The Relations Between War And Politics (VI)

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

Does in practice humanitarian military intervention work? 

Regarding any kind of humanitarian military intervention (HMI) within the moral and legal framework of the R2P, the focal question became do the benefits of humanitarian military intervention outweigh its costs or to put the question on a different way, does the R2P, in fact, save lives?

Basically, the crucial issue is to judge HMI not from the side of its moral motives/intentions, or even in terms of international legal framework but rather from the side of its direct (short-time) and indirect (long-time) outcomes from different points of view (political, economic, human cost, cultural, environmental, etc.). However, this problem to be settled requires that real outcomes have to be compared with those outcomes that would happen in some, in fact, hypothetical circumstances as, for instance, what would be on the ground if the R2P did not occur? However, such hypothetical circumstances cannot be proved in reality like arguing that earlier and effective HMI in Rwanda in 1994 will save hundreds of thousands of lives or without NATO military intervention in the Balkans in 1999 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo will experience massive expulsion and above all ethnic cleansing/genocide by the Yugoslav security forces. Nevertheless, in practice, for instance, the NATO military intervention in the Balkans in 1999 became the trigger for Serbian retaliation against the Albanian population in Kosovo. In other words, NATO aggression in Kosovo in 1999 succeeded in the initial goal of expelling Serbian police and Yugoslav army from the province, but at the same time helped a massive displacement of the ethnic Albanian population (however, a big part of this “displacement” was arranged by the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army for the purpose of a TV show in Western media) and giving a post-war umbrella for the real ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Serbs by the local Albanians for the next 20 years. In this particular case of the HMI, the R2P military action resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe that means it has absolutely counter effects compared with its initial task.

Nonetheless, it can be said, at least from the Western points of view, that there are some examples of the HMI that resulted to be beneficial like the establishment of a “no-fly zone” in North Iraq in 1991 which not only prevented reprisal attacks and massacres of the Kurds after their uprising (backed by the USA and her allies) but at the same time allowed the land populated by the Kurds to develop a high degree of autonomy (but not like as Kosovo Albanians enjoyed in Yugoslavia from 1974 to 1989). In both cases, Iraq in 1991 and Yugoslavia in 1999 both operations have been done by NATO airstrikes involving a significant number of civilian casualties on the ground and minimal number among the aggressor’s side. For instance, estimates of the civilians and combatants killed in Kosovo in 1999 are 5.700 according to the Serbian sources (the casualties in Central and North Serbia are not taken into consideration on this occasion). The Western academic propaganda claims that Western HMI in Sierra Leone was, in essence, effective as it brought to an and a 10-years civil war which cost up to that time some 50.000 lives, followed by providing the foundations for democratic parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007.

There are many other R2P military interventions that, in fact, failed or were much lesser effective and, therefore, caused the questions of their purpose. The HMI under the legal umbrella of the OUN peacekeepers on some occasions failed as humanitarian catastrophes happened (Kosovo after June 1999, the Congo), while some HMI were quickly left as being unsuccessful (Somalia). However, several R2P interventions ultimately resulted in a protracted counter-insurgency fight (Iraq or Afghanistan). That is the crucial problem that is rising concerning the effective results of the HMI/R2P: such military interventions in practice may result arithmetically in bringing more harm than benefits. One of the classic examples and problems concerning this problem is that to change some authoritarian regimes by the use of foreign occupying forces, in many cases are only increasing political tension and provoking real civil wars, which as the outcome subject ordinary people in the country to the situation of constant civil war and suffering. In principle and from practical experience, if the civil struggle is resulting from an effective breakdown in government, foreign interventions of any kind may make internal political things just to be worse but not better.

Nato forces in Kosovo in 1999

While political stability, governance founded on democratic principles, and respecting human universal rights are theoretically and morally all desirable goals, in practice it can not be all the times possible for outsiders of all kinds to impose them or to enforce them. Therefore, the HMI has to be understood from long-time perspective results but not to be a result of the pressure by the public opinion or politicians that something has to be done. It is known that some HMI simply failed as a result of badly planned reconstruction efforts or an insufficient supply of different types of resources for the purpose of reconstruction. Consequently, the principle of HMI/R2P places stress not only on the responsibility to protect but as well as on the responsibility to prevent and the responsibility to reconstruct after the intervention.

Is the HMI justified?  

The HMI became during the last 30 years one of the hottest disputed topics in both IR and world politics. There are two diametrically opposite approaches to the HMI practice: 1) It is clear evidence that IR affairs are guided by new and more acceptable cosmopolitan sensibilities; and 2) The HMIs are, in principle, very misguided, politically and geopolitically motivated, and finally morally confused.

The focal arguments for the HMI as a positive feature in IR can be summered in the next five points:

  • The HMI is founded on the belief that common humanity exists that is implying the attitude that moral responsibilities cannot be confined only to own people, but rather to the entire mankind.
  • The R2P is increased by the recognition of growing global interconnectedness and interdependence and, therefore, state authorities can no anymore act as they are isolated from the rest of the world. The HMI, consequently, is justified as enlightened self-interest, for instance, to stop the refugee crisis which can provoke serious political problems abroad.
  • The state failure that provokes humanitarian problems will have extreme implications for the regional balance of power and, therefore, will create security instability. Such attitude is providing geopolitical background for surrounding states to participate in the HMI, with great powers opting to intervene for the formal sake to prevent a possible regional military confrontation.
  • The HMI can be justified under the political environment in which the people are suffering as not having a democratic way to eliminate their hardship. Consequently, the HMI can take place for the sake to overthrow the authoritarian political regime of dictatorship and, therefore, promote political democracy with the promotion of human rights and other democratic values.
  • The HMI can show not only demonstrable evidence of the shared values of the international community like peace, prosperity, human rights, or political democracy but as well as it can give guidelines for the way in which state authority has to treat its citizens within the framework of the so-called „responsible sovereignty“.

UN Security CouncilHowever, the focal arguments against the HMI are:

  • The HMI is, in fact, an action against international law as the international law is only clearly giving the authorization for the intervention in the case of self-defense. This authorization is founded on the assumption that respect for state independence is the basis for the international order and IR. Even if the HMI is formally allowed by the international law to some degree of humanitarian purposes, the international law, in this case, is confused and founded on the weakened rules of the order of global politics, foreign affairs, and IR.
  • Behind the HMI is, in fact, national interest but not real interest for the protection of international humanitarian norms. States are all the time primarily motivated by concerns of national self-interest and, therefore, their formal claim that the HMI is allegedly motivated by humanitarian considerations is an example of political deception. Nevertheless, if the HMIs are really humanitarian, the state in question is putting its citizens at risk for the sake to save strangers, violating its national interest.
  • In the practice of the HMI or the R2P exist many examples of double standards. It is the practice of pressing humanitarian emergencies somewhere in which the HMI is either ruled out or never taken into consideration. It happens for several reasons: no national interest is on stage; an absence of media coverage; intervention is politically impossible; etc. Such a situation is, in fact, making the HMI to be confused in both political and moral terms.
  • The HMI is in majority of practical cases founded on a politicized image of political conflict between „good and bad guys“. Usually, it has been a consequence of the exaggeration of war crimes on the ground. It at the same time as well as ignores the moral complexities which are part of all international and domestic conflicts. In reality, the attempt to simplify any humanitarian crisis assists to explain the tendency towards the so-called „mission drift“ and for interventions to go wrong.
  • The HMI is seen in many cases as cultural imperialism, based on essentially Western values of human rights which are not applicable in some other parts of the globe. Religious, historical, cultural, social, or/and political differences are making it impossible to create universal guidelines for the behavior of state authorities. Consequently, the task of establishing a „just cause“ threshold for the HMI within the framework of the R2P is made to be unachievable.

War and capabilities

The destiny of warfare very much depends on actors’ relative capabilities. By definition, different capabilities are the means of the actor in IR to achieve certain goals. Some of those capabilities can be tangible and in principle easy to measure but others (as morale or leadership) can be very intangible and, therefore, can be in practice only estimated.

Concerning global politics, IR, and warfare, there are at least five tangible capabilities of the actor (in principle, of the nation-state) that can be measured and consequently to be known:

  • The capability of the military power. It is in direct connection with the questions of the size and capability of the actor’s armed forces and the quantity and quality of possessed weapons. Logically, the greater the military capability of an actor on these dimensions, there is and greater accumulated power and, therefore, the real chances to win the war. Nevertheless, in practice, usually, it is not common that one actor is ranking high on all of these dimensions of military capability as, for instance, the state can possess more advanced weaponry and, therefore, reduce its size of the army regarding manpower.
  • Resources of economic power. In this respect, several issues are important to be known like the actor’s GDP/GNP, how much the state is industrialized, the level of technological development, or what is the structure of the actor’s economy.
  • Resources of natural wealth. In this respect, the focal question is: Does the actor have enough natural resources for supporting its military and economic capabilities and designs in IR?
  • Demographic development. Here, the most important issue is how large is the population of the actor as a large population is usually contributing to a larger military and labor force. However, at the same time, it is of extreme importance to take into consideration the structure of the population’s age, sex, health, or education. It is significant to know are there enough labor force and people to serve the army. Another important question is can the people of the actor use modern skillful technology. Finally, the interrelations between the people and state authority are as well as of extreme importance as it is very important to know are the citizens politically support the government or do some social, confessional, or interethnic strifes are threatening internal homogeneity and political unity.
  • Importance of geography. It is valuable to know what size of territory the actor has, does actor has access to the sea and how long it is, does the actor’s state has a landscape like high mountains or wide and long rivers which can provide natural defense, or are the landscape, geography in general, and climate permitting agriculture or strengthening defense.

As a matter of example of the relations between war and national capabilities, we can compare, for instance, China and Japan from several points:

  • China has a larger population and a larger economic market compared to Japan.
  • Japan has a higher level of technology than China.
  • China has a double higher GDP than Japan.
  • China has several times larger military forces than Japan.
  • China has nuclear weapons but many of Japan’s advanced technologies if necessary could be converted to military weapons including nuclear too.
  • Japan has a military alliance with the USA but in the case of war between China and the USA, it is assumed that Russia will actively support China.

However, specific capabilities do not produce generalized power but are useful only in particular contexts. For instance, Japan’s technology is focal to China’s policy of modernization, while at the same time, China’s market is crucial for Japan’s exports. In the presented case, practically each of them is enjoying leverage over the other. We have to keep in mind that a second reason why an actor’s advantage in the tangible resources is not sufficient to judge its relative power is the role and influence of several intangible resources which determine how effectively one political actor (state) can realize its tangible capabilities.

To be continued

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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