Intervention is an external denial of a state's sovereignty.
It is a de facto claim for the existence of a higher authority
or a greater power. In this era, intervention is primarily the
action of one state or a group of states to enforce its will within
the territory or affairs of another state. The state or group
of states is the vehicle through which the intervention occurs,
but as with any such action, the intervention itself can be instigated
by those in control for their own benefit.
The use of military force is not the only means of forcing another country to submit. Weiss and Chopra observe that, "Foreign economic and political coercion has often replaced massed armies, and interventions have been based on request from governments with questionable legitimacy." 92
The legitimacy of every government is questionable, especially when the legitimacy is self-imposed, or, for that matter, imposed from outside. "The explicit objective of the Holy Alliance established by Prussia, Austria, and Russia in 1815 was to prevent the rise of republican governments. The members of the alliance maintained that republican governments were a threat to the peace and security of Europe and therefore that they had the right to intervene to prevent such developments." 93
Without question, republican governments were a threat to the peace and security of certain monarchies. Those monarchs were willing to turn the continent into a battlefield to preserve their own peace, wealth, and position.
Though the cast of characters and their titles have changed, modern rulers also defend a certain type of government. "After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Security Council authorized collective intervention by UN members to restore Kuwait's sovereignty and to restore peace to the region. On what powers the Security Council based its action, and how those powers are interpreted, are matters of some controversy." 94
What was the type of government that contemporary rulers were willing to defend? The American people were told that their soldiers were going and dying to restore democracy in Kuwait. Their rulers, who knew that there had never been any democracy in Kuwait which could be restored, told them that. There were economic interests to protect, as well as the position of certain families.
Even more than that, the rulers of some states felt the need to protect the system of states which made them rulers. Those who wielded great power and became very wealthy under the status quo, acted in the same way, for the same purposes as the members of the Holy Alliance of 1815.
In discussing the use of the U.S. military in the Gulf War, paid for by other states, Janice Thompson raises the question of whether or not the U.S. soldiers were mercenaries. "If the U.S. military was a mercenary force, it was employed by the collectivity of state rulers in the defense of sovereignty as the institutional basis for global order. Indeed, the aim of most UN operations in Third World countries, such as the Congo, Cambodia, Angola, and Somalia, is to build and consolidate a sovereign state." 95
The UN operations were undertaken to build or support a certain type of state. Likewise, "The European Parliament on 20 June  demanded that Albania annul the results of its disputed elections.... The EU legislators voted to suspend cooperation with Albania until 'a democracy worthy of the name' is instituted there." 96
What are the characteristics of "a democracy worthy of the name," and who says so? Why do states now have to be democracies, even as they once had to be monarchies? What if the people of Albania, Roumania, or Bulgaria, want a monarchy? Some people do prefer a single strong ruler.
Tomorrow, the EU could just as easily say that every state must be a monarchy, or follow a single world leader they have chosen. After all, movers and shakers think of themselves as "great men," and are therefore more susceptible to follow one they deem to be even greater than themselves. What makes democracy or monarchy or any one form of government right?
For that matter, who authorized the EU legislators to make such a demand? And how long will it take to establish such a democracy in Albania? 5 years? 10 years? 1000 years?
Aristotle considered democracy to be the worst possible form of government, an invitation to demagogues to manipulate the people. Granted that western liberal democracies are not really democracies in the Greek sense, why is whatever they are the favorite form of government for rulers today?
The overwhelming majority of people in the most liberal democracies are not at all involved in the major decisions that form the boundaries of their lives. Having a vote is not at all the same as having a voice. And having a voice is not at all the same as having a share of the power, and certainly not an equal share.
Human rights are often the pretext for political, economic, or military coercion. But what is a human right? How do we recognize them and where do they come from? Have they been given by God? If so, which god? Are they transparently engrained in nature? If so, who is the authorized interpreter of nature? Who has bestowed these rights on all men? the EU? the UN? the Hague?
The concept of human rights is rooted in Western political thought with a particular Biblical background. Though often given lipservice, it is foreign, and occasionally irreconcileable, to many other systems of thought.
"Despite persisting controversy, human rights have become viewed as less Western and more universal, particularly when they are expanded to include not only civil and political rights but also economic, social, and cultural rights.
"This trend continued with the first summit of the Security Council in January 1992, which reflected the expanding role of the United Nations in a variety of tasks - including election monitoring, promoting human rights, and humanitarian affairs - that had formerly been considered beyond the competence of the Security Council." 97 Nothing is now considered to be beyond its competence, though that competence has not been demonstrated, and the source of the authority is not clear.
Today, things which most of the world's population does not enjoy, and has never enjoyed, have been declared to be universal human rights. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. Among a range of rights, "The International Bill of Human Rights recognizes the rights to...equal protection of the law, Presumption of innocence, Political participation...Rest and leisure...Work, under favorable conditions...Self-determination...Protection of minority culture." 98
Whether we favor these things or not, are they "human rights"? How do we know? Certainly not everyone would agree that they are. It's hard to believe that "work under favorable conditions" is a Natural or God-given right. What percentage of the world's population would agree that "Rest and leisure" are universal human rights?
Perhaps some leaders and theorists are confusing, or equating, their view of how the world ought to be with Natural Law. Personally, I am not interested in living in someone else's utopia, especially when the absence of a newly proclaimed human right is a sufficient basis for violent intervention. The French Reign of Terror came in the name of Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité.
The causes and rationales for intervention are varied, but they ultimately can be reduced to either the self-interest of those intervening or the claim of a higher morality, be it humanitarian, ecological, or religious. Even as the rulers of a state claim the right to intervene and impose their order in the lives of those within the borders of the state, so they occasionally claim the right to intervene in the lives of those outside the borders of their state.
Since the joint military attack on Iraq, intervention has become increasingly common. In certain situations, intervention, or the expectation of it, has become normative. Whatever may be the nature of "the New World Order" which George Bush announced, military intervention was recognized as an essential means of establishing it.
As Javier Perez de Cuéllar pointed out: "The right to intervene has been given renewed relevance by recent political events....We are clearly witnessing what is probably an irresistible shift in public attitudes towards the belief that the defense of the oppressed in the name of morality should prevail over frontiers and legal documents....a new concept, one which marries law and morality." 99
It is not a good omen when a UN Secretary General announces the marriage of law and morality to be a new concept. The concept is not new. Law and morality have always been married. It cannot be otherwise. The question is, as it has always been, whose morality will be made into law?
"In 1931, Japan justified its invasion of Manchuria on humanitarian grounds. Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938 to protect ethnic Germans, who he claimed had been denied the right of self-determination and were suffering mistreatment." 100
Hitler claimed that the Jews were guilty of crimes against humanity and should therefore be exterminated. In the years his reich lasted, German laws enforced his view and his morality. When his reich ended, the Allies rejected his definition and put leading Nazi officials to death for their crimes against humanity.
The Nuremberg trials are often hailed as a victory for humanity and morality, but they were not. At the time, "Professor Hans von Hentig, a German refugee teaching in the United States, protested to President Truman that every one of the defendants could be convicted under the laws of Germany or any other nation, but that the rules of the International Military Tribunal were similar to those of the French revolutionary tribunals during the Robespierre terror: 'There is not a professor of constitutional or criminal law in this country or any other civilized state who would not ask you urgently to have those rules reconsidered. They are opposed to all legal standards.' " 101
Summarily execute them. They deserve it. Try them under the laws of Germany or Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, or France. They will be found guilty of capital crimes. But do not conduct a show trial with unjust rules of procedure.
The central charge against the defendants was the conspiracy to wage aggressive war. Everyone knew that the man with whom Hitler had conspired to wage aggressive war was sitting as judge over the defendants. Stalin, who had conspired with Hitler to destroy Poland, and who had murdered more people than Hitler did, sat in judgment on his defeated former allies. The rules of the tribunal forbid the defendants to mention that the conspiracy for which they were on trial had indeed been made with one of the judges.
Under the International Military Tribunal, the Nazis were condemned to death by their unrepentant partner in crime. Guilty of equally horrendous crimes against humanity, Stalin was treated as the respected ruler of a civilized, sovereign state. What morality was Stalin defending? What justice was being upheld?
The four major Allies did not share a single common moral standard or value. They had no common understanding of law, whether Natural, national, or international. Grotius had long before observed that, "outside of the sphere of the law of nature, which is also frequently called the law of nations, there is hardly any law common to all nations." 102 Among the major powers at the Nuremberg trials, there was not even agreement on the law of nature.
The international community is not different today. There is no moral standard or even a single moral value that is shared by the nations of the world or, perhaps more relevantly, their rulers. Though there is common lipservice, there is not one civil or moral law that is honored by even the five most powerful governments in the world.
"Moreover, there is not yet any compelling evidence that the politics of the major powers are infused with a full commitment to democracy and liberalism. The United States and Japan do not share the same social purpose. Much of the Islamic world utterly rejects the West. The political trajectory of Russia and the other republics that were part of the Soviet Union is uncertain. Liberalism's optimistic assertions that shared values and interdependence will generate a consensus for constructive interventions are not supported by the evidence." 103
On what basis can the so-called international community intervene, or justify its intervention? International or Natural Law? Ecology? Human rights? Was there intervention in Somalia for humanitarian reasons or because the UN Secretary General had a personal grudge against a particular local ruler? Both. The humanitarian reasons were the manipulative tool to further the personal vendetta.
Why was there intervention in Somalia, but not Tajikistan? in Kuwait but not in Chechnya? That is not hard to answer. "[T]he most important determinant of behavior and outcomes is the distribution of power among states." 104
That is, as the Athenians reminded the Melians: "you know as well as we do that, when these matters are discussed by practical people, the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept." 105
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What is National Sovereignty?
Where Does Sovereignty Come From?
One World, One Sovereign
Notes & Bibliography