Monday, November 06, 2006

Humanitarian Intervention NOW in Iraq

The very premise of Eric Posner's Washington Post Op/Ed is wrong; "humanitarianism" or "freeing Iraqis" was clearly an ex post facto justification of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. As was widely and clearly stated by the Bush Administration, the intention for the invasion was two-fold: 1.) that the Hussein regime was developing weapons of mass destruction and 2.) that the Hussein regime had ties to al-Qaeda, and was thus implicated in the 9/11 attacks. We now know both of these justifications were untrue.

Further, the "responsibility to protect" framework makes clear that civilian protection and restoring human security must be the focus of any legitimate humanitarian intervention. In Iraq, such a focus and subsequent best practices were nowhere to be seen.

Posner is right, however, that Iraq has become an anarchic state caught in spiraling sectarian violence, where "the rate at which civilians die has been increasing in recent months." A recent report published by the reputable Lancet medical journal says 655,000 Iraqis have been killed in this war. Given these realities on the ground today, one could easily make a case for humanitarian intervention NOW in Iraq to protect civilians.

I know such a line of reasoning is political infeasible today, however it shows the fault in Posner's arguments. Just like traditional thinking, he analyzes intervention from the perspective of the intervener, not the point of view of communities suffering atrocities. The new "Responsibility to Protect" framework shifts that lens to focus on those needing support and succor. As Gareth Evans, chair of the ICISS, writes, "The searchlight is back where it should always be: on the duty to protect communities from mass killing, women from systematic rape, and children from starvation."


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