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Humanitarian Intervention After Iraq: Legal Ideals Vs Military Realities

772 words - 4 pages

What, for Kurth, are the preconditions of genocide, and what are the implications for responding to it?

In this essay, James Kurth talks about how the face of Humanitarian efforts has changed in the last decade. There had been no effective humanitarian intervention in the 2000’s and he claims that like the “Vietnam syndrome”, Iraq has made states less inclined to get involved with foreign powers on humanitarian issues. He begins his explanation by debunking common myths about genocide, he says they “are commonly thought to be the product of longstanding and widespread hatreds” but “there has always been a large organization, usually a modern bureaucratic state, behind them” (196, 7). This distinction has huge policy repercussions. Instead of being focused on trying to develop cordial relationships and interdependence between groups that have a long history of mistrust - something nigh impossible because no outsider can get to the root of the conflict (197) - a militaristic solution can be found. Kurth suggests that since these genocides are backed by a specific state or military, it will take a foreign state’s military “to defeat and stop the killing” (197). The problem is both military might and a political will are essential to decide upon, authorize, and carry out a military intervention (197), however, lately the states with the proper political authority have not wanted to get involved.

What does he mean by the “legitimacy/efficacy trade-off”?

Kurth has a theory that the powers with the most legitimacy also have the least efficacy, or ability to implement an intervention, in the political sector. The UN has the greatest legitimacy in the world, however, it is greatly hindered by the Permanent-5’s veto power (197). A humanitarian intervention is often seen as a threat to the particular interests of one of the permanent members and are vetoed so that “the most legitimate political authority is likely to be the least efficacious” (197). To stage a successful intervention, the helpful state needs to have a well-disciplined, well-trained, standing army that is already overseas and able to handle conflicts quickly (198). However, the states that fit this profile have legitimacy problems. France and Britain were once giant colonizers, and even now, the U.S. has...

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