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Humanitarian Intervention


Humanitarian intervention lies at the crossroads of realism and liberalism, where state power and material interests collide with human rights and sovereignty. Humanitarian intervention is defined as meddling in a country's internal affairs with the goal of ending or at least minimising suffering caused by events such as civil war, genocide, and starvation. Humanitarian intervention has been a source of heated debate in recent years, not only among academics but also among organisations, nations, and nonprofit organisations (NGOs).

The legal status of humanitarian intervention poses a profound challenge to the future of global order. The great game began in the 19th century as an intense confrontation between the British and the Russian empire over the territories of Afghanistan and neighbouring lands of southern and central Asia. Afghanistan has become the land of chaos and conflicts making it the graveyard of empires. The US intervention in the year 2001 triggered by the September 11 attacks has entered its 21st year, escalating the crisis to the level of the vicious cycle of human rights violations and political turmoil. Contemporary debates over US withdrawal has raised many eyebrows.

According to many international advocates-humanitarian interventions without authorisation by the UNSC are unlawful, but sometimes it is justified stating moral grounds. This discrepancy between legitimacy, legality combined with morality has aroused several debates. Drawing upon the works of Bhiku Parekh, just intervention by Anthony F. Lang, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society by Nicholas J. Wheeler. At the heart of the debate is the tension between the principle of state sovereignty (a defining pillar of the UN system and international law) and emerging international norms related to the use of force for humanitarian purposes.

Humanitarian imperialism

Puts humanitarian interventions in a bad light, because of the short‐term and long‐term dependence that it creates through the interference of Western powers in other states. This theory supposes that an ongoing conflict between the first‐ and the third‐world exists. Even though developing countries stay formally independent, forms of coercion, such as economic, political or social instruments may in some cases be used to keep developing countries under Western domination or at least under Western constraint.

Humanitarian interventions are understood as a concept that Western elites use to gain political-economic advantages in a country. The logic of Human rights that are given to disguise the act of violence on the part of western countries doesn't justify the act. It kills, for instance, a country's ability to develop by itself (Bricmont, 2006). Dependency theory, for example, supposes that developing countries had been in a better situation nowadays if they would have been allowed to pursue their own ways of developing because in this way they would not have lost their political self‐determination (Omaar and Waal, 1994).

Neglect of Responsibility and threat to state sovereignty

According to the usual claim, the problem of humanitarian intervention highlights the tension between human rights and state sovereignty, and, while human rights are based on moral grounds, state sovereignty is not or only to a small degree. The concept of humanitarian intervention raises difficult questions at several levels; to start with, it is paradoxical.

We know that most of the human rights instruments make the state responsible to protect the rights of its people. State-practices often make this paradoxical as empirically states themselves violate human rights. However, it is more threatening to imagine that many states become helpless to protect their citizens’ rights from foreign surveillance and (aerial) attack.


The newly emerging norm of responsibility to protect can be seen as a way to redefine the traditionally understood primacy to state sovereignty in a way that would allow outside states to intervene in the garb of humanitarian reasons, to violate the territorial sovereignty of a state to protect its populace when the state fails to do the same or threatens the same.

In the past, a number of disturbing atrocities and human rights abuses have been committed against ethnic minority groups without any action taken by so-called Self-proclaimed protectors of human rights. For example, throughout the Rwandan genocide, the United States seemed increasingly hesitant to intervene or even label the atrocities as genocide. This throws A bad light on the discretionary labelling of the international happenings, we can notice that states intervene or refused to intervene on the basis of their vested interest, neglecting the very idea of human rights.

Humanitarian intervention, the concept in the contemporary era has gained extreme significance. Whether it’s right or wrong continues to be a big question. One of the major criticism of it is that sometimes the interest of the state is neglected and the intervention is motivated by the vested interest of the intervening power.

In the case of AFGHANISTAN, the US Intervention was clearly a consequence of the 9/11 attacks and in no way was motivated by sympathy for the masses who were suffering due to the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan. The US didn’t really help in establishing stability rather has resulted in more chaos, rather than solving problems it has created more. The recent decision of the US to withdraw has complicated the situation even more.


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