International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

When Should We Intervene?

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan criticized the UN Security Council earlier this week for its inaction regarding Syria. Erdogan compared the lack of intervention to the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, saying that a system such as the UN Security Council that allows one or two nations to block intervention in such a dire humanitarian crisis is inherently unjust.

The UN Security council is divided between Western Powers on one side who are afraid of entering into a long and costly war and Russia and China, who have sided with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and believe that any solution to the Syrian crisis should come about without outside intervention.

But as the death toll rises (now at approximately 30,000) and refugees are flooding into surrounding countries (an estimated 200,000 refugees), the need for a solution in the near future becomes increasingly apparent. The US has promised only humanitarian and logistical aid. President Obama has said he would consider military options if Syria appeared to be planning to use chemical weapons. But what options would the US and its allies have at that point? Armed conflict will result in more deaths and more refugees. Officials from Syria’s neighboring countries have said that they are reaching their refugee limit and may have to close borders, which would further upset society if done in the midst of chemical warfare. The longer the Security Council delays intervention, the fewer options they will have once intervention is a necessity. 


3 responses to “When Should We Intervene?

  1. jokadieva October 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

    This article raises a strong point regarding the instability of international relations when it comes to human rights violations. The United Nations came about after World War II, when the United States pledged to prevent gross violence and abridgement of freedom. However, the U.N. has not served its preventative purpose. It seems that U.N. provides a place for dialogue, but these conversations occur only after the fact; case in point, the Nuremberg Trials. History repeated itself with Srebrencia, when the U.N. troops stood still while civilians were bussed to their death.

    The anarchic structure of our international system creates an “every individual for himself mentality” that is hard to circumvent even when we are accosted with images of innocents suffering the air strikes meant for insurgents. Just because the conflict in Syria isn’t aimed at Ethnic groups doesn’t mean that it isn’t serious enough to warrant an outside intervention. The fact that the U.N. has enumerated specific instances that warrant intervention serves as a limit on the amount of aid it can’t provide, and when the U.N. hesitates to provide aid, neighboring countries become fearful of the implications and entanglements brought on by their assisting a suffering country.

    An instance like Syria reminds us that we are in need of an international platform with more muscle and perhaps and clearer idea of humanitarian intervention.

  2. Alana Tiemessen October 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    The Syria situation also reminds us of the tenuous and somewhat undefined relationship between the ICC and the UN Security Council. There are some obvious political dynamics that have prevented a UNSC referral of the Syria situation to the ICC. But it raises the question of whether *selective* referrals to the ICC impedes the credibility and impartiality of the Court. More to come when we get into the ICC!

  3. emmaline786 October 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I was intrigued by your post because of the title. While we’ve been studying the various justice mechanisms and institutions, I haven’t noticed the word “intervene” being used very much. Justice institutions appear to come to help only years and years after atrocities have occurred. While I understand that taking on trials on the international scale are very complex, I think the amount of time it takes to mount these trails decreases their significance. If the international community doesn’t stop a conflict, but merely reflects on it years later in order to punish a small percentage of perpetrators, I think the people affected will undoubtedly feel short-changed. I think one of the most important functions of international tribunals is to gather information on how conflicts emerge and grow, in order to head off similar conflicts in the future. Otherwise, all of the testimony heard by the ICTY and other tribunals is merely to help one community, without taking account of the lessons learned to deal more aggressively with such conflicts in the future. But as we see in the case in Syria, the international community continues to offer to help only after the atrocities have occurred.

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