Under what circumstances is intervention permissible? And, subsequently how do we distinguish between a humanitarian intervention and an act of imperialism?
John Stuart Mill asserted distinctions between barbarous and civilized societies in order to provide justification for British imperialism. Stating that intervention was necessary in “barbaric” or “backward” states in order to stimulate progress.
This rhetoric is evidently still exercised by our neo-liberal, neo-conservative 21st century politicians, but is it that simple? Are we entering into geo-political conflicts in the name of humanity or with motives ulterior to the bravado portrayed on our television screens?
In light of the UN resolution 1973, legitimizing military intervention in Libya, these same questions have again arisen regarding Western intervention. Citing a “responsibility to protect” in justification for providing “necessary”, and legal, military action against the despotic Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, one must look at the consistency of the institutions mandate.
Whether the motives are humanitarian, or political, there is a definite cohesion to interventionism in “3rd world” conflicts, that cohesion is economics.
Unlike Bahrain, where US military and corporate interests are embedded in the regime, Libya provides a new market for Western capitalist expansion. From a neo-colonial stance – the West could do better.
Gaddafi attempted to expand Western access to investment, but that doesn’t mean the conditions for access to investment were as desirable as they could be, as desirable for example as those provided by Bahrain.
The Heritage foundation, a realist architect and advocate of the “Reagan Doctrine”, provides a guide of how accommodating states are to the investment interests of corporations. Working off the “Index of Economic Freedom” the institution provides a league ranking, indicating the incentives for foreign business, and how strongly a state favors such investment.
Significantly Libya is identified as one of the least economically free, facilitating an opportunity and ultimately ulterior economic motives for intervention.
Western leaders have argued that intervention is justified, aimed at preventing slaughtering of Libyan civilians, as Cameron and Sarkozy reverberate, an act of “humanitarianism”. But is this an act of humanity, or is this an opportunity to overthrow and change a regime, thus providing economic incentives for Western corporations to capitalize on the crisis. Questioning the nature of the intervention in Libya.
One must explore the true rhetoric behind acts of humanitarianism, and in returning to the question of consistency, explore the true motives behind interventionism.