Humanitarian intervention poses a major challenge to the international community established under the guidelines of non-use of power, self-government, and non-intervention. Bellamy and Wheeler assert, “Immediately after the holocaust, the society of states established laws prohibiting genocide and the mainstreaming of civilians” (2011, p. 510). The laws uphold the fundamental human rights. These humanitarian ideologies time and again clash with the doctrines of autonomy and non-intervention. Individual countries are mandated with guaranteeing the security of their people. The responsibility is clearly spelled out in the principle of the duty to protect. However, when such states turn against their citizens, it becomes hard for the international community to stand aside in the name of observing the non-intervention principles. International community has played a critical role in intervening for people that are oppressed by either their government or militant groups (Wheeler 2000). A good example was when the United States and Britain intervened in Libya to end the oppression orchestrated by Gaddafi (Bellamy & Wheeler 2011). Despite humanitarian military intervention helping to restore law and order in some countries, to some extent such interventions have turned out to be a waste of lives and money.
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The issue of humanitarian military intervention can be understood by looking at it from a realist or a liberalist position. Realists argue that states weigh the benefits of participating in humanitarian military intervention before sending their troops. In other words, countries send their forces to war-torn countries not to provide humanitarian aids, but to safeguard their interests. In contrast, liberalists focus on safeguarding of human rights. Liberalists posit, “human being possesses fundamental natural rights to liberty” (Bellamy 2009, p. 76). Hence, liberalists view military intervention as the ultimate mode of safeguarding human rights. It is quite unfortunate that the majority of the present-day humanitarian military interventions appear to be inclined towards safeguarding the interests of developed countries. Such countries do all they can to ensure that their interests are not interfered with without caring about the civilians locked in conflict. The countries pull out their military forces once they realize that they can no longer safeguard their interests leaving the affected nation in a worse situation than they found it (Bellamy 2009).
There are cases where humanitarian military intervention has led to rebellion from the victims once the military machinery is withdrawn, delayed or is not well equipped to protect the oppressed. A good example was when Bush intervened in Iraq in a bid to end the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein. President Bush called on all the Shiites and Kurdish in Iraq to rise and fight Saddam. Numerous Kurdish and Shiites took to the streets to fight Saddam’s regime hoping that the United States would send them reinforcement (Evans 2008). The call from Bush made the fighters believe that the United States was willing to defend them from reprisal by Saddam’s sympathisers. Nevertheless, this did not happen. Hoping to circumvent sticky situation, Bush called back his troops 100 hours after launching the ground attacks. He never equipped the Kurdish and Shiites with requisite training or weapons. Consequently, when Saddam retorted to their uprising with severe viciousness, they were not in a position defend themselves. Eventually, the American humanitarian military intervention ended up costing the lives of at least 30,000 Kurdish and 20,000 Shiites. To make the matters worse, most of those who died during Saddam’s retaliation were civilians (Evans 2008).
According to Wheeler (2000, p. 123), the United States intervention in Somalia in 1993 bore short-term fruits. America rescued thousands of Somalis from hunger. However, it was clear that the intervention was a total fiasco as evidenced by the later attempt by the United Nations forces to continue with the mission to restore law and order in Somalia. The forces not only tried to avert famine in the country, but they also sought to disarm the militants. The humanitarian military intervention turned sour when the United Nations Security Council ordered the apprehension of General Aidid in connection with the murder of twenty-three United Nation peace-keepers. The United Nations was forced to upgrade its military powers in Somalia by transferring the state of art American artillery to facilitate in manning the streets. The mission turned out to be more expensive than expected (Wheeler 2000).
There have been incidences where humanitarian military intervention has culminated in abuse of human rights and the freedom of the affected people. In some occasions, the powerful countries have funded uprisings in third world countries so as to get an opportunity to pursue their interests in the respective country pretending to offer humanitarian intervention (Bellamy & Wheeler 2011). Such undertakings have led to many people losing their life and others living in deplorable conditions. In Rwanda, French government claimed to offer humanitarian military operation knowing very well that it was responsible for propping up and aiding the Hutu fighters. President Francois Mitterrand was keen to re-establish French authority in Africa, and was worried that Rwandan Patriotic Front would thwart his efforts (Bellamy & Wheeler 2011). It underlines the reason France never responded to the killings that were going on in Rwanda until when it realized that Rwandan Patriotic Front was to emerge victorious. France proved that it did not intend to offer humanitarian military intervention to the people of Rwanda. Instead, it was out to safeguard its interests at the expense of the Rwandese.
Humanitarian military intervention is geared towards alleviating human suffering. Nonetheless, it has turned out that in some countries, civilians end up paying dearly due to military intervention (Bellamy & Wheeler 2011). When the United States intervened in Afghanistan, it had promised that it would provide food and drugs to the affected areas. The United States used all measures to ensure that civilians are not affected by its military intervention. However, its intervention approach damaged its humanitarian qualifications of the war. The United States relied heavily on a number of Afghan factions to acquire information concerning the militants. In return, the American soldiers were rendered vulnerable to exploitation by Afghans fervent to settle grudges with their enemies. In spite of the United States going to Afghanistan on humanitarian ground, the soldiers ended up launching numerous attacks in which innocent people died, and others maimed due to wrong intelligence (Bellamy & Wheeler 2011).
After humanitarian military intervention achieves its objective of restoring peace, countries pull out their forces (Farer 2014). They do not facilitate in rebuilding the affected nation. In Afghanistan, the United States did not send its soldiers to help the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) to reconstruct the country. Majority of the cities were demolished by the bombings leaving thousands of the Afghans homeless. Failure to strengthen Iraq and Afghanistan militarily as well as alleviate human suffering still costs the United States. America spends billions of dollars trying to combat militant groups that keep on emerging in the two countries (Farer 2014). Besides, the United States feels obliged to facilitate in rebuilding the two countries. Consequently, it always commits vast amount of its financial budget to development of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Farer posits, “Perhaps the most frequently ignored costs of humanitarian interventions, however, have been what economists call opportunity cost” (2014, p. 56). Innumerable opportunities are foregone for a country to focus on military intervention. Humanitarian military intervention is an expensive avenue of saving life and alleviating human suffering. For instance, the United States fired over 220 Tomahawk missiles into Libya. Each missile costs around $1.4 million. This money could have been used for other productive projects. Additionally, the United States spent about $7 billion in its military intervention in Somalia. The Somali mission saved about 25, 000 lives, which is a small number compared to the amount of money spent. In other words, America spent at least $280,000 to save the life of each Somali, which is extremely unrealistic (Farer 2014).
Human life cannot be evaluated in terms of money. Hence, it would be imprudent to claim that Humanitarian military intervention is too expensive. Developed nations always spend a lot of money to save the life of their citizens. Even though the amount of money spent in Somalia may appear low in utter conditions, the United States might have strained its inadequate resources to save lives in a foreign country (Falk 1991). It makes humanitarian military intervention appear almost extravagant when viewed from a different perspective.
Sending soldiers to war torn countries does not guarantee the security of people living in refugee camps (Falk 1991). Indeed, nations end up spending more in trying to provide social services to the refugees. Based on these findings, other methods of intervention ought to be applied to mitigate the cost. In many cases, military intervention has always been reactive. Countries send their military after they realize that the situation is getting out of control. Thus, it becomes hard to mitigate the situation. Countries need to come up with measures to solve catastrophes before they erupt to avoid wastage of money. States would not require deploying many military personnel, thus cutting cost (Falk 1991). Besides, countries can opt to host refugees fleeing the conflict zones. In doing this, they would be able to save millions of lives and at the same time cut down on the financial costs associated with military interventions.
The current humanitarian military intervention has proved to be a waste of lives and money. In many cases, military forces have not managed to combat retaliatory attacks staged by the militants (Farer 2014). Additionally, developed countries have ended up spending a lot of money in rebuilding war torn countries after restoring peace. The amount of money spent in sustaining soldiers in a foreign land and rebuilding the countries is too much compared to what would be spent if other humanitarian measures are adopted. It has made humanitarian military intervention to appear as if not to achieve its objectives. Instead, the venture seems to be extravagant as a well as a ground for different countries to showcase their military superiority (Farer 2014). Rather than embracing military intervention, states ought to come up with other measures like opening their borders to refugees fleeing from war. It would not only help in cutting down on the cost of sending soldiers to foreign countries, but also saving millions of lives.
Bellamy, A 2009, Responsibility to protect: the global effort to end mass atrocities, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Bellamy, A & Wheeler, J 2011, Humanitarian intervention in world politics: the globalization of world politics, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Evans, G 2008, Responsibility to protect: ending mass atrocity crimes once and for all, Brookings Institution Press, Washington.
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Falk, R 1991, The United Nations and a just World order, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Farer, T 2014, Humanitarian intervention before and after 9/11: legitimacy of humanitarian intervention, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Wheeler, N 2000, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian intervention in international society, Oxford University Press, Oxford.