Michael Walzer in his recent opinion piece in Foreign Affairs brilliantly poses a question concerning charitably pursued action. His submission as I understood is that charity, which is an essence of humanitarianism, is both benevolence and duty. In today’s international setting his analysis on the said topic offers a good conceptual framework for handling humanitarian intervention. However, he contends that dilemma is clearer in case of so-called humanitarian intervention. Libya becomes the test case in this regard.
International humanitarianism seems more like moral obligation than benevolence in Walzer’s opinion. But judging the current Libyan crisis from his prism the use of force resorted to by the U.S., UK and France in the name of humanitarianism is neither just nor benevolent. The supporters of military action against the Libyan leader Qadaffi have tried to justify their behavior on the ground that human suffering is being relieved. Ominously, their continued air strikes in Libya have not saved lives, let alone providing relief to the desperate civilians.
As intervention has ironically prolonged rather stopped Libyans’ hardship has increased. Taking a cue from the events in Libya one may conclude that all military interventions are launched imperially. The UN endorsement of the humanitarian intervention nonetheless, has raised the issue of moral obligation because the Libyan case has failed the proportionality test. Unfortunately, more lives are perished due to the use of force than before intervention was launched.
Politically speaking the interveners have justification in deciding about the intervention in Libya. They seem triumphant in obtaining the required votes in the UN Security Council that passed the resolution 1973 authorizing all necessary means to compel the Libyan leadership to stop killing his people. This is just the diplomatic preparation of humanitarian intervention. In terms of philanthropic enterprise which requires treating charity and duty as two-in-one moral obligation, the Libyan case seldom fits well.
If any intervention justified on humanitarianism is to be a true act of humanitarian aid, as the interveners under NATO leadership have unsuccessfully claimed, then it must not ignore philanthropic element. This element looks undermined in the Libyan example. Otherwise, people would not have compared it to regime change efforts by Red Army in Poland in 1919 and U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The world history has evidence that humanitarian crises are more frequently turned a blind eye as in Haiti and Rwanda. It painfully demonstrates that such crises are seized as an excuse of domination. The Libyan quagmire sorely tests the patience of humanitarian interveners.