Humanitarian Intervention Essay, Research Paper
A Look at Intervention as a Philosophy
OCdt. Amitabh Chauhan
In a world plagued with conflict and political instability there are many manners in which the international community is prone to react. In current day the Nobel Peace Prize winning direction of Peace Making, an ideology that has been accredited to former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, has received much time and attention. A further step beyond the latter movement has been referred to as “Peace Making”. This rather new philosophy is founded on the premise of establishing peace even through forceful military presence. The final step is intervention; this is the deployment of an external party into a conflict where the external party has not been invited. The many moral and ethical implications set by such a precedent is subject to much debate and poses one of the toughest philosophical problems today. It is the contention of this thinker that the practice of intervention is one that should never have been used and furthermore must be seized as it is not fit for practice today in our world for the following points of reason: the concept is altruistic in theory but is practiced by political players, there is a dangerous standard set into place that could possibly be used maliciously by parties against the sovereignty of other nations and finally it is very difficult to determine the legitimacy of a nation state considering that the countries of the world do not share the same philosophical criterion to define “legitimate government”.
The question of involvement in any sort of intervention is a difficult one to approach because the implications of the ideology are idealistic and altruistic to the point that the notion is completely hypothetical as opposed to being plausible phenomena. This poses a great problem for thinkers who ponder the virtue of intervention policy. An uninvited independent party whom occupies and intrudes foreign lands to protect the people of the land from the existing government is the bases of intervention. An example of this is found in Kosovo, where the NATO has been occupying the Sovereign lands against the will of the elected government. This founding of such an ideology is a genuinely good altruistic outlook. The premise is basically that the strong should not be allowed to violate and take advantage of the weak. Essentially, it is nothing more than the active condemnation of tyranny.
There cannot be anything wrong with protecting the peoples of a land from slaughter, as slaughter is innately considered wrong and negative. Thus the protection offered by the intervening party is much like that of the Children’s Aid Society intervening when there is report of suspected child abuse. The concept of Children’s Aid would never be questioned as it reflects the values of all societies. The fine line of when the Society intervenes however is an area that is questioned as abuse is defined differently from household to household. The spanking of a child to reprimand a behavior in one culture may be acceptable, while others may find it absolutely immoral. Likewise the idea of protecting children is considered altruistic, as there is no self-interest but only the interest of the children at heart. Intervention can be similar to the Children’s Aid model, as there is not supposed to be any self-interest involved by the intervening parties, and the intervention is supposed to be the mere means of protecting human lives from a tyrant. Since this intervention is altruistic in theory it must be good in theory, and to that end, this thinker must stipulate the virtue of the concept. Unfortunately the practice of altruism is not in good keeping with political agendas. The intervention that may be embarked upon for publicized reasons may not be as pure as the people of the nations are given to understand.
The invisible hand as outlined by Adam Smith in, The Wealth of Nations, describes human behavior as self-serving especially when it comes to economic and political ideas. This invisible hand however is supposed to automatically help others or the economy as a whole, an externality that is unanticipated by the executer of the selfish acts. In the political sphere, more precisely the intervention model, the invisible hand is not as transparent as outlined in Smiths paradigm, nor does it simply work unidirectional. In helping others one helps oneself. The intervening parties always have something to gain from intervention and knowingly they intervene. This intervention is not altruistic, as the intervening party is serving self-interest and is aware of it. Thus the intrinsic good in such an act is compromised and the act becomes only potentially beneficial to the people being tyrannized. For example, the Western Nations who clearly hold the most influence in the United Nations have not intervened in China, although it is shared belief that China is a tyrant to the people of the land. Instead, the western nations of the world are too busy trying to secure trade with the super power. There intervention in Kosovo is credited to the fact that Kosovo is the ‘backyard of NATO’. There is no help being offered in Sierra Leone, where genocide is far worse than in Kosovo. Even in Rwanda where Canadian General Romeo Dallaire reported vicious atrocities to the United Nations and Canada, no one was interested in saving the Hutus from the Tootsies. This is perhaps because there is no Western interest in China, Sierra Leone, Rwanda or any of the other of the 32 conflicts ongoing worldwide. It is at this point that one must realize that the dangers of intervention must be calculated as well, in order to judge the ideology as a whole and it’s plausibility in today’s world. Either one accepts this contention that the Western World is not interested in helping some and interested in helping others or that their altruistic compassion is only for select people. J. Krishnamurti speaks of compassion being indivisible, for when compassion is fragmented it is no longer “compassion”. Krishnamurti reasons that it is impossible to be compassionate for some and not for others for this in itself violates the integrity altruism in the essence of compassion.
So clearly political parties have their own version of altruism, and thus dangerous precedents must be guarded against being set. Allowing nations to intervene is simply giving them a “Carte blanc” to do whatever they wish with regards to promoting self interest at the expense of sovereign nations. This is something that must be determined early on in time by the international community to prevent the stronger nations from setting unethical standards of dealings with foreign affairs. Should such a standard become accepted by the world community there runs the risk of having the seemingly benevolent nations replace a violent tyranny with a political tyranny. How moral could these implications be? For all of time man has been willing to fight for freedom and sacrifice lives for freedom. This implies that freedom from oppression is worth fighting for but more importantly it is worth dying for. In this reasoning it makes sense that is better to die than to be restricted of liberty. It follows then that intervention takes away ones right to fight, sacrifice and ultimately die for the liberty of ones people. Moreover, intervention does this at the potential and likely cost of loosing ones liberty in any case.
Mahatma Gandhi told the Indian people in the 1940s that if they wanted independence that they needed to become worthy of it first, and at that point and only at that point would the oppressor be unable to withhold the oppressed any further. The case of India is the only case of such magnitude that such successful non-violence has ever been used to free a nation. This lends credit to the altruistic and intrinsic good in the ideology that has proven triumphant. Adolph Hitler had every intention of replacing the British in the Reign of India; it was in this context, Mahatma Gandhi laid down the ultimatum of replacing one master with another or mobilizing oneself to be worthy of self-government. Had another party had intervened it is difficult to imagine the outcome would have been as great.
The final point of reasoning against intervention is simply that even if human kind and the politics that man engages in were able to be benevolent in nature, there it would still be a difficult to identify what legitimate government is. Morals being subjective a Plato defined them; it is difficult to come to an international consensus. It is also difficult to determine what would constitute a fair consensus, fifty percent, seventy-five percent, whether we use proportional or first past the post or any other method of accurate representation. More importantly, what is a nation allowed to go to war over? What is grounds for civil war and what is not. Who is to say is Slobodan Milosoveciez is not a legitimate leader and that he is not within his scope of legitimacy in his policy. Had such intervention been used in the US Civil War, the USA may be a very different place today. The reasoning here is simply that the Western thought is not necessarily the ‘right’ thought. China and India represent a third of the world’s population and they do not subscribe to interfering in other nations personal matters. The legitimacy of the will of the world’s largest democracy (India), a population of citizens that outnumbers all of the other citizens of the free world, must be considered in our moral reasoning. The Indian policy is simply No Intervention. Thus it is outlined that it is very difficult to determine what is a legitimate sovereign nation and its interest.
Clearly there is no room for intervention based on the three outlined points of reason. It is the suggestion that it is impossible and unnatural for political players to serve any interest but there own, making intervention something selfish and not altruistic. The compromising values of self-interest and benevolence are clear reasons in themselves to abandon intervention policy. The potential for malice is more than just great, but it is imminent. It is bound to occur and to be harmful. Intervention today spells intervention tomorrow and paves the road for havoc through a deadly precedent. Finally, there is no example of legitimacy that can be relied upon as the world is composed of so many systems founded on a multitude of cultural beliefs. Thus it is impossible to use intervention policy fairly, ensuring that Sovereignty is not impeded upon for the benefit of politics. Clearly upon the lines of reasoning represented in this paper there is no way that Canada or the world community can support intervention policy.