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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
Just War Theory and Humanitarian Intervention
History has provided evidence in support of the idea that the conduct of war is not a justifiable act in the view of humanity. Recent history has pointed out that, despite the public diplomacy supported by the United Nations and Western countries in particular, the use of war cannot be avoided. The war must represent an authorized and agreed upon action, and must be fought for a humanitarian cause. Seen as a wide range phenomenon, war is no longer a first option in international relations. However, even when it’s conducted, it must be dealt with in the United Nations as the global organization to deal with international issues of reinforcing peace and security. A clear determination of the notion of just war, as seen as conflict waged in the name of humanitarian intervention, has to be taken into justification. In the standpoint of the Rwandan genocide and civil war in Kosovo in retrospect of the action taken at the time by the United Nations, the international community and the it’s member states have been looked at as responsible for the genocide. The validation of humanitarian intervention and its capability, are addressed in this essay taking into account the current humanitarian crisis in the world.
The just war theory and its implementations date back to the Greeks and the Roman empire. In resent millennia just war theory became viewed as an ideology in retrospect of positive standpoint on the issue of war by providing lawfulness to armed actions. However just war theory is determined by several conditions at the level of the human perception. Unlike the Charter of Rights, there is no written binding document for the set definition of the just war theory, only a list of criteria which must be met in order to justify such a military endeavor in general terms of having a cause. The UN Charter supports the idea that a just war can be one in which the integrity and sovereignty of a state has been breached by another state. In the case, of self-defense the war can be viewed as being justified, a war that is fought by the valid authority of the state, where it’s structure is related to the issue of sovereignty and legitimacy. Binding authority includes the state and the international community in the situation in which the UN Charter is breached, making insurgency wars considered to be unjustified wars. A just war must take into account the motivation, for justification the war should be humanitarian and for a common superior good of a majority, with a proportional response as opposed to the threat. For instance, the Iraq intervention in Kuwait at the beginning of the 1990s was viewed as an aggressive act. At the time the reaction of the UN and the international community was justified. By the end of the war, the Bush administration was being viewed by some critics to have expanded its command in Iraq to unjustifiable manner. As well, the force applied in Iraq was viewed in some debates to have been disproportionate. Therefore, what started as a generally approved action, at the level of the UN Security Council and the international community proved to be in the end viewed as a massive invasion of Iraq.
In terms of the justification of war, the Cold War was a demonstrative moment in history, but for the UN system it proved to be a challenging period. The structure of the Security Council had made actions to be inconsistent and most of the times ineffective, due to the relentless tensions that occurred between the Western and Communist regime, tensions that did not manifest themselves through direct combat. To this day the Security Council is the most important structure of the UN and the one authorizing military intervention. Despite the standstill the UN faced during the Cold War, there were examples where the deployment of forces proved to be effective, such as the UN Mission in Palestine, Lebanon and other places which were torn apart by war. The Korean war is another example of the action undertaken at the level of the UN, still this aspect must be viewed from the perspective of refusal from USSR to vote on the matter. Following the end of the Cold War, the situation can be seen as having changed. With the fall of the USSR, the tensions were reduced and cooperation became more attainable, however there were other factors that determined the continuous failure of the UN in peace related matters. The cases in which the UN failed to act, pointed out to another set of shortcomings of the UN Charter and the entire system. It proved that humanitarian crises and the basic interventions in war zones was a difficult task to be achieved without human losses. Many western heads of state refused to engage their troops and became accomplice to some of the worst massacres of the 20th century.
With dangers facing the UN and the world, the simmering conflicts in parts of Kosovo, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Darfur have set a new challenge. Even though there is an increase in the attention given to these regions, the response arrives late for much of the population in the area. The Kosovo crisis for one turned into a civil war, while the Middle East situation is long considered to be out of reach for the UN. This raises questions over its abilities to deal with new threats such as inter-ethnic tensions, internal terrorism and humanitarian crisis. The issue of just war is seen from the perspective of the UN Charter which guarantees the sovereignty of the state. In the conditions in which a humanitarian crisis, such as the one in Rwanda required international assistance, this was not a possibility because it would have been interfered with the sovereignty of the state. The right to intervene in states for humanitarian reasons came as a result of genocide in Rwanda, with the fundamental possibility that this right may be abused and invoked for other underlying causes for intervention. Although such necessities were co-existing during Cold War years, where political determination and ability for consideration did not take shape. Although there have been attempts to address this issue throughout time, for purely political perspective, the strategy was meant to exceed the principle of sovereignty by providing support for those In need of help who were subject to ethnic cleansing. At a declarative level, genocide is viewed as one of the worst atrocities committed within the humanity boarders, with more countries willing to become actively involved in stopping it. In the last decade there have been numerous examples through the world of the UN failing to avert the death of millions of people. One of many significant examples is Rwanda, where a general trend among the Security Council members was to limit the commitment of national troops for a consistent UN presence in Kigali. The arguments against a humanitarian intervention to stop the fighting between the Hutu and Tutsi, revolved around the implications of actions might have had on the neighboring countries and their undermining of authority in the region, as well as the inability to assure security for the UN personnel. The final decision was not to send combat troops in the region, in turn leading to a humanitarian crisis which is visible to this day.
Developments in areas such as Sudan’s Darfur region, indicate a slight change in approach concerning genocide and the invocation of the just war theory. Because of the continuous public pressure, countries are more willing to deploy troops in areas which are conflict disrupted societies. Therefore, despite the limited presence of the UN troops in Darfur, the world organization is diplomatically and politically supporting the stabilization of the situation. Moreover, “In July 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution labeling Darfur” (Straus, 2005). Therefore, the support of the US may be of great importance to sanctioning any solution viable for the region. This could attract the involvement of the entire international community to address the crisis in Sudan. The responsibility to protect the model with use of International Commission on Intervention and state sovereignty, provides an example of the way in which a situation should be perceived as requiring military intervention to protect lives. However, its points of argument can hardly cater for the current need of assistance and humanitarian aid. One of the first elements provided by the model takes into account the existence of mass killings or loss of human lives (ICISS, 2001). In order to intervene, there must be an evidence that minority of population is suffering and that genocide is taking place. However, there is little justification for such a criteria. More precisely, it is rather difficult to justify an intervention after the crimes and the loss of lives has taken place. In that case, the intervention is a mere punishment method and not a preventive one. However the lack of proactive measures only determines a continuation of this process and these measures to take place. The events and murders that took place in Kosovo or Sudan are a mere example, that the use of military force after the crimes are committed does not improve the lessons learned for future generations of political leaders. The elements in the report point out that beliefs and principles must be the backbone of the peacemaking process. Thus, the “responsibility to protect, to react, and to reconstruct” (ICISS, 2001) fits perfectly with the current situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, or the Ivory Coast. These responsibilities can justify a war and a humanitarian intervention.
In conclusion, there is a responsibility among international community to prevent massive killings. However, the international community cannot impose a certain rule of law or a certain international perspective. The state in question, whether it was Rwanda or Haiti benefits from sovereignty and from independence. The intervention cannot be achieved unless the state agrees to it. Otherwise the international community, regardless of the events taking place in the country cannot breach this sovereignty unless imposed by the UN Charter. Should these limits be reinterpreted, it would determine potential abuses at the level of international law. Therefore, the situation in Rwanda signifies one of the most important genocides in history, with inability of authorized right for international community to intervene. After the events, the right to intervention in humanitarian purposes was allowed in condition of total respect for the sovereignty of the country. The right to react to humanitarian crisis was used especially after the end of the Cold War. In places such as Kosovo or even Sudan, there was a need for reaction in order to save lives. The duty to reconstruct is crucial in the sense that even if people’s lives are saved, they lack any purpose in a war torn country. The UN missions throughout the world aim to achieve these duties. In the Congo or Haiti, the missions are instructed to maintain peace between the conflicting parties. However, in the end, regardless of the international law, on the just war theory and principles, humanity is not yet prepared to offer a comprehensive description for the situations in which sovereignty can be broken and foreign forces can enter a country to protect the civilians. The just war theory and the intervention in the name of humanitarian crisis is a positive contribution to humanitarian law, however it is still not sustainable in the current conditions of war situations.
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