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Harbinger of a new world order?: humanitarian intervention in Somalia Fricska, Szilard Paul


This paper examines the relationship between humanitarian intervention and the evolution of international society using as a principle case study, the 1992 intervention in Somalia. Martin Wight’ s three traditions of international relations—realist, rationalist and revolutionist—are used to develop three models of international society reflecting different degrees of human solidarity. These three models are discussed, in Chapter One, in the historical context of the Cold War debate on the legality and practice of humanitarian intervention. The argument demonstrates that prior to Somalia there were few, if any, instances of what could properly be called humanitarian intervention. The study finds that in most cases, various geo-strategic and economic motives undermine the purportedly humanitarian character of the intervention. Chapter One concludes by introducing the post- Cold War revival of the concept of humanitarian intervention, noting the heightened sense of optimism that prevailed. Chapter Two begins by reviewing the practical embodiment of the post-Cold War activism in three specific cases: Liberia, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. These cases set the stage for a more detailed investigation of the collapse of the Somali state and the humanitarian intervention that resulted. The final chapter returns to the subjects of humanitarian intervention and the evolution of international society, noting the following observations: the decreased importance of geo-strategic and economic interventions as motivations for intervention; the increased importance of domestic and media factors in the determination of when and where interventions take place; the emergence of a new legal norm that permits United Nations-sanctioned intervention in situations where no government exists; and the emergence of two general criteria for humanitarian intervention: gross violations of human rights and the prospect of only minimal resistance to outside intervention. The paper concludes that while significant evolution has occurred at the level of legal norms, the inability of the international community to respond effectively to the break-down of states threatens to undermine international support for humanitarian intervention.

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