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Humanitarian Intervention: Views of Richard Falk and Michael Walzer Essay

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019

Identifying the central argument of the two articles

Richard Falk and Michael Walzer present varying views as regards to the reason why state and non-state actors intervene in the international system whenever a crisis emerges. The two analysts differ over a number of fundamental issues, but they seem to agree about the nature of the international system, as they both observe that actors do not intervene to fulfil the interests of the affected individuals, but instead they aim at realizing their national interests.

Falk notes that powerful states intervene militarily to realize their ambitions and objectives in any conflict. He analyzes the effects of intervention whereby he comes up with two sets of reactions that intrusion seems to generate as far as legal, ethical, and political issues are concerned. In the first response, Falk observes that commissions are set up within the state to investigate the consequences of interference where eminent persons are appointed to serve in such committees.

The second response to intervention is criticisms from civil societies and human groups. The analyst tends to disapprove the behaviour of powerful states and other units that rush into conclusion without seeking the approval of the world governing body, which is the United Nations. For him, the advice of the Security Council should always be relied upon before coming with a decision to intervene militarily in a war-tone region.

Falk accuses the role of non-official bodies, such as NATO, which are often used in restoring peace without the approval of the world governing bodies. States should embark on strengthening the legally and ethically accepted institutions, such as the regional blocs since they represent the interests of the majority.

Non-official organizations, including NATO, only represent the interests of the powerful states, such as the United States, France, Britain, and other US allies. Whenever intervention is undertaken, Falk suggests that the UN objectives under the responsibility to protect clause ought to be followed closely.

In this regard, the rules of engagement should be clear meaning that actors should determine when to intervene, the mode of intervention, and must give a genuine reason for intervening. Additionally, military involvement should be employed as a last resort meaning that other options should be explored. If military action is adopted, approval should be sought from the UN to make it legitimate.

Michael Walzer approves intervention if it is felt that human life is in danger. In fact, he claims that actors should make an attempt of intervening as soon as possible to prevent human suffering. In his view, it is difficult to commit crimes against humanity without being noticed in the modern international system because of the development of information communication techniques.

In his attempt to justify intervention, he analyzes four major themes that actors have to consider, which include the nature of occasion, the agents to be used in intervention, the techniques of engaging the aggressor or the belligerent state, and the best time to end or terminate intervention. Regarding occasion, the international community should only interfere with state sovereignty if the condition is extreme.

Issues, such as violation of human rights and authoritarian regimes do not call for intrusion since they have to be dealt with locally. Only issues related to genocide and mass murder call for intervention. When engaging the aggressive party or state in the international system, only the United Nations should be given the mandate of doing so. The use of force is justifiable, but only if other means have failed. Once the situation is restored back to normal, the intervening state should withdraw, as soon as possible.

Identifying the points of agreement and disagreement between the tow scholars

The two analysts agree at some point while in other instances they differ. On the issue of intervention, Falk observes that regional organizations and internationally recognized bodies, mainly the United Nation, should be left with the mandate of resolving conflicts and force should never be applied.

Walzer takes a different stand, as he suggests that only the United Nations should be given the mandate of intervening and force might be used to restore the situation back to normal. Walzer is of the view actors in the international system should not intervene over minor issues. For him, only genocide should attract intervention, as other issues ought to be resolved locally. Falk differs slightly with this idea, as he suggests that actors have the right of intervening whenever deemed necessary.

The two analysts agree that intervention is necessary and should always be undertaken whenever human life is in danger. While Falk underscores the that powerful states intervene to salvage their interests, Walzer has a different view, as he observes that intervention is undertaken to prevent the hostile actor from harming human life. They both give examples of intervention in India, Kosovo, and Rwanda, but their accounts are different.

Critical evaluation of the two positions

It is noted that Falk is a realist while Walzer is a liberalist. Realists believe that any state would have an interest of preserving its political autonomy, as well as territorial integrity.

Regarding the intervention of powerful states, the main objective is to maintain the global power, which is defined in terms of military power, political domination, diplomatic power, and cultural power. Based on this view, realists believe that the international system is anarchic, brutal, and life is short-lived as an actor engage in a zero-sum game whereby a loss on the side of one actor is the gain of the other.

In the global system, there is no Leviathan, which is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the affairs of all actors, instead the vacuum left is filled by the powerful states. In this regard, the international system exists based on the Hobbestian state of nature where life is short-lived and highly calculative. Peace in the international system is maintained by balance of power.

Liberalism is one of the dominant theories in the study of international relations stating that world peace and security could be achieved through cooperation. The theory tends to suggest that regime types, existence of international organizations, and the nature of domestic politics affect the decisions that foreign policy makers formulate at the international political arena.

The commercial interests of various actors force them to implement free trade policies, which have the role to play in the relations among states. Through the theory, other related theories have been formulated, including globalization and interdependence. Walzer notes that agents of globalization, including the media, play a role in exposing the actions of the aggressive actor.

For peace to be maintained globally, actors should think of institutionalizing peace, which would definitely facilitate cooperation. Walzer observes that the United Nations is competent in maintaining peace and security. Therefore, the theory does not encourage actors to come up with short-time peace solutions, but instead they should aim at formulating lasting peace strategies. In this regard, international law, norms, and formation of alliances ought to be stressed if lasting peace and security is to be achieved.

Works Cited

Falk, Richard. “Humanitarian Intervention: Elite and Critical Perspectives”. Global Dialogue, 7.1 (2005): 1-7. Print.

Walzer, Michael. “The Argument about Humanitarian Intervention”. Forum for Intercultural Philosophy, 5.1 (2004): 1-8. Print.

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