Janine di Giovanni, a major foreign correspondent whose book I’m reading, expresses her opinion on why humanitarian intervention is needed based on her personal experience. The notion of armed foreign intervention is a contentious topic in international affairs given the contrasting values of national sovereignty and the moral action of saving human lives. I’ve read quite a number of readings on this issue and think I understand the main points of both sides-the pro-intervention and the skeptics. I do think both sides have some merit in their arguments but I lean more towards the pro-intervention.
The fact is that many times major conflicts or oppression can only be ended by foreign intervention such as with Sierra Leone or East Timor. Iraq and its disastrous US occupation, on the other hand, is a major example of how not to do an intervention, one that was done with the wrong intentions and erratic or non-existent proper preparation.
It has become rather chic and common in some areas of academia, as well as the press, to criticize international intervention as “imperialistic” and self-serving to the major Western powers who often conduct or are asked to conduct these interventions. There are truths to these criticisms but I think many of these people seem to ignore the actual scale of atrocities going on on the ground. I wrote an article on this a while ago while can be seen here.
Di Giovanni speaks of that in an extract from her article:
One who spoke in a panel discussion had the most immoral view I have ever witnessed: that humanitarian intervention was purely narcissistic, as was the press for reporting it.
This, apparently, is a popular theory in faculties and departments of international relations – the guilt of the first world, white man’s burden, etc but the fact that someone could feel that it is wrong to intervene when civilians are being raped, shot, starved and killed made me furious.