Humanitarian intervention is how those profiting from war sell it to the American people. Don’t believe it ever again.

By Achin Vanaik, Jacobin

During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” came to the fore as a justification for US-led military adventures in the Balkans and the Middle East. A number of recent events have revived our memory of those debates, from the ignominious US withdrawal from Afghanistan, just as the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was approaching, to the deaths of leading Bush administration officials such as Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.

humanitarian intervention
Photo by UNMISS

For many people, the disastrous outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan will be enough to discredit the idea of humanitarian intervention. But past experience suggests that the justification it offers for military action is too useful to be discarded by the United States and its allies. Such arguments may well be used in support for future wars. We still need to address and refute the case for “humanitarian” warfare on its own terms.

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