At What Cost? Examining the Efficacy of Military Intervention

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Keunhee Kim


According to the United Nations, human rights are the rights to which all people are equally and fairly entitled. Among these are: to be free from slavery and torture, to express themselves, to work and be educated, and to life itself (Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). Globalization has been a powerful means to deal with crucial issues integral to the sanctity of human life by bringing international attention and support from around the world to violations of human rights. The military efforts of NATO and the UN forces are ready examples of the global initiative against human rights violations; however, they are not without their cost. This is evidenced by the general ineffectiveness of military interventions, seen in conflicts such as the Iraq War which led to the formation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (1999-present) (Lopez, 2020), the Somali Civil War (1989/1991-present), the Kosovo War (1998-1999), and the Bosnian War (1992-1995). In order to provide an in-depth analysis, this paper limits its purview to the Kosovo War and the Bosnian War. The high casualty rates, impact of refugees, and destabilization to international societies during the Kosovo War, and then again three years later in the Bosnian War, show how difficult military intervention is for protecting human rights. Instead, the international society should explore non-violent alternatives—economic sanctions and cyber- attacks—and work together to combat human rights violations. The importance of global collaboration in non-violent intervention can be used, for example, to cease North Korea’s mass human rights abuses under the current dictatorship. While the U.S. government’s sanctions are not the most effective, and focus more on nuclear rather than human rights issues, scholars have speculated that sanctions from stronger trading partners will have a real impact on the situation; thus, non-violent approaches call for international collaboration. This paper examines the scholarship on armed interventions and argues that military interventions even for humanitarian purposes are not justifiable for two reasons: the negative global impact of war and the inability of military solutions to solve the repeated tensions that lead to their respective wars. Additionally, this paper examines the potential effectiveness and risk-mitigation of non-violent alternatives and urges international alliances for higher capability in mitigating the issue of human rights violations.

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