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2011/04/06 / Horace

Is it Legitimate to Intervene for Human Rights?

The recent coalition airstrikes again have triggered a wide and heated debate again: which is more important human rights or sovereignty?

It is a crucial question since the answer to this question directly concerns the legitimacy of many events in international affairs like the invasion against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and so on. It seems that removing dictatorship through external forces is fully legitimate since it protects the vulnerable and punishes the evil. When the suffering cannot remove the dictatorship themselves, it is also reasonable for them to call for external help.

It is also an UNIMPORTANT question since there is always the conflict of national interests behind those interventions. It is a sad but cruel fact that Western powers always place a dual standard on human right issues; otherwise, they would not support dictators in several Middle-east countries while they have been trying to remove some others at the same time.

Even in places where dictatorship is really removed by Western powers, the situation seems to be no better. You can find news about suicide bombers quite often. There has been a notorious election fraud in Afghanistan and the political deadlock, which leaves the country in a status of no government, has not been solved in Iraq. Democracy is not established in both countries, and the living standards and stability have deteriorated.

Left-wings say western interventions are for nothing but their own interests. Is it true? In China, there is an old saying, ‘it is easy to call in a God, but very difficult to drive him out’. It may be quite easy to call for assistance from outside, but once they are inside the callers’ territories, they are really unlikely to go away; at least, they have to send them some solid benefits. We really do not know what politicians are thinking when they issue the order to start an invasion. However, the results have turned out to be opposite. Both wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have turned out to be the 2nd and 3rd Vietnam Wars. In Iraq, who has the most oil contract is not an American company but one from China. The huge military expenses have worsened American deficits and hugely frustrated American constituencies.

Intervention is never a good option, even though there seems to be no other options.

There may be only one exception: the 1st Gulf War. Saddam invade Kuwait and was driven out by coalition forces. However, it was not a problem of sovereignty and human rights. There was no sovereignty for Kuwait since Kuwait had been occupied at that time.

Let’s go back to the turmoil in Libya. Is coalition intervention legitimate? I believe civilian lives should be saved and people’s voices should be heard. I really adore those pro-democracy fighters especially those volunteers without any training before, and I do Western intervention do save civilian lives from the hands of Col. Gaddaffi. However, obviously, they do not come for human rights; otherwise, they could send ground troops to remove Gaddafi, which is not difficult at all. Once human rights are against their benefits, they won’t sacrifice their own benefits to protect human rights, and no one is sure whether Libyans’ human rights are always side in side with Western benefits.

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