Humanitarian Intervention: Brief Case Studies of Darfur & Kosovo

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Humanitarian intervention is a key foreign policy for world super powers in the modern day arena of world affairs. In the past three decades the world has been inflicted with suffering, war and massive human rights abuses. There are numerous cases such as that of Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Darfur, where there has been nothing but bloodshed. In the hour of such complex internal conflicts running at every different corner of the planet the issue of humanitarian intervention has been in the midst of controversy.

Questions still remain unanswered about when, who and how should it be used. Some critics of humanitarian intervention argue that it is perfectly justifiable and relieves humans of suffering while on the other side certain critics say that this sort of intervention is a violation to a states sovereignty, and is often but not abused by world powers. The concern here is if there are internal wars causing innocent bloodshed, should the international community step in, in order to stop the internal crisis or will the international community be violating that state’s sovereignty?

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This paper will address why humanitarian intervention is a biased policy which is being abused by world powers such as the United States to intervene only in certain states where it seeks to enhance it’s influence or gain strategically in the context of the current crisis in Darfur, Sudan and Kosovo. Let’s briefly examine the current crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Nearly two hundred thousand civilians have been killed while nearly two million people have been displaced from their homes. As each month passes by on average 5,000 more are dying from war-related diseases and malnutrition.

There is nearly any law and order in the city. Each part of the city is being dictated by a tribal warlord. The lawless situation has led to animalistic human rights abuses such as rape and murder. While such an horrific scenario is taking place, bafflingly the international community is not intervening, why? We will look into the reasons later on in the paper. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states to be base of international human rights law. This declaration passed in 1948 represents that every human is entitled to basic and fundamental freedom.

It says that everyone is born free and in dignity. Any humans ethnicity, race or culture has no relation to their fundamental rights. Bodies such as the UDHR give us hope in times of world conflicts. International community came to a further consensus on human rights laws and the United States has been on of its key champions. Many may wonder what is the legal definition of humanitarian intervention. The answer to this is, there is no single definition which everyone can agree on. There are different views on humanitarian intervention from experts through out various fields of law, human activists and politics.

The difference in the legal definition lays primarily if the host state gives a nod to intervene. If the state does so, then should the UN actions are limited to peace keeping. And in many cases if the host state does not allow any sort of intervention aren’t world powers then violating that state’s sovereignty. The United Nations was founded on the main concern relating to states waging endless wars against one another. The United Nations Charter of 1945 decided to outlaw any use of force while the only exception being self defense.

While the Security Council was created giving it too much authority to act when there was a threat to world peace. Relating to horrific internal wars and crimes being committed within states the United Nations Charter did clearly state in Article 2(7): “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. ” Gareth Evan says in his journal that all new states saw the non-intervention part in Article 2(7) as one of the few defenses weaker states had over the more powerful ones.

This non-intervention norm gave rulers of weak and third world nations to dictate terms within their own borders even more ruthlessly without the questioning of the UN. Evans goes onto state that in order to keep states within there limit of power the Genocide Convention of 1948 was formed. This convention said that any form for ethnic cleansing will prompt the international community to take action against that given state. Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is said to have become the new form of humanitarian intervention.

There are three phases to it: the first one is responsibility to prevent which addresses the direct and root causes of an internal conflicts which put millions of lives into risk. The second phase of R2P is the responsibility to react, which says that in dire human needs there should be calculated responses which include sanctions to that certain state and at an extreme cases military intervention. The third phase to R2P is after intervening, in giving more importance to military intervention and the intervener will fully assist with recovery and will address the root causes more heavily to make sure they don’t reoccur again.

In the journal article Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq by Alex J. Bellamy asks how the world’s relations with the crisis in Darfur relate to the impact of the war in Iraq on the norm of human intervention? Bellamy further questions if the rest of the world is on the same page regarding responsibility to protect? Certain pundits urge that interests and humanitarian goods combined together are the only way certain global powers will try to prevent or stop a human made crisis.

If humanitarian goods and interests are not correlated then superpower nations will hesitate to act, such as they are doing in the Darfur case. Further analysis shows the United States abused the justification of humanitarian intervention to legitimize it’s invasion in Iraq, which has discouraged other nations to built a consensus about humanitarian action in other various cases. More and more groups of pundits urge that the responsibility to protect can be abused such as was in the Iraq case.

The Iraq case highlights the seriousness of loopholes in humanitarian intervention and showcases how the US policymakers took full advantage of it. The United States government kept on reiterating to the United Nations and international media that it is going in Iraq to protect it’s people from dictatorship and human rights violations. Furthermore the author goes in depth about the norms of humanitarian intervention and how the credibility of nations such as the UK and United States as “norm carriers” has significantly diminished because of the very reasons stated above. The Bush administration told the UN that the United

States needed to act in Iraq due to the abuse of human rights violations by the Saddam Hussein government while on the other hand the United States refuses to act in the ethnic cleansing case of Darfur. Responsibility to protect has been clearly exposed and experts say it can be used as an excuse by more superior nations to act and intervene in another nation’s where there strategic interests lie, such as the Iraq case. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) said that states and regional organizations recognize that they have a responsibility to protect civilians at risk.

The ICISS was given the instructions to find a common ground between intervention and state sovereignty and to find a consensus about military intervention to support humanitarian intervention. ICISS proposed a three layered plan of responsibility. The primary responsibility would lay with the host state, the secondary responsibility would lay with domestic authorities who were walking in accordance with outside agencies and if both these two plans failed then the international organizations would assume responsibility through the United Nations Security Council.

This commission also insisted that the question of military intervention should solely rest on the decision of the Security Council. But the United States stated that it could not offer any pre-commitments on ICISS to engage its military force where it had no national interests. Receiving criticism from around the world on it’s hesitation to act in Darfur, the director of ICISS said that the United States and the United Nations political will to act in humanitarian emergencies is starting to “evaporate” because of there heavy national interests in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror.

This leads to the point that the overstretched militaries of the United States and UK will unlikely take frontline leads in the intervention of genocide cases such as that of Darfur. Bellamy further analyzes that the “sun has set” on humanitarian intervention and says that the responsibility to protect is the new human intervention. The reason for this is because the human intervention justifications to defend the invasion of Iraq has been widely seen as abusing the whole concept of human intervention.

Indeed one can not disagree with the comparison the author makes of responsibility to protect with that of a Trojan horse; where the intervening nation can clearly disguise there inner mission and interests in order to go into another [weaker] state with different means of agenda. The Iraq war has wrecked the case for humanitarian intervention and as long as the United States power remains in the hands of the Republican right, it will be impossible to build a consensus on which case is right to humanitarian intervention and which is not according to a former special advisor to the British Foreign Office.

Further examining, the United States has ruined and tarnished its international credibility as norm carriers over the case of Iraq and is therefore not well set to lead a frontline campaign against the genocide in Darfur. Superpower countries need interests in order to intervene and Prime Minister Blair in an interview with a leading news channel even suggested that in order to advocate an intervention in Sudan, oil should be the driving factor.

Another prime example where the United States has again reduced it’s repute as the champion of human rights is in 2004 amidst growing international concerns when thousands of people are suffering and dying on daily bases the United States finally decided that if the Sudanese government didn’t comply with the Security Council then it would be imposed with sanctions. This sort of statement isn’t even seen as a tap on the hand of the Sudanese government. In the journal Darfur and the Genocide Debate by Scott Straus talks about the authenticity of the massacre in Darfur, Sudan.

Over 70,000 people have been killed meanwhile about 1. 8 million which is roughly about a third of the population of Darfur have been uprooted. It is still the current single worse humanitarian crisis on the planet. The current violent conflict has grown out due to several factors. The first is a civil war between the current Islamist, Khartoum based government and two rebel groups: Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army. Second reason is, in Southern Sudan war has been raged between northern Arab dominated population versus the Southern Christian dominated part.

This fighting has cost more than two million lives since 1983. Since the Khartoum government armed its rebellions to stop the Christian people from gaining an upper hand in the region in answer to this, the Janjaweed were born. Their name translates to “evil men on horseback”. Janjaweed spread fear all throughout Sudan. They not only ruthlessly murdered men but raped women along with killing the elderly and children. In the meantime the Janjaweed were continuing there barbaric acts, here in the United States the debate raged on if the Darfur crisis should be labeled a “genocide. Instead of acting and intervening in Sudan the Western world was debating on whether the term genocide applies. The genocide label emphasizes two points: 1. the violence targeted an ethnic group for destruction was intentional. 2. under the Genocide Convention which was created after the holocaust and on the back rounds of “never again”, using the term genocide would need to trigger international intervention to halt the crisis immediately. Finally declaring the crisis in Darfur a genocide, Washington continued on to claim that even if Darfur was going through genocide its policy towards Sudan would remain the same as before.

It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to clearly see the double-standard stance the United States here has taken. The United States is being stubborn and the only theoretical reason for it not to intervene and stop this bloodshed is the fact that it has no strategic interests in Sudan. In a White House memo published on October 21st during the Bush administration, it said “Though there has been some progress in reducing the suffering and loss of life, the crisis in Darfur continues. The world community must work together to bring an end to the crisis while simultaneously supporting persons already displaced. We shouldn’t wait for the world communities response especially if slow progress is made. The United States needs to take the lead role. This option shouldn’t seem out of the blue to the Bush administration. It was this administration that started a unilateral lobby to go to war in Iraq, so why can’t it do the same for Darfur? Especially when going into Darfur will need far less percentage of troops as compared to Iraq to stop the Janjaweed and the commitment would only involve a fraction of a cost to which has been spent on Iraq.

The journal centralizes around the fact how foolishly instead of acting in Darfur the western world is debating if the crisis in Darfur was genocide or not. The Darfur example shows that a genocide debate can divert the attention from difficult decisions that need to be taken instantly and questions the purpose of humanitarian intervention. Already committed in Iraq and having lost it’s credibility the Bush administration was not well posed to lead a frontline intervention in Sudan. The hardest and most unpredictable human intervention question still remains unanswered: Who will initiate and lead it?

Even today the crisis in Darfur remains horrific. Until a powerful international state takes action, thousands of more innocent lives will be taken at the hands of rebels. And if the international community fails to act then the Genocide Convention will no more have the same reliability, in my words it will merely be seen as the “Futile Convention”. Thus evaluating so far, there is a clear and urgent need for reforms within the United Nations Security Council and the United States foreign policy on humanitarian intervention.

Bold decisions need to be taken in order to intervene in Darfur and stop the massive killings. If the United States does decide to take the front role lead in this genocide, it may just once again come back on it’s track and gain it’s reliability and authenticity back that of a “norm carrier” in the international arena. Let’s turn our attention to the case study of the Kosovo Conflict in 1999. The leader of Yugoslav at that time Slobodan Milosevic was guilty of profound crimes against humanity. He was accused of leading the ruthless murder of over thousands of innocent people.

Over 800,000 Albanians were displaced due to the internal man-made crisis. During this time just before the 21st century, Kosovo was going through a genocide. Military might was enforced and NATO intervened in Kosovo. The operation in Kosovo began with the backing of the western superpowers. NATO’s goal was to remove the Serbs, return the displaced people to their homes and maintain a peacekeeping taskforce on grounds to make sure there is no repeat of violence. Though Milosevic resisted every effort by NATO and wouldn’t give up.

Milosevic had a minor advantage because he had more ground force since there was no presence of NATO troops. Finally, after heavy diplomacy Milosevic finally gave in and agreed to new terms thus finally ending the bloody war. The key primary reason why the Kosovo case is important is because it was seen as the first humanitarian war and also NATO’s first. The way the United States and NATO had reacted to the Kosovo conflict is of controversy. Critics point out that NATO’s use of air strikes were unfounded and unreasonable.

Meanwhile at that time the President of the most superior nation in the world was under severe stress over a sex scandal. Possibly to save Bill Clinton from resignation it is said that the American citizens attention was drawn to the Kosovo enough due to hyped media coverage [which is referred to as the “CNN effect”, we will study this theory further on]. Aftermaths of the Kosovo conflict a blame game had begun. When there was a fury over the illegitimate aerial bombings in Kosovo the United Nations Security Council said only it had the due power to allow any force of bombing campaign done by NATO.

In reply NATO said the Kosovo issue was of international humanitarian crisis and needed an immediate halt therefore that is why the United Nations Security Council was not listened to. The sole principles of NATO came to limelight during this controversy. NATO was seen as a force of alliances between powerful nations who wanted to keep the sole interests of it’s members. In keeping this view the Clinton administration declared what happened in Kosovo as genocide. This was seen as an exaggeration by many international agencies and was seen as a claim to hide the misuse of authority by NATO.

There were no death toll figures from the Kosovo event in order to call it a genocide. Noam Chomsky a renowned American scholar made an extreme view and said that the Kosovo war was “a form of United States aggression and imperialism”. Going into more depth of NATO’s aerial bombing of Kosovo, evidence shows that NATO bombed and destroyed chemical plants and major government owned factories along with numerous oil refineries. All strikes were used with brutal type of machinery and ammunition in the form of cluster bombs.

These bombings were later on justified using the reason that the Yugoslav army was in the midst of weapons development which needed to be destroyed immediately. When the question arises as to only why were state owned institutions bombed and privately owned factories spared, it can be analyzed and theoretically be concluded that maybe the western powers [which the NATO was under the influence of] was clearing the path for a capitalist society where wealthy multi-national companies would come and invest in order to make great wealth.

This case study of Kosovo seems to determine the massive exploitation in the name of humanitarian intervention first began. A change in American foreign polity was witnessed when the United States of America elected its new President back in 2000. The Bush administration criticized the former administration for laying a huge emphasis on human rights to such an extent that it was seen as the primary foreign policy of the country. Bush limited his new foreign policy and emphasized it more on world heavyweight nations such as China, Israel and India.

In fact in just one presidency change the foreign policy that once primarily focused on the human rights was all of a sudden given no more importance. The new administration of Bush did not attempt to resolve any conflict with any nation where it did not seek any strategic interests. This inefficient foreign policy of President George Bush had a catastrophic impact on the United States. When Bush failed to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan and ignored the growing might of the Taliban that is when the September 11 attacks occurred.

This policy of ignorance was consequential for Bush and shows how complex the matter of humanitarian intervention actually is and how much an inefficient and dull policy can have. Finally inspecting the different point of views in the conflict of Kosovo and in Darfur there are certain basis of evidence to further in the near future pursue a more efficient way to prevent a similar conflict from arising. We need to first understand that man-made conflicts such as these two case studies are driven more by political ideologies than historical determination.

No doubt that the past has transformed these crisis’s it certainly does not mean to that they can not be avoided through cooperation of the international community (which I should emphasis should include every single recognized state in the United Nations). The use of military force needs to be abandoned as it has never been the permanent solution to any interstate conflict. When you use military force you end up doing more good then harm, killing more innocents then the corrupt, which brings even more hatred in the intervened state.

Also United Nations Security Council needs to reclaim it’s authority and punish any international body (including NATO) who go without complying to it’s rules and regulations. The final recommendation is to reform the foreign policy and diplomacy of the United States and other power heavy weights including countries such as the UK. There needs to be a shift to a more efficient policy which will intervene in any nation without the US looking for it’s own interests and causes because the world really needs to make a pledge not to have a repeat of the Holocaust ever again.

In the book, The Media and the War on Terrorism by Stephen Hess and Marvin Kalb, highlights the impact of “the CNN effect” and it’s effect on domestic lawmakers such as the congressmen and senators, American diplomats and the millions of citizens of this country. The book focuses on the tensions between the government and the press during times of great distress and difficulty on the nation in particular during the war on terror. The authors say “the CNN effect” is the result of advance technology such as Satellite television channels which bring live coverage to millions of viewers in quick and frequent times.

Prompt television coverage affects and shapes public opinion on day to day basis. Government policies from executive decisions all have been impacted by “the CNN effect”. This effect affects policy makers and world leaders including the way they execute there plans. “Television talk and images tend to fill” a vacuum and sometimes leads the government to tackle an issue that as of current time may not be of prime importance. Steven Lingston a scholar at George Washington University describes “the CNN effect’ as a “dance between the media and officials of the government in which the media leads”.

Under this pretext the government is viewed as the responding party to the proposals and tunes of the media. In short, Livingston points out that the media is the one that controls the government. Livingston certainly doesn’t make the government sound helpless but in return to balance out his argument says it is the government which attempts to get the attention of the media on certain issues it wants to highlight in front of the general public.

Presently the CNN network is seen as broadcasting news in a “dramatic event rather then as a process. It leads people to not be able to understand the underlying conditions and processes… ” in events. In relation to the humanitarian intervention the roll of “the CNN effect” is very crucial in highlighting the importance of brutal and animalistic intrastate conflicts around the world and to pressurize the government to take some severe action.

On the other hand “the CNN effect” can defer the attention of the public and the government to less important issues which don’t need prime importance at the moment. This is why the media can be seen in the modern age as the sole influencer of a issue. We have seen several cases where once the issue is highlighted in the media, then the ball is in the media’s court and it can get any outcome out of it. Humanitarian intervention remains a hot issue in the field of international relations.

However it is quite evident that this sort of intervention is clearly biased and world powers use it to there advantage in order to further promote their hidden agendas. The cover under this sort of norm can allow a mighty nation to launch a war or intervene under the pretexts that has nothing to do with the real aim of the war. Through this research I have come to a single sentence conclusion on humanitarian intervention: just as they say “communism may look good on paper, but in practice it doesn’t work”.

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Humanitarian Intervention: Brief Case Studies of Darfur & Kosovo. (2017, Jan 05). Retrieved from

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