Humanitarian intervention – but when & how?


People are demanding politicians do something about the current refugee crisis. They are demanding humanitarian intervention, a change in the normal rules and so that refugees can be settled safely.

Politicians are dragging their feet – which is inhumane, considering the gravity of the situation. But I do have sympathy for the view, expressed by some politicians, that this sort of action does not solve the basic problem. I especially sympathise with those politicians who are starting to acknowledge that this crisis is a logical result of drastic mistakes they  made in the past.

Refugees are justifiably fleeing from horrible situations in their own countries – situations actually caused, or made worse, by the actions of the USA and NATO. The invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya and the support for anti-government forces in Syria, created chaotic regimes and devastating wars  – and hence the refugee crisis.

Military intervention justified as “humanitarian”

The problem is that these invasions and bombings were, themselves, justified as humanitarian interventions. The George W. Bush government launched the invasion of Iraq with the admitted aim of regime change – the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Similarly, the USA and NAQTO justified their bombing of Libya by the aim of removing Gaddafi. And even now the USA refuses to take part in an anti-Islamic State coalition including Syria – because they wish to get rid of the elected Syrian leader Assad.

The USA and NATO countries justify these aims by claiming they are humanitarian. They want to remove dictators who have repressed their people. They want to deliver democracy to the people in those countries.

Well, you can tell when a politician is lying – their mouths are moving. And that is the case here. NATO and the USA intervened in these countries for their own geopolitical interests – and for oil – not democracy. How hypocritical are people like UK Prime Minister Cameron who welcomed the victory of rebels in Libya (and the violent lynching of the Libyan leader) by declaring how wonderful it was that the Libyan people now have democracy – and then being absolutely silent about the suffering of the Libyan people as their country descending into the ruin of violent factionalism

David N. Gibbs reveals the hypocrisy of such US and NATO “humanitarian intervention” in his book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. His book is a detailed description of the history of intervention in Yugoslavia and its consequent break-up. But the lessons are wider. “Humanitarian” military intervention became a way of justifying NATO. After the collapse of the USSR and dissolution of the Warsaw military alliance, NATO was searching for a justification for its own existence – instead of logically following the Warsaw Pact example. The USA wanted NATO as an instrument of their new-found power as the sole remaining superpower. NATO became a way of asserting US power in their competition with the European Union which was starting to exert independence, and of providing a legitimacy to is intervention in foreign countries. NATO provided an umbrella when the UN Security Council wouldn’t.

USA avoids chickens coming home to roost

Ironically, this US leadership has disappeared when the chickens are coming home to roost. Europe now has to deal with a refugee crisis largely caused by US intervention in Middle Eastern countries. Effectively Europe is now having to bear the fruits of their lack of opposition to US intervention, and, in the case of several European countries, involvement as active parties in that intervention.

People do have to intervene to demand that politicians deal humanely with the current refugee crisis. But let’s not forget its causes. We also have to demand that military intervention of the sort we have seen in recent years has to stop. The people of these targeted countries must be left to sort out their own political problems in their own culturally and historically appropriate and realistic ways.

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3 responses to “Humanitarian intervention – but when & how?

  1. Just as our own Prime Minister Key’s response to the refugee crisis has been pitiful, so too apparently has been the US response. According the the Guardian: “So far, the US has accepted only tiny numbers of Syrians: 105 in the year to October 2014 and just 36 in the year before that, although it has stepped up admissions with 350 refugees in the past four months.”
    This from the nation most responsible for the mayhem in the middle-east and who in the course of the Syrian civil war has been busy arming and training the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition in an attempt to remove Assad. An intervention that has seen the rise of ISIS equipped with the latest US weaponry funnelled straight from source from these same various islamic fundamentalist groups the US has been nuturing.
    Just as it is sickening that those responsible for destroying country after country in the middle east have been attempting a hand wringing position on the sidelines, it has been incredible to see the genuine humanitarian outpouring from ordinary people all over the world in response to the crisis as symbolised by the piercing image of a 3 year old boy washed up on a beach.
    In an increasingly depressing and crisis ridden world this is the hope for the future and the power that even the teflon Keys of this world will have to reckon with.


  2. I agree with what you say Ken, there was a big thing about the way the dictators ran there countries, but if the way they did it, worked for them. Why intervene? Recent history has proved they needed a strong hand to keep the countries in some sort of control. And once that was gone, it became a basket case. I dont think Isis would have become the force it is, under the dictatorships.
    Then the public got scared in these countries and wanted to get out, you cant blame them, and a need feeds the requirement to get away, and up steps the people trafficker.
    So now we have all these doubtful craft loaded to the gunnels, with the people who have paid a small fortune to be transported. Then the rescues started and they ended up on Greece.

    Greece has its own problems, and I dont think they needed thousands of boat people to cope with financially or with their infrastructure.
    The EU sat on its hands and did nothing, They could have set up a arrival area to process these people as they arrived, but they left the countries that they reached first, out on a limb, and the asylum seekers did what the liked. there was no real process put in place and now we find people from all countries throwing away identification and papers to become {Syrians} to get a better chance of being repatriated. The first real controls are in place in Germany.
    The question I think time will answer, is how many Sleeper cells are in these boat people that could cause problems in the future, And if they have a pretty good chance of getting to Europe, with the help of the rescue teams, When will it stop, and will we see a whole eastern region becoming an Isis Stronghold, because a lot of the boat people seem to be young male and fit, Idea troop age


  3. If anyone should take in refugee families, it should be the Bush and Cheney compounds…. they started this huge nightmare.


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