Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Editor's Introduction- July 2008

"Armed and Humanitarian" by Bruce Falconer. Mother Jones. May 19, 2008.

An annotation

As the "war on terror" continues to drive American foreign policy, those waging this "war" have broadened their understanding of what constitutes a security threat to include failed states, and those teetering on the brink of instability. Among the new security risks are states ravaged by natural disaster. And, with the U.S. defense establishment's concern with humanitarian aid as of late, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have traditionally provided relief are placed in a compromised position. With often divergent motives, there is increasing tension between the NGO and military sectors, and caught in the middle are destitute populations. One must question the political and social implications of cooperative missions between these "strange bedfellows."

"NGO officials are grateful for the US military response to disasters. But the struggle to be seen as independent players, unaffiliated with any government, is crucial to NGOs' ability to operate."

While it is essential to realize the resources that the military can contribute in disaster zones, humanitarian organizations must contend with the political baggage that accompanies this external assistance. When NGOs depend on their legitimacy and perceived altruism for access to communities in need, their fear is that the presence of military support jeopardizes that perception. However, since humanitarian aid workers operate with limited capabilities, working alongside the military allows for a collaborative effort that serves the need of vulnerable people and enables a more effective response. Considering what is at stake in humanitarian terms, what is gained and what is lost when aid workers stand side-by-side with military personnel?

"When the military undertakes what appears to be humanitarian or development work.'decisions are being based on tactical considerations of whether this area has a strategic importance with regard to broader military activities. That is not humanitarian.'"

If security interests continue to be weighed against human rights priorities, what are the consequences for humanitarianism? To hand over the reins to the military would run contrary to the core principles of humanitarian relief work and sacrifice the higher moral ground. As well, the benefit garnered by Western NGOs, who contribute significantly to positive relations with the developing world, might also be lost. Failed states do indeed pose security threats; but, can these states be repaired without waging the political battle for "hearts and minds"?

These issues and others are considered in this month's Roundtable.


Mission Creep: De-Militarizing Humanitarian Protection

by Sonia Cardenas

"Overall, the U.S. military's new humanitarianism is problematic. It is not humanitarian in intent, it is premised on faulty assumptions about failure in Iraq, and it disregards a global consensus about the value of multilateralism.”

Over a decade ago, the U.S. military was warning liberal internationalists about the dangers of "mission creep." Today it is doing the opposite, incorporating relief and development work into its operations. In the devastating aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Burma , the U.S. military's newfound mission may seem compelling. Unfortunately, expanding the military's role into humanitarian work reflects a flawed logic that should be resisted. There are more promising ways to protect victims of humanitarian disaster.

The term "mission creep" has been used to describe the gradual and unwanted expansion of the military's role into non-traditional areas, such as human rights. First mentioned in a 1993 Washington Post article by Jim Hoagland, warning against intervention in Somalia, mission creep has become part of the political lexicon. In 1994, President Clinton assured Congress that mission creep would not occur in Rwanda. In 1995, Senator John McCain and military officials warned of military creep in Bosnia . A decade later, Paul Wolfowitz applied the term to the World Bank, describing mission creep as the pursuit of "sweeping international causes that sound good without any evidence to show that they can be accomplished."

Post-September 11 th exigencies may have dissipated the military's anxiety about mission creep. The U.S. military now asserts that it is essential to engage in non-combat activities, which it dubs "stability and support operations." The goal is to stabilize volatile political situations, the potential breeding grounds for terrorism. For the military, one of the key lessons of Iraq is that brute force is insufficient to assure security. Humanitarianism-defined broadly to include relief, development, and nation-building-is also necessary.

While the U.S. military has long engaged in non-combat missions, the emphasis today is quite different. Humanitarian operations are to be considered a "core military mission" of comparable priority to traditional combat missions, according to a 2005 Department of Defense Directive. The primary rationale for non-combat operations, moreover, is geo-strategic. An Army Field Manual in 2003 admits the goal is to "retain U.S. access or influence abroad." This is a new brand of militarized humanitarianism.

Not surprisingly, some observers are skeptical of this doctrinal shift and its practical implications. NGOs, which thrive on independence, worry about coordinating on-the-ground logistics with military forces and appearing politically partisan. Many critics of the war in Iraq (including some who supported humanitarian intervention in the heyday of the 1990s) have become broadly suspicious of U.S. motives, accepting what Madeleine Albright recently labeled "the end of intervention." Even the initial reluctance of the world community to intervene in Burma may be partly a backlash against the U.S. military's ostensible embrace of humanitarianism.

The expansion of the U.S. military into relief and development work should in fact be contested. First, unlike humanitarian interventions of the 1990s, which used force for humanitarian (and other) ends, non-combat operations today deploy humanitarian means mostly for military and economic ends. Yet as Michael O'Neill of Save the Children observes, "humanitarian work is based on need and need alone. It's valued for its own purposes." And it cannot be captive to prevailing military and economic interests, dictating which human beings are protected. When strategic calculations trump humanitarian concerns, human rights are likely to be compromised.

Second, insofar as the U.S. military's new humanitarian mission draws on its experience in Iraq, it has learned the wrong lessons. Even as Iraq reveals the limits of a military approach, the lesson of Iraq is not that the U.S. military needs to do more, adding humanitarian operations to its arsenal. The lesson of Iraq is that the military needs to do less, including desisting from forcible regime change.

Disengagement, however, is not the answer. In extreme cases, force should be used to protect human rights and the military should participate in the tactical delivery of humanitarian assistance. The 2001 Responsibility to Protect report offers concrete guidance for when and how to intervene. It invokes at least two criteria relevant for non-combat missions: the precautionary principle of right intent (even when states have mixed motives, the primary purpose must be to relieve human suffering); and the importance of a multilateral organization authorizing the intervention (i.e., the United Nations or a regional group like ASEAN).

Overall, the U.S. military's new humanitarianism is problematic. It is not humanitarian in intent, it is premised on faulty assumptions about failure in Iraq , and it disregards a global consensus about the value of multilateralism. More directly, it threatens to harm the work of humanitarian organizations. Jim Hoagland, who originally coined "mission creep," now warns against "mission shrink" in Iraq (or cutbacks in the military's democracy-building role). The terms of the military-humanitarian debate may have shifted, but the consequences for human rights are still largely negative.

Sonia Cardenas is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Human Rights Program at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She is the author of numerous publications, including Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). She is currently completing two book projects, both for the University of Pennsylvania Press— Chains of Justice: The Global Rise of State Institutions for Human Rights and a textbook, Terror and Hope: The Politics of Human Rights in Latin America.


When Steel and Guns Meets Bread and Butter

by Daniel J. Graeber

"Now, instead of 'shock and awe,' the new face of the U.S. appears to take lessons learned from the adage of finding native solutions to native problems.”

Speaking before the 191-member United Nations in 2005, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that "For the first time . we are agreed that states do not have the right to do what they will within their own borders but that we in the name of humanity have a common duty to protect people where their own governments will not." This notion, that of responsible sovereignty, says that nation states forfeit the right to uninterrupted internal freedoms when they no longer uphold the responsibilities associated with sovereignty. The evolution of international law has typically been to protect states from outside interference. However, the questions posed by such historical atrocities as Rwanda, and most recently the devastation in Myanmar following Cyclone Nargis, pave the way for a consideration for moral intervention. States have been historically reluctant to adopt humanitarian intervention into their military policy. The international legal regime, however, has widely recognized that intervention on behalf of humanitarianism is permissible when the use of force is restricted to that which saves lives.

Article 3 of The Montevideo Convention of 1933, which established the definition, rights and duties of a nation, says that one such sovereign duty of a nation is the right "to provide for its conservation and prosperity." This provision alludes to the emergence of responsible sovereignty. There are two ideologies of modern sovereignty. One conceptualizes sovereignty as a right of statehood, and another envisions a right to statehood. State responsibility to sovereignty invokes an obligation to maintain internal order and protection of its citizenry. A state takes on a duty to its citizenry when classic individual rights are exchanged for protections provided by the state. Furthermore, the responsibility of the state to adhere to internationally recognized normative relations, both intra and interstate, is an obligation of sovereignty. The inherent rights of non-intervention in state sovereignty in an interdependent system may be cast aside if the responsibilities of state sovereignty are not met.

Writing for the May 19 online edition of Mother Jones , Bruce Falconer comments in his piece, "Armed and Humanitarian," that U.S. military doctrine has evolved to embrace moral intervention by way of "stability operations." The U.S. Department of Defense defines stability operations as "[m]ilitary and civilian activities conducted across the spectrum from peace to conflict to establish or maintain order in States and regions." These operations may place military forces in disaster areas, such as the earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005, in order to bring victims humanitarian supplies. The purpose, Falconer says, is to prevent states "from slipping into chaos." However, Falconer notes that nongovernmental organizations such as Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières, worry that this new military doctrine will paint them as agents of the intervening force, or at the very least, it will put them in the line of fire. But as U.S. military doctrine tries to catch up with Mr. Blair's sentiment regarding the "common duty to protect," so too must the NGO community, and Falconer, to be perfectly frank.

Humanitarian agencies worry that the U.S. military's new found interest in operations other than war will muddy the line between relief work and regime change. The article makes reference to former Army Special Forces officer Roger Carstens, saying this emerging military doctrine makes sense. "We have the capability, we have the capacity, and we have the cash," Carstens says. "You put all the NGOs together, and they can't even come close to what an aircraft carrier battle group can deliver in a few sorties." But this is both duplicitous and contradictory to the mission for the NGO community to object to or complain about "the guns and steel of the military" being used to assist in humanitarian operations. In 2003, the U.S. military assisted in humanitarian operations in Bam, Iran, yet there were no underlying efforts at regime change here, only assistance in the face of mounting disaster. Falconer backs his allegations with a statement by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to solidify the concern. "Just as surely as our diplomats and military, American NGOs . are out there serving and sacrificing on the front lines of freedom," Powell said in 2001. "NGOs are such a force multiplier for us, such an important part of our combat team." But this doctrinal argument, in part, the Powell doctrine, has been largely replaced by U.S. military strategists with what could be referred to as the Petraeus doctrine, based on the counterinsurgency strategy laid out by U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus. This doctrine relies less on the "shock and awe" elements of the Powell doctrine and more on incorporating elements of the native population into providing solutions for violence. While the Powell argument certainly held validity in the 20 th century, it largely proved a failure in Iraq . Now, instead of "shock and awe," the new face of the U.S. appears to take lessons learned from the adage of finding native solutions to native problems.

Falconer's argument is off base, as is the NGO community's complaint that military force is malevolently utilitarian. When the United Nations closed its embassy in Baghdad following the devastating 2003 bomb blast that killed Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations should have sent in more advisers equipped to manage 21 st century conflict, not withdraw in fear from it. The same holds true for the NGO community. It, and the rest of the world, must adjust to a new face of conflict. The clean Cold War notion of a state-centric division between civilians and the military, between conflict and peace, no longer exists. In a globalized world, when ethnic identity supplants nationalism, and military force is no longer exclusively for fighting wars, the consideration must be made that "steel and guns" may run tandem to bread and butter.

Daniel J. Graeber has been a contributor to the Foreign Policy Association's Great Decisions series since its inception, writing on war crimes and international law. He has focused considerably on the legal aspects concerning the U.S.-led "war on terror" and various war crimes tribunals. He has lectured on the history of war crimes in the international arena and served as a professor of ethics at Grand Valley State University. He has published works on the history of the U.S. relationship with Israel and the U.S. foreign policy regarding Hamas. He is currently a writer for United Press International covering Iraqi political developments, as well as the oil and energy sector. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Reconstructing Sovereignty: From Control to Responsibility

by Eric K. Leonard

"According to this new interpretation of sovereignty, Burma has a responsibility to protect its citizens, and if it lacks the adequate resources to fulfill this responsibility, it is incumbent on the international community to intervene."

As I stood with a standing-room only crowd last fall at a United Nations University of New York (UNU-ONY) event entitled, "Prevention of Mass Atrocities: From Mandate to Realization," I began to wonder how far the responsibility to protect (R2P) could be stretched. As defined by the UNU-ONY organizers, the purpose of the event was " to explore the work of mass atrocity prevention across the UN system, with a focus on the role of the new Office of the Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (SRPGMA)." As I currently look at the international community's response to natural disasters such as the cyclone that devastated Burma, I reflect on the core document of this conference, the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) entitled "The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)," and its applicability to situations that are not genocidal in nature or part of a broader civil conflict. As a result, the primary question for me is not who should be involved in such humanitarian/aid interventions, as is the case with the Falconer article, but whether the repressive government of Burma has the right, or authority, to keep any and all humanitarian assistance out of their country.

In order to address this query, it is important to first assess the viability of applying the R2P principle to a natural disaster situation. Upon reading the report, it is clear that the intent of the document is not necessarily to contend with the results of a natural disaster, but to deal with both the prevention and reaction to man-made disasters that involve conflict and civil strife. Most notably the R2P principle would apply to situations regarding acts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. However, as one reads the report it appears reasonable to stretch that focus to situations in which a state neglects to react to crisis situations like Cyclone Nargis. If we couple that neglect with the large-scale loss of life and subsequent human rights violations, it is feasible to claim that such a situation provides a valid justification for intervention based on the responsibility to protect principle. As described by Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières, and other prominent human rights' NGOs, the Burmese government's failure to react and subsequent denial of access to both aid agencies and willing states has resulted in mass starvation, wide-spread disease, a lack of adequate shelter and clean water, among other human rights' violations. According to a recent Human Rights Watch estimate, only 1.3 million people of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have received aid. It is this type of preventable situation that necessitates outside intervention because of the Burmese state's neglect of its civilian population.

Ultimately though, the question of humanitarian intervention turns, as do most questions in international affairs, on the issue of sovereignty and how this defining term of world politics is applied to humanitarian aid situations. The ICISS properly recognizes the centrality of this question in their report. As a result, they provide a novel and important re-construction of how we interpret this term. Building on former Secretary-General Kofi Annan's seminal article, "Two Concepts of Sovereignty," the report calls on the international community to act upon the notion of sovereignty not as a form of control, but as a responsibility-a responsibility to protect one's citizens. The consequences of such a re-construction of sovereignty are cogently stated in the report:

First, it implies that the state authorities are responsible for the functions of protecting the safety and lives of citizens and promotion of their welfare. Secondly, it suggests that the national political authorities are responsible to the citizens internally and to the international community through the UN. And thirdly, it means that the agents of state are responsible for their actions; that is to say, they are accountable for their acts of commission and omission.

This third and final point is where international humanitarian intervention for natural disaster situations, such as Cyclone Nargis, becomes pertinent. As stated earlier, it is the omission of action by the Burmese government that allows for the international community to intervene based on the R2P principle. According to this new interpretation of sovereignty, Burma has a responsibility to protect its citizens, and if it lacks the adequate resources to fulfill this responsibility, it is incumbent on the international community to intervene. This is the point where the international community must act, but act with a diplomatic consciousness of the situation. This means that unilateral action must be avoided and the responsibility to protect resides with the U.N. Security Council. Although difficult to imagine the Chinese not vetoing a resolution requiring the opening of Burma's borders to all forms of humanitarian aid, the wide spread acceptance of the responsibility to protect principle in the 2005 U.N. World Summit final document provides a glimmer of hope. Regardless, it is simple cowardice by the international community to not react with a vote in the Security Council that, if vetoed, would result in the public shaming of the dissenting parties.

In my last roundtable contribution I called for a less state-centric system, and I believe that my current advocacy for a reconstruction of sovereignty is conducive to such change. This is not to say that the responsibility to protect principle results in a non-state centric system, but it is one way to re-orient state thinking on issues of authority and control. Such progress will only assist the international community to move beyond a Westphalian consciousness and towards the more cosmopolitan level of global governance consciousness that I advocate.

Eric K. Leonard is the Henkel Family Endowed Chair in International Affairs and Director of General Education at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. He has published several articles, case studies and a book on such issues as the International Criminal Court, humanitarian law, theoretical conceptualizations of sovereignty, and global governance. His book is entitled, The Onset of Global Governance: International Relations Theory and the International Criminal Court (Ashgate, 2005).