Please forward to Burma and other appropriate lists.
Please see http://www.dictatorwatch.org/articles/militaryintervention.html for the balance of this analysis. Also, we have posted five new photo essays of Free Burma Rangers humanitarian relief missions conducted in November and December, and photos of the Green Empowerment Phase 2 solar installations for Karen medical clinics.
THE LOGIC OF MILITARY INTERVENTION
By Roland Watson
January 6, 2005
Historically, other than through efforts at self-defense, there has been no social check on tyranny. If your group was attacked by a foreign aggressor, or subjugated by a homegrown dictator, you were on your own. No one from neighboring societies or the broader international community would help you in any way (unless it was in their own selfish interests to do so).
This situation is still the norm. While the response to the tsunami disaster in South and Southeast Asia does demonstrate a desire to assist others, such desire is dependent on the circumstances. We are most willing to help the victims of natural disaster (and the bigger it is the better); and secondly, the victims of what might be termed the most commonplace social disaster, poverty.
Humanitarian aid is also provided, in some cases, to the victims of conflict (i.e., for refugees). However, this does not qualify as intervention. In no such circumstances are there concomitant actions to end the tyranny and establish a real peace.
In other words, we are willing to help, but only with money – not if it puts us at personal risk.
Further, all such assistance can be viewed reflexively, in terms of what it tells us about ourselves. For the first, we will help the victims of natural disaster because, after all, it could happen to us, too. For poverty, it is arguable that the rich, including rich societies, help the poor out of guilt. But for conflict, since to provide real assistance is so much more difficult, we persuade ourselves that in some way the victims must be to blame and hence it is not our problem.
This failing, our unwillingness to exhibit a moral imperative to assist others in need, with personal and not only financial sacrifice, reflects the primitive state of our species. In a truly civil society, we would put our differences aside and work together to assist anyone who requires it, including through confronting and ending all cases of physical oppression. Therefore, since we will not do this, and notwithstanding our science, technology, wealth and art, I contend that we remain essentially uncivilized.
It is for this reason that history records a never-ending series of the worst forms of conquest and repression, including the extremes of slavery, human sacrifice and genocide.
Following World War II, there was widespread recognition that aggressors, both external and internal, should not go unchallenged. To this end the United Nations was established, with the goal of a stable and peaceful world, where members not subject to an immediate threat would assist those who were.
This initiative has failed. Not only does the United Nations include among its members the leading aggressor countries (e.g., China, Burma, Sudan and North Korea), national selfishness remains paramount. The world is based on competition and self-interest. There is no real sense of community or ethic of selflessness and cooperation.
Because of this, the following analysis is in a sense speculative. It describes those conditions that must be met before a foreign military intervention can be considered to be ethical, and hence justifiable. By way of illustration, the analysis uses as its principal examples the conflicts in Burma and Iraq.