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This chapter examines contemporary critiques of human rights, focusing on the downside of human rights claims — what is commonly understood by advocates of human rights to be the ‘misuse’ or ‘abuse’ of human rights. It first considers how human rights claims conflate ethical and legal claims because the subject of rights is not a socially constituted legal subject. It then discusses the rise of human rights as well as the relationship between human rights claims and international interventions such as humanitarianism, international law, and military intervention. In particular, it analyses the ethical, legal, and political questions raised by the Kosovo war. The chapter shows that there is a paradox at the heart of the human rights discourse, which enables claims made on behalf of victims, the marginalized, and excluded to become a mechanism for the creation of new frameworks for the exercise of power.

Chapter

Alan J. Kuperman

This chapter examines humanitarian intervention and its relationship to the promotion of human rights. It first traces the evolution of humanitarian intervention, especially in the wake of the Second World War and the Cold War, to include military force and the violation of traditional norms of neutrality and state sovereignty. It then describes some obstacles to effective intervention, including the speed of violence, logistical hurdles to military deployment, and lack of political will. It also discusses unintended consequences, such as how the ‘moral hazard’ of humanitarian intervention may inadvertently trigger and perpetuate civil conflict, thus exacerbating civilian suffering. Many of these concepts are illustrated with a detailed case study of humanitarian intervention in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 by the United States, European Community, United Nations, and NATO. The chapter concludes with recommendations to improve humanitarian intervention and to reconcile it with the promotion of human rights.