Should we ever intervene?

So, I have a confession to make. I am currently reading Tony Blair’s autobiography “My Journey”. Now there are loads of reviews out there of it and I shan’t add to the list (unless I can’t think of anything else to write about!). I’m not half way through and I haven’t yet reached the Iraq part; but I have reached the Sierra Leone and Kosovo parts and the interventions that he led there.

Given the situation in Libya and the Ivory Coast and the potential for more interventions in the future I wanted to find out from others what their views of when it is morally right to intervene in the affairs of another country – if ever.

Tiny Blair gave a speech in 1999 in Chicago on what has become known as the Blair doctrine

In helping to decide when and where to intervene, he proposed that five major questions should be asked – as illustrating the kind of issues that should be taken into account in decision-making, rather than as absolute tests:

  1. Are we sure of our case?
  2. Have we exhausted all diplomatic options?
  3. Are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake?
  4. Are we prepared for the long term?
  5. Do we have national interests involved?

Where the answer to all five questions is “yes” then there is a strong case for intervention.

Now this has some differences from the Just War Theory that was set out by Thomas Aquinas, although many elements pre-date him, and has commonly been used as the moral yard stick for intervention that:

  1. You have a just cause,
  2. It’s a last resort,
  3. War is declared by a proper authority,
  4. You possess the right intention,
  5. You have a reasonable chance of success,
  6. and the end is proportional to the means used.
man had hand amputated in Sierra Leone civil war

Hand amputated by rebels in Sirerra Leone

Now, obviously, these can be argued with and debated about what they mean and that’s my point. How do we determine which ones take precedence and whether we should intervene in any of these wars or civil wars? Are we right to intervene or is it always wrong? Are we always right to be cynical about intervention – but then Sierra Leone and Kosovo didn’t have a major strategic interest for us – or did they?

Does it matter that Gadaffi threatened the people of Libya?

Proclaiming the support of the people, Gaddafi ordered the army and police to crush the popular uprising against his iron-fisted four-decade rule that has already left hundreds dead in the past eight days.

He threatened to purge Libya “house by house” and “inch by inch”.

Was there an alternative before Gadaffi reached Benghazi that we should have gone down?

Answers on a postcard! It would be interesting to see what you think.

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2 comments on “Should we ever intervene?

  1. Jean
    April 6, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Whenever I think of issues like this which involve not only life and death but also grief and suffering, I can not imagine having the duty to make such decisions. Of course, world leaders who make such decisions don’t always make the right choice and like all humans, are swayed by their own agendas and the agendas of those
    around them. I just thank God that there are people willing to take this responsibility and pray that He protects us all from power hungry dictators.

  2. Will Cookson
    April 7, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Hi Jean,

    I agree with you, but we as a society, happily make a judgement on our leaders when we disagree with them so I suppose I am asking how should we come to that viewpoint? Is it fair that we let our leaders make that decision and commit our armed forces to a conflict where some of them will die or be badly injured (as well as civilians and others) without commenting to our leaders beforehand as to how we should judge them?
    So, I suppose its a two parter. a) Is it ever justifiable to go to war? and b) If so what criteria would you particularly like to see considered?

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