Is military force an effective instrument for the promotion of humanitarian values?

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This essay will argue that military force is an ineffective instrument for the promotion of humanitarian values. However, this is qualified by also presenting reasons for discounting the effectiveness of non-military interventions. This essay will be structured as follows.

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The first sections will confront methodological issues that have to be addressed before the question can be answered. Following this we will embark on a comparison of military and non-military interventions. The essay will evaluate a paradigm case of a successful operation, Australia in East Timor. We will argue it is anomalous and can barely qualify as a genuine intervention. We then see a true case of an intervention, Afghanistan, and conclude that this constitutes a failure of a military promotion of humanitarian values. We will then move onto evaluate two cases of non-military interventions, UN Resolutions and economic sanctions. It will be argued that UN sanctions are impotent, with reference to the actions of Israel. The essay will then examine the sanctions placed on Iraq, and argue that they caused a greater humanitarian crisis than any hitherto encountered intervention. The essay will conclude with reasons why one should refrain from drawing methodological precepts from previous interventions, and advocates a case-by-case analysis. It is important to limit the scope of this debate. First of all, I will not be discussing issues such as the legitimacy of military force being used in national liberation movements with the discussion instead focusing on third party military intervention. There are questions that further need to be addressed: Firstly, what constitutes military force? Is it the mere presence of military personnel (e.g. UN Peacekeeping forces), or does it have to be active military participation? Secondly, what are humanitarian values? Thirdly, how does one measure the promotion of such values? Is there a quantifiable way to ask whether their promotion has been effective? Fourthly, are there case studies which can be turned to in order to address the question? If there has never been a genuinely humanitarian intervention, then it will be impossible to assess the success of such an endeavour. In response to the first question, it is simpler to treat all military interventions of the same ilk. Consider the criteria set out by the Red Cross (1997), arguing that a prerequisite for an intervention to be humanitarian it has to be neutral, impartial and independent. The position of the Red Cross is that no armed force could satisfy these requirements backed as they are by political governments with their own agenda. If one finds this cogent, then there is no prima facie reason for discerning between mercenary, state-backed and UN organisations[1]. In regards to humanitarian values, and how to measure their effectiveness, to find a view backed by consensus is almost impossible.

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