Humanitarian Intervention

1 August 2015Feature

The case against airstrikes on Syria

US F-15E Strike Eagles returning from the first US airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, on 23 September 2014. Photo: US air force

On 26 June, Seifeddine Rezgui, a 23-year-old student, murdered 38 people at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia. 30 of the dead were British nationals. Subsequent news reports have noted Rezgui received training at an Islamic State (IS – also known as ISIS) base in western Libya.

Speaking to the BBC a few days later, David Cameron argued…

21 February 2014Comment

Howard Clark, reviews a Bradford University report by Nick Lewer and Oliver Ramsbotham on ‘humanitarian intervention’, written during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

What gives people – citizens or intergovernmental bodies – the right to intervene in a situation, and what considerations should govern this intervention?

... The first half [of the Lewer-Rambotham report] deals with non-coercive humanitarian intervention. While forms of civilian intervention aren’t likely to have the enormous consequences of military intervention, they too need to be assessed according to clear criteria. Marko Hren, commenting on ‘war tourism’ in former-Yugoslavia, talks…

3 December 2004Feature

Diana Francis reflects on recent military interventions and suggests that, rather than attempting to reframe peacekeeping and postwar operations, we must deconstruct militarism and all it stands for.

Even for a lifelong pacifist it is hard in some circumstances to argue against military intervention.

The violence and brutality that are the fruit of thousands of years of militarismare so real that, in one situation after another, it is impossible not to long for aspeedy and effective solution. Military options are the ones we know best and that have the resources. The soldiers are ready and waiting, it seems. If they arenot sent in, we feel we have somehow connived in the…

1 December 2004Feature

Howard Clark argues that preparing to intervene in an emergency is no substitute for addressing the roots of war, and that, ultimately, peace depends on the people.

“Post-intervention peace operations” is the theme for this section of Peace News; an apt topic for the final edition of the paper to be co-published with War Resisters' International.

Our focus is less on classical peace-keeping, where the UN deploys a lightly armed force with the consent of the conflicting parties. Rather, while providing information on the whole contemporary peace-keeping scene, we examine in more depth the latest generation of “peace operations”, where…

1 December 2004Review

Hurst, 2004; ISBN 1 8506 5737 8; Pb 288pp; £16.50

This book, published in association with Médecins sans Frontiéres, lacks a precise focus, but is principally concerned with international responses to intranational conflict and the problems they pose to humanitarian organisations.

It begins with an excellent and incisive introduction by Jean-Hervé Bradol who outlines three basic types of international response: intervention, involvement and abstention. A large part of the book is dedicated to case…

1 December 2003Review

Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0 52181074 4 (hb) £42.50/$58 316, 0 52100904 9 (pb) £15.95/$21, 316pp

It is a sign of the times that books about the international use of military muscle are increasingly about “intervention” rather than “war”, and that the interventions most often discussed are “humanitarian” ones.

While not all of the thirteen papers in this collection are primarily concerned with humanitarian intervention, that is the single most dominant theme. The countries most often mentioned are Rwanda and Kosovo. They provide obvious focal points for the discussion. As the…

1 September 2003Review

Ashgate 2002, ISBN 0 7546 0867 0, 296 pp, £45

The essays in this volume address the tension between two widely held principles. The first is that a nation's borders should be respected, the second is that human rights should be protected.

The tension obviously arises when it is thought that in order to uphold the latter, it is necessary to override the former. The individual contributions to this debate (all originally conference papers) approach this central issue in a number of ways, with different emphases and varying degrees…

1 December 2002Review

International Development Research Centre, 2001. ISBN 0 8893 6960 7, 104pp + CD-ROM. Also readable online at

The ICISS was set up by the Canadian government in 2000 to investigate and report on the “right of humanitarian intervention”, with its members being selected from a variety of backgrounds and nations.

Before preparing their report they organised a series of international discussions and commissioned a set of briefing papers from recognised experts in the field. The CD-ROM contains the papers and summaries of the discussions along with an extensive bibliography. (This supplementary…