the UK Shadow Defence Secretary: Jim Murphy, mean that the nextKosovo will receive stank interest.Defining our foreign policy as a humanitarian one is not simply an altruistic move. It is a questionof our fundamental beliefs. Both the USA and the EU are part of the grouping within internationalrelations known as “The West”. This is not simply a geographic term, as Australia is a key member;nor is it a financial term, although free-market economics is seen as a complementary feature.Western nations share a common belief in human rights and certain core values that tie us togetherin one community. Following existential philosophy, it is not simply okay to hold those beliefs andnot act; our action determines our identity and reinforces our beliefs. We would become a hollowshell if we did nothing when confronted with ethical dilemmas abroad.
Western countries need to redefinetheir security agenda so as to returnto basic core values which wereseen (perhaps in an embryonicstage) in the 1990s. If we forsakesuch basic tenets, then we risk losing our sense of self; a fact which could have far worseramifications than any specificterrorist threat or oil shortage.