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IS THERE A FUTURE FOR HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION?

 

Non-intervention

 

One of the great principles of the Helsinki Final Act (1975) is non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. This means that states must refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective, in matters falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another state, regardless of their mutual relations. Countries must accordingly refrain from any form of armed intervention or threat of intervention against another state. This clause was inserted in the Helsinki Final Act largely at the insistence of the western powers, hoping it might slightly reduce the chance that the Soviet Union would again intervene in Eastern Europe as it had done in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. But the principle was of far wider application. In Africa, for example, during the Cold War, outside powers provided some of the most repressive regimes with arms and aid for no better reason than their rival super-power supported another faction.

 

After the Cold War

 

With the ending of the Cold War the time had come for quite different principles to be adopted, pointing towards a concept of legitimate and co-operative international intervention. There were two reasons for this. The first was the collapse of the Soviet Union and with it the habit of vetoing in the Security Council the majority of proposals for the use of United Nations forces for peacekeeping or enforcement. This is why, of the 54 United Nations operations since 1948, two thirds have been authorised since 1990. (Today some 47,000 military and civilian personnel are serving on UN peacekeeping missions, contributed by 87 countries, at a cost of some $2.3bn a year).

 

The second was the attitude of the United States, historically one of the three countries (alongside France and Britain) most disposed to meddle in the affairs of others. The American approach typically relies on massive force backed up, to the extent possible, with high-tech. weaponry. The war in Viet Nam (with 55,000 fatal casualties on the American side and the war lost) had been a great defining disaster, leading to a clear determination that American military power was best used in an overwhelming manner, to achieve clearly defined objectives with speed and minimum casualties, and there must be a clear way out. This view was reinforced by the catastrophes in Beirut in 1983 when a suicide car bomb attack against the US Embassy in April killed 69 civilians and a truck bomb attack on the Marine Barracks in October killed another 241 marines, credit for both being claimed by an Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’a group called Islamic Jihad.

 

The campaign to evict the Iraqis from Kuwait in 1990/91, by a grand coalition led by the Americans and backed by the full authority of the Security Council (notably in Resolutions 660 of 2nd August 1990 and 678 of 29th November 1990) was a great success for the new approach and led the then President George Bush to announce proudly that his country had finally kicked the ‘Viet Nam syndrome’. This was not quite true as we shall see. But it was the heady combination of a more co-operative Russia in the Security Council and a newly triumphalist United States that led to the high hopes that a new world order was in the making.

 

Humanitarian Intervention

 

It is important to distinguish three quite different classes of military intervention in the affairs of another state. The first, and least controversial, is to repulse the invasion of a country’s territory by a third party: as in Korea 1950, the Falkland Islands 1982 and Kuwait – as mentioned above. In such cases the invaded country can be expected to ask the intervening state or coalition to act and the ensuing action takes the classic form of warfare between regular armed forces manoeuvring against each other in the field. This class of conflict will not be discussed further.

 

The second class of intervention is that derived from United Nations style peacekeeping, as it has developed during the past half century. Although there is no reference to it in the Charter, and it has had to be invented on the hoof, what it consists of is now widely understood. A recent description suggests that the defining features are:

• operations established by the United Nations,

• with the consent of the parties concerned,

• to help control and resolve conflicts between them,

• under United Nations command and control,

• at the expense collectively of the member states, and with military and other

personnel and equipment provided voluntarily by them,

• acting impartially between the parties

• and using force to the minimum extent necessary

(See Marrack Goulding, ‘The Evolution of United Nations Peacekeeping’,

International Affairs, vol. 69, no.3, July 1993, p. 455.) .

Hence peacekeeping forces – ‘Blue Helmets’ - use weapons in self-defence only.

 

These are, in essence, the ingredients of classical or first generation peacekeeping: methods which have undoubtedly scored some notable successes in such places as Central America, Eritrea, Cambodia, Namibia and Mozambique. But during the past ten years the UN has undertaken, or subsequently blessed, a third type of intervention, namely operations in which important features of classical peacekeeping have been abridged or totally over-ridden. Under the rubric of ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ operations have taken place where the ingredient of consent has not necessarily applied and where impartiality and the use of force only in self-defence have not been appropriate.

 

The notion of armed intervention, on behalf of the international community, in the internal affairs of a state, even if it is against the wishes of the government of that state, in order to prevent widespread death or suffering amongst the population is not a new one. Imperial Rome grappled with the same problems in Dalmatia and Judaea as the international community does in those same regions today. The UN Charter, in Article 2.7, says bluntly that nothing contained in it shall authorise the UN to intervene in matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. But it half-contradicts itself by saying that this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII of the Charter. That Chapter relates not only to acts of aggression but also to threats to the peace and breaches of the peace. Under this rubric Chapter VII enforcement operations have taken on a life of their own.

 

Iraq

 

Until ten years ago it was assumed that threats to the peace implied an international threat. Thus in April 1991 UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 688 described Iraqi repression of the Kurds and Shias as a threat to international peace and security. It was on the strength of this resolution that France, followed by the US, Britain and a number of other countries, took action with ground and air forces to compel the Iraqis to desist. But the supposed threat to international security was largely a pretext.

 

Somalia

 

In December 1992 the Security Council (in Resolution 794) broke new ground by deciding to intervene in Somalia for strictly humanitarian purposes. There was no pretence of consent by the government of Somalia because such a government did not exist. There was negligible spillover to other countries in the form of refugees. The plight of the Somali people was the sole reason for invoking Chapter VII of the Charter, authorising the use of ‘all necessary means’ to establish a ‘secure environment for humanitarian relief’. This meant in practice taking sides and acting with far from minimal force. A de facto Right of Humanitarian Intervention was thus beginning to emerge. It also led to a great setback for the notion of a New World Order. On 3rd October 1993 Somali gunmen shot down two Black Hawk helicopters. They ambushed American soldiers hunting for the clan leader General Aideed, killing 18, and dragged a dead American soldier through the streets of Mogadishu for benefit of the cameras. This led to loss of American public support for the intervention and its withdrawal caused the failure of the whole UN undertaking leaving the country worse off than before.

 

Bosnia

 

The task of the UN forces in Bosnia was not described in terms of peacekeeping at all. Its task in 1992 was to secure the delivery of humanitarian goods and services and to protect civilians in declared ‘safe havens’. The deployment of the United Nations force there (UNPROFOR) was carried out, initially at least, with the consent of the host states: Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia. But its mandate was subsequently extended to include, for example, deterrence of attacks on safe havens and the use of air power to that end, with the clear invocation of Chapter VII. The NATO air campaign against Serbia in 1995 was justified (if somewhat tenuously) under UNSCR 836 of June 1993, authorising the use of air power, by individual nations or by NATO, ‘in and around safe areas’, in support of UNPROFOR. On 28th August 1995 a shell exploded in a market place in Sarajevo killing 37 people and it was quickly identified as coming from a Serb mortar. A NATO bombing campaign resulted. Between 30th August and 13th September some 1,100 missions were carried out against radars, communications, artillery and missile sites in Bosnia, and NATO was running short of military targets. On 8th September peace talks began under Richard Holbrooke, US Assistant Secretary for European affairs, which resulted two months later in the Dayton accords. It would be wrong to claim that this outcome was due to NATO’s military action alone. Probably more important were the offensives mounted by Croatia against Western Slavonia and the Krajina in May, followed on 11th September by a large scale offensive in Western and Central Bosnia that quickly recovered 20% of Serb-held territory. NATO’s action was a necessary but not sufficient condition of peace enforcement in Bosnia. It led in turn to the establishment of a NATO-led peace implementation force IFOR, some 60,00 strong initially, operating under the North Atlantic Council through the NATO chain of command. This force, and its successor Stabilisation Force (SFOR) has at least succeeded to the extent that Bosnia has fallen very largely out of the headlines.

 

Kosovo

 

During this period the view had been strengthening that where a state is inflicting upon its own people gross, flagrant and continuing infringements of their common humanity the international community has a right - some would even argue an obligation - to try and restrain it. Because of obvious practical limitations, the United Nations is ill equipped to take enforcement action itself, Chapter VII of the Charter notwithstanding. In his January 1995 "Supplement to an Agenda for Peace" Dr Butros Boutros Ghali stated bluntly that neither the Security Council nor the Secretary-General has the capacity to deploy, direct, or command and control such operations, save on the smallest scale. The solution is to sub-contract enforcement tasks to one or more member states. In other words the answer is for UN to rely upon a ‘coalition of the willing’, probably led by one at least of the habitual intervenors. On this basis it might be possible to take the necessary tough and early decisions, to intervene decisively in an internal conflict where the Security Council is powerless to act, or to act quickly or decisively enough. It was on exactly this basis that NATO decided to intervene in Kosovo in the spring of 1999. That intervention was the more controversial in that it went ahead without specific authorisation by the Security Council. No one would dispute that such interventions would best be based on an authorisation given by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The question is whether the absence of such authorisation in March 1999 rendered NATO's operation Allied Force illegitimate?

 

The following considerations are relevant. First, NATO's actions were in no sense arbitrary or ill considered but the product of unanimous agreement among nineteen democratic nations. Secondly, NATO's actions responded directly to the flagrant disregard by Milosevic of UNSCR 1199 (passed the previous autumn) calling on all parties to cease hostilities. Thirdly, on 26 March, two days after the bombing had begun, a resolution in the Security Council sponsored by Russia, calling on an immediate cessation of violence, was defeated by twelve votes to three - only China, India and Namibia voting in favour. The representative of Slovenia made the robust point that, in his view, the Security Council has the 'primary but not exclusive' responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. This is arguably an accurate reflection of what Article 24 of the UN charter says. Finally the Security Council, by UNSCR 1224 of 10 June 1999, indisputably conferred post facto recognition of what had been done, authorising NATO to establish an 'international security presence' in Kosovo. The Serb armed forces withdrew and the refugee Albanian population returned. Milosevic is now being tried for war crimes in the Hague. There is a broad consensus that this intervention, whether or not it was strictly legal, almost certainly did more good than harm and was accordingly legitimate in Just War terms.

 

East Timor

 

Three months later there was a major breakdown of law and order in East Timor. In 1975, after the Portuguese colonial authority left, Indonesia had invaded and annexed the territory provoking 25 years of conflict. Up to a third of the population of 80,000 were killed or starved to death. Only a handful of countries recognised the annexation. In January 1999 the Indonesian government abruptly announced that it was acceding to demands for a referendum on the future status of the territory. In June the UN set up a mission to oversee the referendum. This was duly held on 30th August and resulted in a 78.5% vote for independence. In response the Indonesian army, and ‘integrationist’ militias raised and trained by them, embarked on a deliberate campaign of terror, burning buildings, ripping out the telephone system, killing some opponents and driving more than a third of the population into exile. The UN mission was besieged and had to withdraw. On 12th September the government of Indonesia asked the United Nations to intervene and three days later the Security Council authorised the establishment of a multinational force under a unified command with the task of restoring peace and security in East Timor. It was to protect and support the UN mission in carrying out its tasks and to facilitate humanitarian assistance operations. The Security Council authorised the States participating in the multinational force to take ‘all necessary measures’ to fulfil this mandate, with a clear invocation of Chapter VII of the charter. The intervention force, some 6000 strong and known as INTERFET, was led by the Australians and included contributions from Bangladesh, Fiji, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand. It began to arrive on 20th September and the Indonesian forces withdrew. The UN mission was able to return by the end of the month and the refugees started to return in large numbers. Over the next several months INTERFET was replaced by a UN peacekeeping force (UNTAET) that was even more widely recruited. East Timor today is secure and peaceful, with much of its infrastructure rebuilt. It has the institutions of democracy and will hold presidential elections before becoming independent on 20th May 2002. The UN has been teaching Timorese to take over administrative posts. This intervention has been reasonably successful on its own terms.

 

Sierra Leone

 

Presidential and legislative elections took place in 1996, marred by widespread manipulation and rigging, including efforts by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to disrupt the electoral process through violence. This was acknowledged by the National Election Commission, but international monitors nevertheless declared the elections ‘largely’ free and fair. On 25 May 1997 disaffected soldiers staged a military coup and called on Major Johnny Paul Koroma, in prison on treason charges, to be their leader. Koroma formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and in an effort to halt the war invited the RUF to join him. But the military junta failed to attract international support and was shunned by the people of Sierra Leone. In February 1998 the Nigerian-led Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), aided by Sierra Leone Civil Defence Forces (CDF), removed the military junta from Freetown. Rebel groups, mainly from the AFRC, counter-attacked and occupied most of Freetown in January 1999. ECOMOG forces eventually forced the rebels out, but during the rebel invasion and occupation over 5,000 people were killed and most of the eastern suburbs of Freetown destroyed. Both the rebels and ECOMOG forces reportedly committed widespread human rights abuses. A cease-fire was agreed in May 1999. The cease-fire led to a peace agreement, signed on 7 July 1999, between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF in Lomé, Togo. The agreement was widely criticised because it offered blanket amnesties for crimes committed prior to the agreement's signature.


In May 2000, after 10 months of relative stability, RUF rebels attacked UN personnel and destroyed Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) camps in central and eastern Sierra Leone. A number of UN Peace Keepers and journalists were killed and more than 500 others detained. UK forces were deployed to Freetown to evacuate UK citizens and to secure the airport for the arrival of UN reinforcements. Foday Sankoh, the leader of the RUF, and over 100 RUF personnel including all RUF government ministers were arrested by the Government of Sierra Leone under its Emergency Powers. In August 2000, a group of ex-SLA ‘pro-government’ forces known as the West Side Boys captured eleven members of the Royal Irish Regiment and one Sierra Leone army liaison officer. Five UK soldiers were released voluntarily, but UK forces rescued the remaining six in September 2000. One British soldier died in the operation.


On 10 November 2000, the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF signed a cease-fire agreement brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria. The agreement included disarmament; the return of weapons seized from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL); freedom of movement throughout Sierra Leone (including the diamond areas) for UNAMSIL; and commitment to return to the peace process. Although slow to take off, the cease-fire agreement has led to more than 30,000 former combatants disarming since May 2001 and the Government is beginning to regain control of the country, diamond fields included.

 

Macedonia

In February and March 2001, there were a series of attacks by ethnic Albanian insurgents of the ‘National Liberation Army’ (NLA), in the area bordering Kosovo, especially around the town of Tetovo. Macedonian forces were able to establish tentative control of the area towards the end of March. But after a lull, violence resumed in late April and in early May the NLA seized villages near the northern town of Kumanovo. As the situation deteriorated political dialogue made little progress, despite the formation on 13 May of a new broad coalition government including former opposition parties. The humanitarian situation worsened, particularly in the NLA-held villages. Tens of thousands of Macedonian Albanians managed to flee the fighting to southern Kosovo and Serbia, whilst ethnic Macedonians tended to flee to other parts of the country. According to UNHCR monitoring, most refugees and internally displaced persons were accommodated by local families.

Fighting was interrupted in June when NATO negotiated a cease-fire between the two sides. The cease-fire more or less held whilst peace talks continued between the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political leaders and President Trajkovski. These talks, facilitated by the European Union, NATO, the US and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), produced a settlement based on a Framework Agreement. In broad terms this Agreement called for an end to the conflict by disarming the NLA, offering them an amnesty, and initiating a reform process to address ethnic Albanian aspirations. It was formally signed in Ohrid on 13 August. In late August, as called for in the Framework Agreement, NATO deployed a Task Force ‘Essential Harvest’, comprising over 3000 troops, to collect weapons volunteered by the NLA. It was a British-led force with important contributions from France and Italy. America provided support only in the form of a few helicopters for troop movement and medical evacuation and army drones with infrared cameras. The mission was successful, and during September and early October the level of violence in the country greatly reduced, while the political process concentrated on implementing the Framework Agreement. After much prevarication, the Macedonian Parliament formally ratified the constitutional changes agreed at Ohrid on 16 November. President Trajkovski promulgated an amnesty for former NLA fighters and an enhanced mission of international monitors was deployed to facilitate both the return of displaced people to their homes and of the Macedonian police to the conflicted areas. A new, much smaller NATO task force ‘Amber Fox’, led by the Germans, is providing the necessary security and the European Rapid reaction Force is to take over this role in September 2002. The Framework Agreement provided for the next legislative elections to be brought forward from September to January 2002, but failure to honour this date led to the withdrawal of one party from the coalition government. The most likely timing now appears to be April, although this is complicated by a separate commitment to hold a census then under international supervision. While scarcely a humanitarian intervention, since NATO military forces operated by invitation and without any flavour of Chapter VII, they carried out a necessary task and their efforts were ‘strongly supported’ by the UN Security Council on 26th September 2001. As to the upshot, all is still to play for.

 

11th September 2001 - Self Defence

The attacks on Manhattan and Washington DC on 11th September have changed the picture radically, in at least two ways relevant to the present enquiry. First they reintroduced a much older and less controversial casus belli in the shape of unprovoked assault on the territory of a sovereign state. This put the case on a par with two earlier instances: the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 and the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqis in 1990. For most of the past ten years there has been a case for intervening in Afghanistan on the grounds that the Taleban were inflicting on their people exactly the sorts of maltreatment under discussion here: cruel and inhuman punishments, destruction of cultural property, humiliation of women and so forth. (I had been pointing out for some years that in logic Afghanistan and the Sudan were as deserving of intervention as the Balkans and with a far stronger claim on the consciences of the British in view of our imperial history.) To no avail, of course, until September 11th last. What happened then brought into focus a simpler and much more compelling reason for intervention, the right of self-defence. This is enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, setting out the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member, but only as an interim measure ‘until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security’. The Security Council (by resolution 1368) expressed its readiness to authorise military force in response to the attacks of 11th September. Similarly NATO was quick to invoke, for the first and only time in its existence, Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty under which an armed attack upon one or more of its members in Europe or North America is treated as an attack upon them all. There is, however, an interesting question whether Article 51 is limited to inter-state relations. If these attacks were carried out by Afghanistan as a terrorist-sponsored state then Article 51 applies without question. If they were carried out by al-Qaeda, regarded as a non-state actor, then it might be necessary to rely on the inherent right to self-defence under customary law. Having no connection with the UN this would be less satisfactory.

In a speech in the House of Lords on 14th September 2001 Lord Mayhew of Twysden, (Column 32) discussed this issue as follows:

‘First, in international law a state will be justified in striking with focused and proportionate force if that is necessary to forestall an attack on it from elsewhere. That is only common sense. No state should be required to wait until an attack has in fact been launched and only then to try to parry the blow. There are good reasons for that: some blows and attacks simply cannot be parried. The attack of 11th September 2001 was such an event. Furthermore, no state is required to give an assailant who has already launched an attack the benefit of any possible doubt as to whether he will attack again. In all the circumstances, it will be enough to expect that a further devastating attack will be mounted. Again, once the perpetrators behind (the attack in question) have been identified, they will become lawful targets against which America could deploy force proportionate to the risk and to prevent a recurrence of such events; the risk is very high. That can be done lawfully within the doctrine of national self-defence. No other justification would be needed, even if one were available.’

Relegation of humanitarian issues

The second effect of the 11th September attack has been to thrust humanitarian concerns into the background, subordinating them to the imperative of recruiting allies in the war against terrorism. For example western pressure on China to honour human rights has stopped altogether. Chinese support for the war on terror has bought silence about repression in Tibet and in the Xinjiang region. China now says it has a problem there with Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists, striving to link them with al-Qaeda. Russia is likewise gaining a free hand in its dealings with the Chechens. Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor of Germany, having been given evidence of al-Qaeda involvement in Chechnya, called for a ‘differentiated evaluation’ of Russian policy there. This seems certain to involve forgetting that Russia’s war against terror has actually been waged against the whole people costing thousands of lives. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have used their provision of bases and intelligence to secure carte blanche for domestic repression.

Ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979 Middle Eastern police states have regarded themselves as bulwarks against an Islamist tide. Western governments used to argue, though not very forcefully, that systematic repression and autocracy were also a cause of Islamist extremism. The house of Saud is a conspicuous example of a vicious undemocratic regime creating a hotbed for jihadists. But Arab regimes can now rejoice that the West is learning their language. Egypt has for many years used detention without trial, military courts and torture to keep control of militants. (At least 20,000 people are now detained in Egypt without trial). Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, calling for a global crackdown on the Islamists who are his most effective opposition, has proclaimed that ‘Those who carry out terrorist acts have no claims to human rights’. His Prime Minister, Atif Obeid, has added that the United States must construct its ‘own fight against terror on our model’. Sudan, which was under attack from a coalition of liberals and black churches determined to end slavery and stop Khartoum’s war against the south, is now accepted as an ally against Osama bin laden. The Yemen was where the rather successful suicide attack on the USS Cole was launched in 2000. But it seems that the president, Ali Abdullah Salih, now claims to be an ally of America in the war against terror and has been talking about an aid package with training by US special forces. Colonel Qadaffi, the leader of Libya, has had his pariah status waived. Algerias President has twice been feted at the White House in recent months. Tunisia has been implausibly characterised as a ‘stable democratic country’, despite planning to amend the constitution to allow President ben Ali to serve a fourth five-year term. America’s promotion of democracy there is confined to money for training army officers. In the Philippines substantial links have been alleged between al-Qaeda and the group Abu Sayyaf. President Bush has promised the government of Gloria Arroyo over $100m a year in military aid and sent some 600 troops, including 160 special operations forces trained in counter-terrorism to help her. Let’s hope this effort does not backfire. Western countries, up to now a haven for Arab Islamist dissidents, have surrendered to demands from Arab countries to round up suspected individuals. Across Europe new laws have been enacted to intern foreigners. Egypt, Libya and Algeria have provided lists of exiles allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. Most of these suspects are accused of fighting local, not global battles. But for the moment no Arab government will face penalties for stepping up repression. Nor will they have to endure lectures from the West on the evils of summary tribunals or detention without trial. Britain and America, after all, are doing the same. Even the Australian government uses the threat of terrorism to justify incarcerating Afghan refugees in a desert compound.

Human Rights Watch has condemned these developments as opportunism, but there is a darker possibility. Michael Ignatieff has speculated (IHT, 6th February 2002) that America, having been directly attacked in its homeland, is bound to do battle to restore its security and its hegemony. This may permanently demote human rights in the hierarchy of American foreign policy priorities, already shaken by America’s failure to be re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Commission. If Washington turns away, the human rights movement loses the one government whose power can be decisive in stopping human rights abuses. Western European countries on their own have proved to be unutterably feeble in tackling such problems, even in their near neighbourhood such as the Balkans. With America launched on an indefinite military campaign against terrorists, will there be political energy enough to mount humanitarian interventions? The climate of the war on terror has something in common with the Cold War. Then the imperative of countering Soviet imperialism trumped concern for the abuses of authoritarian governments in the western camp or in its orbit. The new imperative controlling American foreign policy is the need to mobilise resources - military bases, intelligence, diplomatic influence - against al-Qaeda. The human rights movement, Ignatieff says, is risking irrelevance and will have to engage in the battle of ideas. It must directly challenge the claim that national security trumps human rights. It must make the argument that human rights are the best guarantor of national security. Cozying up to friendly authoritarians is a poor bet in the long run. This means addressing the need to create political stability. It means moving from denunciation of bad societies to engagement, working with local activists and with parts of the government that will listen, moving societies back from the precipice. It means helping to construct strong civil societies and viable states.

Where next?

There is good sense in this. It begs the question, however, to what extent, if at all, the military option of forceful intervention remains in any way viable as a means of stopping gross, flagrant and continuing abuses of human rights, when all means of diplomatic, economic and political pressure have been tried and found wanting. Peace activists would claim that in all the instances quoted above military intervention has done more harm than good. This conclusion seems to fly in the face of the facts. Human rights, along with other fields of human prospering, are certainly best tended by other than military means: democratic political systems, freedom of press and media, an honest and efficient civil service, strong and uncorrupted financial and legal institutions, a reformed security sector and good governance generally - fostered by the international community through the normal levers of trade, aid, debt relief, example, advice, diplomatic support and so forth. If a military option has to be considered it means that something has gone very wrong. But such things happen and then one may be faced with folding one’s hands in despair or supping with the devil. Better by far to rehabilitate a concept of humanitarian intervention, and gradually wean America from its one-dimensional preoccupation with terror and the accompanying ‘axis of evil’. Britain is arguably better placed than any other of America’s friends to attempt this. Prime Minister Blair has the bit between his teeth. Let him have a go!

[5400 words]

Hugh Beach. April 2002