If there are atrocities on their own people- is an Invasion OK?

Inspired by a question raised by me in this thread:

Ok, let us say we have an Evvvviiiiil Depot of a Soveriegn Nation. He is perfoming heinous atrocities on his own people. The most stringent peacful sanctions have got nowhere- he just ueses them as an excuse to inflict more suffering on his people.
Would it be right to invade, stop the evil, and capture him for trial?

There are/were several nations with internal atrocities : Nazi Germany, Pol Pot Cambodia, Stalinist Russia, and of course- Iraq.

I certainly think so. They’re human beings just like anyone else.

Just so I’m clear, you’re saying it would have been morally correct for Britain to invade the United States in 1859 and overthrow its government, correct?

One section of the government was dedicated to the eradication of slavery, the other not, one side was industrally powerful, while the other relied on farming and slavery for most of its economic output. Intervention wasn’t necessary, and besides, the UK supported the slave side.

Whether it’s “right” or not, the one army who could face up to America with any decent chance is that of China. And China fits the OP’s bill.

The IMHO answer - no, it’s not right. Such action pretty much always creates more problems than it solves.

The UK supporting the slave side is not relevant; I’m asking if they would have been justified If they had opposed slavery (and they did oppose slavery; they were sympathetic to the Confederacy for other reasons) and so they had removed a slavery-allowing government from power. Fill in any other country if you like.

You’re dodging the issue, actually. In 1859 there was NO major political party with a chance of winning in 1860 formally dedicated to eliminating slavery. It wasn’t even a part of Lincoln’s platform. If you would prefer to move the year back to 1849 or 1839, making slavery even less likely to be eliminated in the foreseeable future, please feel free to do so. There were anti-slavery movements, but then, Iraq had lots of anti-Saddam movements.

It is a fact that the United States in 1859 (or 1849, if you prefer) was committing human rights atrocities on a scale that far surpassed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Every day of delay meant people were raped, murdered, and enslaved because of their race. So why would it not have been right to invade the country and put a stop to it?

The examples you’ve given are too different.

Nazi Germany, in addition to murdering their own people was also an agressive state which invaded other countries in Europe and murdered their citizens as well. This government had to be removed from power and invasion would have been justified even if their had been no Pearl Harbor.

Cambodia is a bit different. The Khmer Rogue were not in power very long and there was little information available about the atrocities their. The invasion of the Vietnamese removed Pol Pot from power and only after the refugees told their stories was the truth known about the genocide. If the Khmer Rogue had remained in power longer, then perhaps some sort of multinational coalition may have been needed. However, public support in the US for any South Eastern Asian military actions would have been very difficult to achieve without documented proof. I’d say the same rationale would apply for Idi Amin’s Uganda.

I believe the first war against Iraq was justified. Iraq’s strong military had invaded Kuwait. Iraq did present a danger to Saudi Arabia. Say what you will about oil diplomacy, but an invasion of Saudi Arabia would have been a disaster for the world. By assembling a strong multilateral coaltion, the first President Bush did the right thing by removing Iraq from Kuwait with force and the support of the United Nations.

The second invasion was NOT justified. Iraq by this time was a shadow of itself with a weak military and a tin horn dictator. I’d compare Hussein in 2003 with Cuba. Both of the embargos were/are silly. Iraq presented no danger to the region and there was insufficient proof of the weapons of mass destruction. The gassing of the Kurds, while deplorable, took place 10 year earlier.

I’m not going to tackle Stalin’s USSR. However, I really doubt that Roosevelt could have mustered support for an invasion of the USSR during the 1930s and Stalin’s purges. Plus, I’m not sure that the US could have invaded the USSR and removed Stalin from power. I don’t even want to think about how difficult a land invasion of the USSR would have been with the US military in the years between WWI and WWII. After WWII, in the years of US nuclear monopoly, I can not agree that the use of nuclear weapons against Stalin for his human rights abuses could be justified.

However unlikely. Yes.

I don’t think the US Government was performing “heinous atrocities” on it’s own people in 1859. true- some slaveowners were, and the US Government was still one of the few democracies that allowed slavery. But the Government itself was not performing atrocities as a program against the slaves. If you are talking about the Indians, you might have a case- but according to the prevailing thought then (and to some extent now), those were other nations, that was war against other nations. Let’s not get into that, OK?

Should we have invaded Hitler in the 1940’s if the Death camps had been uncovered- even if Hitler had stopped his agression after the Sudatenland?

If we had known how bad it really was in Cambodia- and we did towards the end- should we have stepped in?

Shoudl we have tried to stop Stalins purges and concentration camps, his mass starving of his own people?
dale- I am not talking about how much of a threat Saddam & Iraq was - that’s entirely another issue. But we knew about horrible tortures and atrocities he commited on his own peopla (not just the Kurds) and now we know of more. Read the story of just one victim/survivor:


(And not to sidetrack us- but this is “torture” what some of our soldiers did at Abu isn’t even close. Still very wrong, yes.)

Yes that would be more than justified. However I think using something other than a full scale military invasion would be preferred. Maybe using special forces to kidnap high ranking officials, or using international arrest warrants (like they did with Pinochet) or targeted assassinations would be preferrable to a total war. World leaders should be held accountable for their actions.

Israel does lots of this kind of thing, and nevermind the legal issues, it doesn’t seem to make them any more popular.

IMO, “clear and present danger” is the only justifiable reason for invasion.

I think it would be incredibly irrational for the US to attack Germany, disregarding the likelihood of the USSR invading it by then anyway. Hypothetically speaking, I and probably many others might have independently attempted to sabotage stuff in Germany to avenge our brethren, but it would not be right to tell another human being that they should risk their life for complete strangers in another country.

Are the people in these countries where atrocities occur so morally bankrupt that they cannot rise to their own feet and throw off their shackles?
Why should the US be obligated to provide as a gift the blessings of freedom and democracy to people who don’t have the gumption to work towards it themselves? Is it even possible to impose our values from without, or would we end up with some sort of worldwide welfare system where US troops continually pay for the freedoms of people who don’t really care about our version of liberty anyway?

It is very difficult to organize a rebellion, especially when the government has shown its willingness to kill whoever opposes their rule. People fear not only for their personal safety, but for that of their families and children. (While I might risk my life to oppose a dictator, I wouldn’t want to put my baby niece or grandmother at risk.)

Secondly, the sheer organizational effort to coordinate a rebellion is vast. Not only do you have to collect followers (difficult in of itself when people are afraid to speak out against the ruler) but arm them without being caught, and make detailed plans of attack. The chances of a mole within the organization reporting the planned coup are high, so you have to be careful whom you let in on the operation and trust that they will be able to pass the word on to others without being caught.

Third, the odds are against the rebellion being a success. Most likely, the government has thousands more troops who are better armed and trained in combat, whereas your troops may just be farmers with shotguns who have no idea how to do maneuvers such as flanking.

Fourth, it may be a regime which is willing to kill an entie villiage to subdue a few rebels. Eradication is almost certain.

Fifth, poorly trained and poorly coordinated militia men might turn and run if it appears that the rebellion is failing, diminishing whatever chances it had initially. The few that are determined to fight will not be supported and will certainly lose.

Lissa, your post reads more like an argument for destabilization and covert aid to indigenous freedom fighters, than an endorsement of full blown invasions. There’s a continuum of options here, yet most of the thread leans heavily towards taking the most extreme measures possible. As I tried to point out, that approach has its drawbacks.

This is a tricky one.

The traditional answer is “no”. States are sovereign. How State A conducts its internal affairs is no concern of State B, and vice versa. States have a right to govern themselves and conduct their own affairs. They do not have to account to one another. They do not have rights to interfere in the affairs of other states. That’s what sovereignty means.

It’s only in the international sphere, where States interact with one another, that they can take a legitimate interest in one another’s affairs.

So, for example, State A kills it’s own citizens. That is no concern of other states. But State A sends its forces into State B and kills the citizens of State B. This is an infringement of the sovereignty of State B, and so is a matter of concern not only to State B but to all other states.

Sovereignty sounds like a noble concept, but it’s more of a pragmatic one. It limits international conflict. If the government of State A is entitled to make judgments about how the internal affairs of States B, C, D, E and so forth should be conducted, and is entitled to enforce those judgments through arms, the governments of States B, C, D and so forth all have similar rights. Given that each government will generally act in the interests of its own state, if we accept this principle we have more or less created a mechanism designed to justify State A (or any state) in going to war with State B (or any other state) in order to force State B to conduct its internal affairs in a way which will advance the interests of State A. We can see how this would rapidly descend into bloody chaos. Hence the principle of sovereignty, in the interests of mutual self-preservation.

But the principle has been coming under strain, particularly since the Second World War. Are we really happy with an international regime which says, basically, that Hitler can round up and murder every Jew, Gypsy, homosexual and communist in Germany, and no other state is entitled to intervene? No, is the answer, we’re not.

But states don’t want to abandon entirely the principle of sovereignty. So they attempt to develop some limitations on that principle.

The first is the development of humanitarian law. While in general the affairs of State A are a matter for the government of State A and no-one else, the argument goes, there are certain minimum principles of human rights which the government must respect and, if it fails to do so, this becomes a legitimate concern to other states. You can justify this by saying that gross breaches of human rights within one state will affect other states by creating a refugee problem, or a civil war with likely spillover, or simply by saying that fundamental human rights have an intrinsic value which all states have an interest in protecting, and a duty to protect.

But states themselves are a bit wary of this, because any limitation on the principle of sovereignty \affects all states. The US, for example, has a proud record in the field of the legal protection of human rights, and yet it deploys the death penalty against its own citizens in a way which would certainly be regarded as a breach of human rights principles by most European countries. The US insists that this is nobody’s business but its own, and it is reluctant to adopt any stance with respect to other countries which might weaken that position. And if the US feels at all vulnerable about external scrutiny of its domestic human rights standards, you can take it that almost every other state has at least as much reason to feel vulnerable.

So states are wary of this. At the very least, it requires the international development of agreed fundamental principles of human rights. The US would never accept that its internal affairs should be regulated by (say) UK perceptions of fundamental human rights, and it will not expect other states to accept that their affairs should be regulated by US perceptions. Hence the development of international human rights standards, to which states adhere, and against which they can be judged.

But even if we have an agreed standard, we still have the problem of deciding whether a particular state has infringed it in any given case. Can this be decided unilaterally by another state? Again, most states would answer “no”, because they don’t want to be on the receiving end of such a decision by a powerful neighbour.

And, I think, this is correct. The primary duty and interest of the government of State A is to protect and advance the interests of State A. To ask the government of State A to make, and enforce, a decision about whether the human rights of the people of State B are being adequately respected, without regard to the interests of State A, is wholly unrealistic. We would rapidly human rights becoming a political fig-leaf for the otherwise naked armed assertioni of the self-interest of other states. (Many, indeed, are tempted to see the Iraqi intervention in precisely these terms. It isn’t, for reasons I discuss below. But if these principles were accepted we would certainly see cases where this did happen.)

Hence the only feasible mechanism is one which involves a collective or consensus decision on the part of the international community that human rights are being abused to an extent which requires armed intervention. I appreciate that such a decision would still be a political decision and (at least as long as international bodies are structured as the UN is) could not be taken if it appeared to be contrary to the interests of the major powers. But at least such a decision could be taken in some cases, and could command international support, and it would be very difficult (though not impossible) for such a decision to be taken as a cover for the self-interest of any state, however powerful.

Of course, we’re not there yet. Most states are signed up to the notion that the protection of individual human rights is a legitimate concern of international law, but not to the notion that this can be done by armed intervention. So the question of who would take a decision about armed intervention is not even on the radar as far as they are concerned.

Not wishing to be contentious, but Iraq is an interesting example. The grossest breaches of human rights were ignored in the 1980s by the major powers, partly because Iraq was a handy distraction for, and limitation upon, the fundamentalist Iranian regime, but partly because they were internal to Iraq, and there was neither precedent nor political appetite to invade Iraq to enforce human rights standards on behalf of the Iraqi people. Iraq pretty well got away with everything until it invaded Kuwait. By transgressing the sovereignty of another state (which was not itself something of a pariah state) in this way it had crossed an important line. The major powers and the international community were willing to act – and they did, rapidly and effectively.

Fast forward to 2003. Since the Kuwait debacle, Iraq has not invaded or attacked another country, because it knows what the international response would be. The US finds it extraordinarily difficult to muster an international consensus for armed intervention in Iraq, precisely because this factor of the breach of another state’s sovereignty is lacking. Nevertheless, as we know, the US does intervene. As the various justifications for doing so (Iraq was involved in anti-US terrorism, Iraq had a large arsenal of ready-to-use WMDs) evaporate in an embarrassing fashion, the US has resisted the temptation to use Sadaam’s undeniable human rights breaches as a justification for intervention. They have suggested that Sadaam’s human rights record provides a reason why we should welcome his downfall, but they have never suggested either that they were motivated to invade to protect the human rights of the Iraqi people, or that such a motivation would have provided a legitimate reason to invade. The official position of the US government, I am pretty sure, is still that it would not.

The US does these things to and we are beloved by all nations.

The argument for ‘legal issues’ doesn’t really concern me. I think gross, unnecessary human rights abuses supercede ‘international law’, which is largely impotent and corrupt anyway.

I’m making an endorsement of neither. I’m just trying to point out that revolutions don’t start themselves, spontaneously erupting out of a people’s anger. They take a lot of planning, organization and maneuvering behind the scenes to begin, and even then, their chances for success are slim.

It seemed like you were implying that a rebellion was something that anyone could do if they decided enough was enough and got up off of their lazy butts. I was just trying to point out that it’s “harder than it looks.”

Please cite any such comparison, not just a personal blanket statement.

Also if the date was bumped back just to 1830, which you seem to approve of, Britian hadn’t done away with slavery. In fact, I believe slavery still existed in the Caribbean colonies, during the civil war. I will cite this, when you cite the above.

As to the OP, isn’t this exactly what happened when Clinton sent the air attacks against Bosnia and Milosivech was sent to The Hague? What about everyone saying that something needs to be done in several cases in Africa? Obviously, it will never be done by the UN, so is this just idle talk?