My second HuffPost contribution:
A year after the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York, former President Bush’s national security strategy was clear: US interests triumph all else and international institutions would not hinder military actions deemed necessary. Therefore, when contemplating humanitarian interventions, the US would weigh the potential benefits–in terms of foreign lives saved–against the likely costs to the United States. Even if US strategic interests intertwine with internationally accepted humanitarian criteria for humanitarian interventions, it may have consequential effects on the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect.’
Throughout the 1990s, experiences such as Rwanda, Kosovo and East Timor among others built a momentum towards the idea that governments had a “responsibility to protect” people suffering in complex humanitarian emergencies. However, according to experts like Thomas Weiss, author of ‘Military-Civilian Interactions’, the September 11th attacks and subsequent US led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, led to two world organizations: “The United Nations, global in members; and the United States, global in reach and power.”
The primary purpose in a humanitarian intervention must be ‘right intention’–to halt or avert human suffering, despite other motives intervening states may have. But the debate after September 11th, shifted to the right to intervene-to protect the intervening country’s people from a threat seen to be originating from another country. The debate shifted to self-defense. Samantha Power, author of ‘A Problem From Hell’, writes that since the September 11th attacks, the “U.S. government is likely to view genocide prevention as an undertaking it cannot afford as it sets out to better protect Americans.”
Security Council resolutions have authorized the use of armed forces led by US-led coalitions, rather than under the command of the UN. In a humanitarian intervention, the intervening states have the responsibility to rebuild. Since September 11th, none of the US interventions taken were primarily called humanitarian interventions, despite clear complex humanitarian emergencies. But Weiss points out the US led invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, turned primarily humanitarian. In 2002, a planned operation against Iraq began to surface. The Bush administration called on the UN to enforce its resolutions on Iraq or risk ‘irrelevance’. But military intervention without a UN mandate raises questions over a country’s motives and capabilities to rebuild in the post-conflict period. The implication of such a reality has also posed a dilemma for the notion of ‘neutrality’ once forces are deployed on the ground and raises concern among independent aid agencies.