How does self-interest translate into humanitarian intervention?


The recent operation undertaken by Western European countries and the United States is a very dramatic step in the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya. This enforcement of the no-fly zone has made hast from the inception of the U.N. Resolution to actually implementing the resolution through active military involvement. The use of 121 Tomahawk missiles on strategic military targets in order to degrade and essentially eliminate Libya’s ability to patrol the sky. Now the enforcement of this resolution is something that has moved faster than almost any resolution I am familiar with. Things like economic sanctions and internationally isolation may have moved faster in the past, but still probably has not been at this speed. It definitely makes one think that what part of this is because of economic downturn in the states that have decided to enforce the U.N. Resolution.

The main focal point of U.N. Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians from Qaddafi’s forces and their bombardment of rebel held strongholds where the main targets may not be the rebels, but the people who care caught in the crossfire. However, the Western powers that have intervened in Libya to assist the civilians from further humanitarian atrocities, I feel there is a definite self-interest approach to acting so quickly in this matter. States just don’t act with such haste if they do not feel they are going to get a return on their investment. There were many other instances where people are being oppressed by the leaders of their country. Take the instances of Burma, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Sudan or Cambodia. These were all instances in which the people of these countries were being brutally murdered, assaulted, and their rights being totally trampled on, but they did not hold such weight in the global economy as Libya does.

I do understand that the major underpinnings of this resolution and the action taken place by the Western powers was to make sure that humanitarian norms are upheld and people are not attacked and killed by this brutal leader. However, the fact that U.S. and Western European oil prices have risen quite substantially because of this uprising, I feel has a major part in this equation. This can definitely not be said on paper or through any official release, but greed always has its place in warfare. I do feel that people are innately good and they do things that not only help themselves, but those around them. However, states act in self-interest, especially when this involves contributing a vast amount of military resources to have it done.

In addition, the United States does not have a great track record with initiating military involvement under the auspicious of the U.N. The United States has the resources to do things unilaterally, thus does not need the approval of the U.N. to carry out military strikes against another country or entity. This does grant them further legitimacy in the eyes of the internationally community, so when the violence does quell and oil exportation begins again and new contracts are signed the focus will be not on how much money is being made, but how many people were saved.

This will definitely be a very delicate situation to deal with, as Qaddafi does have a following within his stronghold of Tripoli and does still possess military armaments. The ground advancements must come from the rebels who have already showed initiative in trying to change the situation in Libya. International intervention on the ground must continue to be focused on providing humanitarian aid and assistance and not become a policing entity where those from the opposition are left ostracized. It will be very interesting to see where this military intervention will have moved in the next week, due to the fact it was initiated so quickly. The military coordination needed for this operation will definitely make the task easier for those states involved and interesting to see who will take the lead if Qaddafi has been weakened to a terminal point.

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