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    Brave New World

    Can 'Humanitarian Intervention' Be Justified?

    Brave New World
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    John Harrison
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    It may be difficult for many people to even contemplate the possibility that the reasoning behind military interventions based on "humanitarian intervention" can be questioned. In this program, however, Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut questions the "right to intervene."

    Professor Prashad describes how the concept of the ‘Right to Intervene’ began. Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper, for example, established the idea that the West is a zone of ‘freedom,’ and the East is a zone of ‘unfreedom’. The 1951 Convention on Refugees, Professor Prashad says, is completely saturated with this idea. During the Cold War, this concept was reinforced, using third-party countries in ‘proxy wars’. The basic premise adopted by the United States during that period was that there is no real legal barrier to intervention. By the time we get to the 1990s, Professor Prashad continues, this distinction between free and unfree gets recast in the language of human rights, and it becomes weaponised. The idea of sovereignty becomes secondary to the idea of observing human rights, thus giving the West the right to intervene, and this is when the concept ‘humanitarian intervention’ is used.

    In the second half of the program, Professor Prashad cautions listeners not to believe more nationalist politicians when they say that they are moving away from the idea of intervention. Professor Prashad says that they merely no longer believe in the idea of universal humanity, which is necessary to support the idea of a humanitarian intervention. Instead, they have stigmatized Islam as being the source of the world’s problems and are prepared to use force – not to bring them into the universal family of nations as before – but to discipline them. The net effect on the Iraqis, for example, is the same – they are bombed. It does not make an awful lot of difference, Professor Prashad points out, “if one is bombed because you want to make me into a free marketer or because you are angry with me”. The program finishes with a discussion on whether the world is moving away from ‘realism’ or not, in global security terms.

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    Tags:
    right to intervene, military intervention, military conflict, war, Vijay Prashad
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