Sovereignty and Intervention After the Cold War

Lessons from the Emergency Relief Desk

by John Prendergast , Mark Duffield
published in MER187

Over the past several years, the perception has become widespread that the world has entered a period of profound change. A main feature of this change has been some erosion of the principle of state sovereignty as a major structural feature of international relations. The new activism of the United Nations and the trend toward selective military intervention for humanitarian purposes and as a means of international crisis management have been the most prominent features of this development.

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From the Editors

published in MER187

The collapse of the bipolar world order, and the profound crises of many post-colonial nation-states in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, Central America and Central Asia, have given rise to a range of conflicts and major humanitarian disasters that in turn have fueled a new debate in the US and elsewhere over military intervention. This debate cuts across once familiar political alignments, right and left, and has occupied the major journals of elite policy opinion as well as much of the left media.

Security Council Conflicts Over Sanctions

by Sarah Graham-Brown
published in MER193

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Intervention, Sovereignty and Responsibility

by Sarah Graham-Brown
published in MER193

Four years after Operation Desert Storm, and the mass uprisings that followed in the southern and northern parts of Iraq against Saddam Hussein’s regime, the country’s economic and social fabric is in tatters. Economic sanctions, following a destructive war and compounded by the Iraqi government’s abusive and divisive social and political policies, have devoured the country’s once substantial middle class and further impoverished the already poor. Even if tomorrow the sanctions were lifted and the regime were to vanish, the capacity of Iraqi society to reconstitute itself is in grave peril.

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UN Impasse in the Western Sahara

by Fatemeh Ziai
published in MER199

In his January 1996 report on the UN operation in the Western Sahara, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali expressed the Security Council’s “frustration...at the absence of even a reasonably clear indication of when the [referendum] process might come to an end.” This was one of Boutros-Ghali’s most candid official statements about an operation that, by most accounts, has gone awry. With a mandate to organize and conduct a referendum asking Sahrawis to choose either independence or integration into Morocco, the most important issue now confronting the UN mission is whether the referendum process, which began in September 1991, has already been so compromised that it no longer offers a realistic means for resolving the conflict.

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Legalism and Realism in the Gulf

by Sheila Carapico
published in MER206

In his State of the Union address in January 1998, President Clinton won thunderous applause for threatening to force Iraq “to comply with the UNSCOM regime and the will of the United Nations.” Stopping UN chemical and biological weapons inspectors from “completing their mission,” declared the president, defies “the will of the world.” In the next three weeks, the White House ordered a massive show of force in the Gulf. Even traditional hawks, however, realized that a bombing mission could undermine American hegemonic interests in the Gulf that are served by a continuation of the sanctions regime.

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The Rise and Fall of the "Rogue Doctrine"

The Pentagon's Quest for a Post-Cold War Military Strategy

by Michael Klare
published in MER208

Since 1990, US military policy has been governed by one overarching premise that US and international security is primarily threatened by the “rogue states” of the Third World. These states -- assumed to include Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria -- are said to threaten US interests because of their large and relatively modern militaries, their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and their hostile stance toward the United States and its allies. To counter this threat, current American strategy requires the maintenance of sufficient military strength to conduct (and prevail in) two Desert Storm-like operations simultaneously.

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Alternatives to an International Criminal Court

by Lisa Hajjar
published in MER207

A scene toward the end of the documentary film Calling the Ghosts shows two Muslim women from Bosnia, survivors of the Serbian concentration camp of Omarska, looking through a rack of postcards. They have come to The Hague to testify about their experiences at the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The voiceover is one of the women reading what they wrote to their former Serbian colleagues in the now Muslim-free city of Prijedor: “Greetings from The Hague. Hope to see you here soon.” Those two short sentences speak volumes about modern ethnic hatred, genocidal violence and war crimes such as rape and torture, as well as the survivor spirit and demands for justice.

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Constructing an International Criminal Court

by Joe Stork
published in MER207

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