MacFarlane et al’s View on the Case that Humanitarian Intervention is an Unacceptable Assault on Sovereignty By Euan Brady
For quite some time now the question of whether humanitarian intervention is an unacceptable assault on sovereignty has been at the top of the list of priority questions for international relations professors. In 2004 Neil MacFarlane, a professor of international relations, Carolin J Thielking, a doctoral candidate in international relations, and Thomas G Weiss, the director of the Ralph Bunch Institute for International Studies, gathered together to review the question of whether anyone cares about humanitarian intervention anymore. Central to their argument was the ‘responsibility to protect’ idea, and the effect of the Iraq war on humanitarian intervention. (MacFarlane et al, 2004, pp.977-992). This essay will focus on where MacFarlane et al stand on the issue of whether humanitarian intervention is just or not and why. Firstly this essay will focus on the ‘responsibility to protect’ idea and the different viewpoints on humanitarian intervention and where MacFarlane et al stand in the argument. Secondly MacFarlane et al’s argument on humanitarian intervention versus the war on terror will be outline and explored. The legitimacy of Americas involvement in Iraq and its effect on peoples view of humanitarian intervention will also be assessed in this paragraph. Thirdly the underlying problems associated with humanitarian intervention will be outlined. The direction that MacFarlane et al believe humanitarian intervention should be taken, in order to increase its legitimacy, will also be outlined in this paragraph. Lastly all the major points will be tied together in a final paragraph to draw up an appropriate conclusion.
In order to understand MacFarlane et al’s stance on humanitarian intervention one must first understand the three different groups of thought associated with humanitarian intervention. However, in order to understand the different group’s views one must first understand the idea of the responsibility to protect. The ICISS’s report, which is central to this debate, suggests that a sovereign state has the responsibility to take care of its citizens. If said states’ population is suffering for any reason, be it internal war or insurgency, the state forfeits its sovereign right of non-intervention to the international responsibility to protect. (MacFarlane et al, 2004, p.978). The first group are referred to as the opponents. This group for the most part completely disagree with the idea of humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect. Central to the opponents’ argument is the idea that humanitarian intervention could cause a return to semi-colonialism of the past in which the world would be split into two distinct groups, civilised and uncivilised. The opponents also believe that powerful states will dictate what peoples human rights are, and what level of threat they must be under in order to intervene. A number of opponents, namely journalist David Rieff, believe that a return to relying on NGO’s such as Medecins sans Frontiers and the International Committee of the Red Cross are the safest option in dealing with human rights crises. (MacFarlane et al, 2004, p.979). Another argument put forward by the opponents is that the responsibility to protect also implies the recognition of the right to asylum which, during a crisis, could cause immigration problems in the larger countries. The second group falls under the name agnostics and sceptics. Agnostics for the most part are generally indifferent on the subject of humanitarian intervention. The sceptics on the other hand put forward two arguments. The first argument puts forward the idea that the responsibility to protect does not solve the main problem attached to humanitarian intervention, generating enough political will to intervene. (MacFarlane et al, 2004, p.980). The second argument centres on the idea that...
Bibliography: MacFarlane, Neil, Thielking, Carolin & Weiss, Thomas, (2004). ‘The Responsibility to Protect: is anyone interested in humanitarian intervention?’ in third world quarterly, vol. 25, no.5: 977-992.
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