By Shahary Shobnom Kabir
A sovereign nation has the absolute capability and power to independently govern free from external interference unto itself and is expected to respect the sovereignty of other states; this precept rests at the very heart of and has evolved to become the bedrock principle of international law, laws, and springs from the 1648 Westphalia treaty, though the treaty had little to do with the principles of sovereignty, non-intervention, and legal equality of States. Sovereignty is thus the primary principle, yet it contradicts with reality when mass atrocity crimes are committed while hiding under the canopy of sovereignty. Then, with its definition, the question arises: Is the protection of the state more essential than the safety of its citizens? Later, the notion of national sovereignty was confined to another quarter, resulting from the extension of the doctrine of human rights and produced the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” or “humanitarian intervention.”
Many scholars refer to the 1990s as the “decade of humanitarian intervention” because the UN and its allies were willing to authorise several interventions on humanitarian grounds when the specific action was not authorised by the Security Council (UNSC), and later some of these were declared unauthorised but legitimate – such as NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999.
The ultimate goal of humanitarian intervention is to effectively alleviate the human suffering of people who are being abused or neglected by their government; generally understood as the use of military force to protect people whose government is egregiously abusing them, either directly or by aiding and permitting extreme mistreatment and recent interventions, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya; the post-cold war era witnessed an intensely divisive debate on the subject of humanitarian intervention. The crisis in North Africa (2011 Arab Spring) and the crisis in the Middle East continue to elicit heated scholarly debate, bringing the issue to the forefront of the international political agenda and calling into question the value of Humanitarian Intervention as it amidst recent human atrocities.
The humanitarian intervention concept is chiefly related to protecting the well-being of victims faced with humanitarian atrocities; nevertheless, it is currently facing a serious challenge as the sole purpose is diverted by the dominant states to pursue geopolitical and strategic national interests. The aftermath effect of intervention in today’s world demonstrated that the motive for humanitarian intervention served only a part and, in most cases, was not the primary or leading cause of action, such as NATO’s humanitarian intervention in Kosovo and Libya, which was more inclined to force a regime change even at the cost of civilian lives.
If we focus on some of the humanitarian interventions in today’s world those bring out results like regime change, internal political crisis, terrorist groups expansion, increases in death, rape, and trauma, rises in the refugee crisis, and decline in the health, economics, and education sectors of those countries. It is questioned whether UN action creates adversity for the west among those countries and an image of Western dominance, leading to a misinterpretation of Islam, and mostly the troubling is where the initial concern was eradicating terrorism and making a better place for people but has resulted in futility as the innocent are suffering now.
In Afghanistan, since the start of the post- 9/11 wars, where the United States invaded with little protest from European countries as reported that the Taliban government was sheltering al-Qaeda and also painted its move to depose the repressive Taliban government as a necessary act of humanitarian intervention; NATO member states such as Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands also eventually sent armed contingents. Aside from the battle, they also contributed to the nation’s construction during those years. But after all these years, what happens now?
Following the US exit, the country faced a massive economic disaster, which resulted in a dire humanitarian scenario, pointing to the failure of the sole purpose of intervention as the situation worsened. According to the Global Peace Index, Afghanistan was ranked 163 in 2021; most impacted by terrorism, and scored 9.1 on the Global Terrorism Index. Since 2001, approximately 5.9 million Afghans have been internally displaced or fled the country; now, the country is plagued by war, poverty, and lawlessness; nearly half of children face acute malnutrition and lack access to essential health care services; and more than 90 percent of households have not been able to obtain enough food for nearly a year; and the gender gap is growing, education and the economy faces a more significant threat.
In an Afghan student interview, she expressed, “I recently heard someone say, save us from saviours.” She stated that it has turned out to be a failed economic country that is reliant on help. And the world is ready to be enthralled by the new war and sick of hearing about the old one. Still, it is audacious to believe that tyranny will not persist forever. If we can dismantle the “giver” or “receiver” attitude, engage in equal discourse and involvement, and hope for the best, the situation will improve.
In Iraq, the US-led invasion in 2003, its aftermath, and subsequent sectarian violence and a disastrous political scenario increased the number of migrants. Critical health indices have deteriorated; shortly after the 2003 invasion, over half of Iraq’s registered doctors abandoned the country. As of 2021, there are 9.2 million internally displaced or refugees abroad, including engineers, artists, lawyers, educators, and other professionals. As a result, many of Iraq’s cultural institutions have been dismantled, and they no longer perform the services that middle-class professionals do. The terrorist spawned by the Iraqi crisis has resurrected, as has a regional movement rebuilding its networks in Syria, Jordan, and Libya. It received an 8.5 on the Global Terrorism Index in 2021. Another cost of the war is the worsening of pre-existing Sunni-Shi tensions throughout the area. That turns out to be a political deed rather than a legal theory, resulting in double standard like a vast group of actors that determine who and when to act based on political wills.
Noam Chomsky precisely pointed out everything wrong with the way we justified and carried out humanitarian intervention and argued & quote; for one thing, there’s a history of humanitarian intervention. You cannot look at it. And you do, you discover that virtually every use of military force is described as humanitarian intervention”. The act of world organisations, P5 in the UN, the action of responsibility to protect; now raising questions such as who is qualified to intervene in the sovereign affairs of another state and under what circumstances, how states and militaries should conflict themselves when intervening and before involving ensuring the responsibility to protect.
It is evident the rise of humanitarian intervention is becoming a more liberal tool of global governance, but the question now is how this intersection can be effectively managed to reflect a more humane political ambition and an effective humanitarian action to solve the problem of many ethnic minorities, genocide act, equal right to make a better world instead of creating a further massacre. Human life is not a playing thing, every nation is interconnected, and prosperity can occur in a positive way when we grow together.
- Eric A. Heinze Albany (2009), “Waging Humanitarian War (The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention)”.
- Master’s Thesis (2018),”State Sovereignty and Non-Interference in International Law(A Critical Appraisal)”
- Walden Bello (August 9, 2011), “The Crisis of Humanitarian Intervention”.
- Human Rights Watch (august 4, 2022), “ Economic Causes of Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Crisis”
- Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)(February16, 2022), “Libya: Eleven years since the uprising, a deepening political crisis threatens rebuilding efforts”
- Leoni Connah (November 2020), “US intervention in Afghanistan: Justifying the Unjustifiable?”
- Neba Ridley Ngwa(2017), “The Rise And Decline Of Humanitarian Intervention And Responsibility To Protect”
- Watson Institute For International And Public Affairs publication (August, 2021),”Cost of War”.
- BBC, “Why has the Syrian war lasted 11 years?”