The Call For Humanitarian Intervention |
Kuwait Times - 17 July, 2012
Author: Fouad Al-Obaid
Over the last few centuries the notion of a legal State became the pre-dominate form of government over almost every single portion of our planet. The system of sovereignty enshrined in the treaty if Münster and Osnabrück – a treaty signed in 1648 between the Holy Roman Empire, the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom’s of Spain and France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, last but not least Sovereigns’ of free Imperial Cities – led to the emergence of the Westphalian Sovereignty concept that enshrines the following three primary principles: The fundamental right of self-determination and the principle of State sovereignty; The notion of legal equality amongst sovereign States; and lastly, the notion of non-intervention of any one sovereign State into the internal affairs of another sovereign State.
As most readers already know – those that don’t can easily imagine – that this principle over the decades has not constrained the temptation by many States to not only intervene in the affairs of sovereign States; throughout the modern era, post-Westphalia, numerous cross-border wars ensued – though the trend of such wars has today decreased – most problematic and of prime concern to neighboring countries is the emergences of protracted civil conflicts predominantly in the ‘developing world’ especially post-independence.
If we look back to the history of the carving up of modern nations in Africa, Arabia, and Asia we come to view how legally through conventions different parts of lost empires were ‘shared’ amongst victorious ‘European’ colonial powers. For instance, the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 was a ploy to settle territorial claims by major European powers post-Napoleonic Empire; the African continent amongst others was ‘shared’, creating artificial States that have not taken much consideration of historical realities. The outcome, countless resistant movements, civil strife and war that still today are plaguing the ‘Black’ continent.
In Arabia, post-World War I, the allied powers broke down the Ottoman Empire; the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 created modern day Turkey, and gave mandates over Syria and Lebanon to France, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine (which included modern day Jordan). Throughout the Gulf region the British established ‘protectorates’ – Kuwait was as such until 1961. In the post-Independence era countless dictators rose and fell in this part of the world.
Until the Arab Spring of last year, despots were the standard. Ruthless dictators have historically crushed the affinities of popular uprisings. It is only recently that non-democracies are suddenly concerned about the affairs of civilians in neighboring countries that are being bluntly murdered by their own governments because they are uprising against the system of government. The irony – tragedy really – is the fact that should their own populace revolt similar fates could be the outcome!
With the case of Syria galvanizing crowds East and West, the Arab League for a historic first suspended Syria from the League in a public diplomatic slap, and worked out a scheme to send ‘observers’ to witness what is really going on. Many might find irony in countries that have historically crushed revolts – and in the case of two in the observer mission actively crushing open dissent, going out and reporting on the tragedy befalling Syria. Regardless, the repression has left at the latest count at least ten thousand dead.
The world is daily being fed news of the ongoing massacre in Syria – let us be reminded that when such massacres happen in places like Darfur not much is reported – the drums are clearly beating towards a march of military confrontation. And yet, it is not clear who would emerge victorious if such would be the outcome. What many people watching their TV screens and listening to the radio are unaware of is the Realpolitik ongoing with regards to the Syria situation.
The anger against both Russia and China that keep blocking resolutions at the UN Security Council is a cause of worry by mainly the Arab street not understanding the position of the two countries. Russia for one has a its only naval base in the Mediterranean in Tartus, Syria. It certainly does not want to loose its base and presences in the Mediterranean leaving the US unchecked in this region. China has a clear non-intervention foreign policy, which it has used to develop its burgeoning economy that needs its partners in non-democracies to grant it access to raw materials.
The temptation for humanitarian intervention is growing amidst a more globally connected society that regards the loss of life as tragic. Should an intervention happen, it is likely to lead to greater death. Most pressing would be the manner by which the potential foreign military intervention would unravel.
Syria is a strong ally of both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran, along with Russia. Unlike Libya, Syria has a stronger armed force, and is crucial to the stability of the region. It’s proximity to Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Gulf could push it towards asymmetrical warfare, which has the potential to set the entire region ablaze. As a reminder, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, no one could have predicted that a world war would be the outcome.