Human Rights Interventionism: A 1990s Flashback

The advocates of coercive interventionism have no qualms about questioning any reluctance to use force on the part of Western governments. Their response has been a consistent one of calling for more military intervention to protect human rights in Africa or the Balkans. Liberal broadsheets, like the Guardian, Independent and Observer, have been more than willing to editorialise on the need for a firmer approach. With editorials like ‘We Must Find the Stomach for Years of War over Kosovo’ and ‘There is No Alternative to This War’ the liberal press have outdone the tabloids in patriotic jingoism (Independent, 1999; Observer, 1999a). For these crusading ‘lap-top bombardiers’ even months of bombing in Kosovo was not enough. They consistently argued for ground troops and the resolve to spend more resources and effort in the struggle for human rights. Ardent interventionist Michael Ignatieff puts the case strongly:

Had we been more ruthlessly imperial, we might have been a trifle more effective. If General Schwarzkopf had allowed himself to become the General MacArthur of a conquered Iraq, the Iraqi opposition abroad might now be rebuilding the country; if the Marines were still patrolling the streets of Mogadishu, the prospects of moving Somalia forward … might be somewhat brighter; and if NATO had defended the Bosnian government with air strikes against the Serbian insurrection in April 1992 … [I]f after the Dayton peace accords of 1995, Western governments had simply taken over the administration of Bosnia … Bosnia might have been reconstructed on a more secure foundation. (1998:94)

SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2002/2006), p. 168

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