In DepthColumnsJust war theory and international hypocrisy

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Posted on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 20:03

Just war theory and international hypocrisy

William Manful

What informs the decision to intervene in one situation and leave out another? How is Syria for example different from Libya? What informed America for instance to intervene in the Balkans or lead a NATO assault of Belgrade to avoid genocide in Kosovo whilst ignoring similar atrocities or even worse ones in Rwanda? Could it be political, geo-political, strategic, economic or racial?

Pacifism forms the basis for international relations these days serving as the foundation upon which the United Nations system operates. The idea of living in a world where violence is abhorred and peace is upheld has gone down well with the planet's inhabitants for the UN boasting of a state membership in excess of 190 countries has couched a charter that standardizes international peace and security as the ultimate objective of the global community.

Dialogue has therefore replaced warfare as the superior option for resolving differences between states or within them. Occasionally however, the undesirable happens and mankind is compelled to contemplate his darker side, his inner demons expressed in the form of inordinately diabolical crimes extended to civilians longing to lead a life of peace and harmony guaranteed under certain freedoms and civil liberties. After the holocaust of Jews by the Nazis, similar ugliness has been witnessed in the Balkans, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. In order to force evil to bend to the will of good wars have therefore been fought resulting in partial annihilation or total destruction of the enemy.

For if Clausewitz is to be believed warfare does not necessarily herald the failure of diplomacy but a mere continuation of it albeit via different methods. Just wars are therefore waged to defend civilian life in pursuit of some form of justice and to discourage the use of armed forces and political clout to intimidate or rather eliminate civilians longing for social justice.

Of course if there is justification in fighting a war there ought to be a just way of fighting it too which is why in even a just war situation civilians and non-combatants are not to be harmed. Surrendering soldiers from the opposing side are to be treated well and weapons whose scale of destruction cannot be curtailed (weapons of mass destruction) must be avoided. Upon the successful completion of a just war there is usually a campaign of re-construction and rehabilitation of the affected state(s) for example the on-going restoration of post-Gaddafi Libya or the efforts of West African states in Liberia and Sierra Leone. If necessary war tribunals are set up and peace treaties are signed to ensure that the process of reparation becomes permanent whilst avoiding reprisals.

The incorporation of conflict into the peacemaking rubric is mankind's way of acknowledging that the world is far from perfect and not all and sundry subscribe to a philosophy of pacifism. So far it all seems positively cozy for weaklings in need of the blanket of protection provided by the good guys who also have the big guns and weapons to fight the bad guys. The problem however, arises when the world chooses to wage just wars selectively and/or discriminately. What informs the decision to intervene in one situation and leave out another? How is Syria for example different from Libya? What informed America for instance to intervene in the Balkans or lead a NATO assault of Belgrade to avoid genocide in Kosovo whilst ignoring similar atrocities or even worse ones in Rwanda? Could it be political, geo-political, strategic, economic or racial? Is one racial group more important or valuable than the other? Does this criteria form the basis for crisis intervention or do certain states matter more than others?

Questions that are brought on by the seeming lack of equity in the execution of just war principles. By all indications the situation in Syria for example fulfills the outlined conditions for some form of military action. Civilian lives numbering in the thousands have been lost, due to the Assad regime's use of force violating in the process the basic human rights of thousands of rebels and protesters calling for an end to a dictatorial or autocratic rule.

The diplomatic option that is been explored extensively smacks of insincerity on the part of the west because one wonders why similar methods were not used in the handling of Gaddafi when he used a lesser level of violence on his countrymen? The semblance to make peace via dialogue in a crisis situation where a double standard appears to be at work undermines the very essence of the diplomatic mission and turns it into a smoke screen masking the Western world's lack of interest in resolving certain humanitarian crisis.

To ensure that the global effort to advance a human rights regime and realize international peace and security stays strong the overarching principle of good dominating evil must form the basis for interventions. The case has been made in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, , Sierra Leone and Bosnia-Herzegovina that a timely military intervention saves civilian lives. The global initiative to make peace must therefore never shy away from the use of force to resolve conflicts wherever they may be.

Also read:
The Syrian Crisis: Another case for military action
Syria: Not without my daughter
Tunisia: The revolution will be televised



Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 20:21

William Manful

William Manful

William Manful is a human rights advocate committed to the democratization of Africa. He has worked as a contributing columnist for afrik- news.com and talkafrique. He holds degrees in french and spanish as well as international relations from the University of Cambridge. Mr manful also writes on philosophy, sports and cinema. He is currently working for the Government of Ghana.

 

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