Intelligence Squared

Monday, April 2 at 2:00 pm

Humanitarian Intervention Does More Harm Than Good

The international community currently faces a global refugee crisis and mass atrocities in Iraq, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, and beyond. How should the West respond?

Proponents of humanitarian intervention – the use of force to halt human rights abuses – argue that the world’s most powerful militaries have a responsibility to protect innocent civilians around the world. Beyond saving lives, they argue, intervention deters would-be abusers and ensures global stability, thereby strengthening the liberal world order. But opponents argue that military intervention is thinly veiled Western imperialism, and subsequently, an assault on state sovereignty. And, it’s ineffective: the West, with its military might, increases the death toll and worsens the conflicts it sets out to solve. Further, given recent waves of populism in the U.S., France, and U.K., they suggest that Western nations should spend their time looking inward rather than policing activity around the world.  This debate is presented in partnership with The German Marshall Fund's Brussels Forum, broadcast live from Brussels, Belgium.

Frank Ledwidge
Senior Fellow, Royal Air Force College & Former British Intelligence Officer
Frank Ledwidge is a senior fellow at the Royal Air Force College and a former military intelligence officer. He spent fifteen years at the front end of British foreign policy, dealing with issues such as torture, human trafficking, and war crimes. In Kosovo, Albania, the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia, Ledwidge advised governments on international human rights protection, criminal law reform, and institution building. In Libya, he worked on stabilization during and after the conflict, focusing on justice and security. Prior to that, he was a barrister in Liverpool and throughout the North of England. He is the author of several well-reviewed books, including “Losing Small Wars” and “Investment in Blood,” and is a regular commentator on national and international print and broadcast media including the BBC, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and BBC Radio.

Rajan Menon
Author, The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention
Rajan Menon is a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science at the City College of New York. He is the author of several books, including “The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention,” which offers a wide-ranging critique of the ideology underlying military intervention. He has held teaching positions at a number of universities, including Columbia and Vanderbilt. He frequently contributes op-eds and essays for the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and He has appeared as a commentator on NPR, ABC, CNN, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and World Focus.

Bernard Kouchner
Co-Founder, Doctors Without Borders
Bernard Kouchner, a medical doctor by training, is the co-founder and former president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The first person to challenge the Red Cross's stance of neutrality and silence in wars and massacres, Kouchner has played an important role in international humanitarian efforts for more than 20 years. As France's minister of health and humanitarian affairs, he convinced the UN to accept "the right to interfere" resolution, and after devastating civil wars in the Balkans, served as special representative to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Kosovo. He is the author of several books and the co-founder of the news magazines L'Evénement and Actuel. He is the recipient of several human rights awards, including the Dag Hammarskjold Prize and the Prix Europa.

Kori Schake
Deputy Director-General, International Institute for Strategic Studies
Kori Schake is the deputy director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Previously, she was a distinguished research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Schake is the editor, with Jim Mattis, of the book Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military and author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony. She is a contributing editor at the Atlantic and writes for War on the Rocks and Foreign Policy. Schake has served in various policy roles including in the White House for the National Security Council, Department of Defense, and the State Department. During the 2008 presidential election, she was senior policy advisor on the McCain-Palin campaign.

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