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Humanitarian Intervention Essay

990 words - 4 pages

Humanitarian Intervention

Hypothesis: That despite the incidents where humanitarian interventions have proved seemingly unsuccessful, they are, nonetheless, a vital tool in alleviating the human suffering that so plagues contemporary society.

The post-Cold war world is one that has been riddled with conflict, suffering and war. In the face of such times, the issue of humanitarian intervention and about who, when and how it should be employed, has become hotly debated. While some critics declare this kind of intervention to be a violation of national sovereignty, others believe that relief efforts aimed at ending human suffering are perfectly justifiable. (7) The key question here is, if internal wars cause unacceptable human suffering, should the international community develop collective mechanisms for preventing or alleviating it?(5) This essay will attempt to address such a question, by outlining the arguments for and against humanitarian intervention in the context of the Bosnian crisis of 1991. In light of the evidence, it will be proven that although humanitarian intervention does have flaws, it is a vital tool in alleviating the human suffering that so plagues contemporary society.

The complex issue of humanitarian intervention is widely argued and inherently controversial. Humanitarian intervention involves the coercive action of states intervening in areas for the sole purpose of preventing or halting the killing or suffering of the people there. (1, 9, 5) It is an issue argued fervently amongst restrictionists and counter-restrictionists, who debate over whether humanitarian intervention is a breach of international law or a moral requirement. (10) Restrictionists argue that Articles 2 (7) and 2 (4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter render forcible humanitarian intervention illegal. The only legitimate exception to this, they claim, is the right to self defence, as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. (1-472) This position is contested by counter-restrictionists, who insist that any and all nations have the right, and the responsibility, to prevent humanitarian disasters. (8-5) Despite the declaration of a ‘new world order’, the post-Cold war world has not been a more peaceful one: regional and ethnic conflicts have, in fact, proliferated. Between 1989 and 1993, for example, thirteen new peacekeeping operations were launched by the UN. This equals the total amount of such operations initiated during the previous forty years. (3) From this it is easy to see how humanitarian interventions have become a key feature of the last decade. A perfect, recent example of humanitarian intervention can be seen in Bosnia, when, in 1991, four of the six republics of the Yugoslavian federation declared independence, with various levels of violence accompanying. Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter ‘Bosnia’) suffered the worst brutality with the Muslim population (45%) being outgunned by the better equipped Serbs (32%) and the Croats...

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