Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The country that was

The news has increasingly become a biting reminder of the abyss that the land of the pure has become entrapped in. The trial of destruction left by the American invasion of Afghanistan is very much visible in its neighbor. Pakistan has been left with the indelible mark of a terrorist nation, a mark that does not bode well for the social and economic advancement of the 160 million souls that inhabit the country. As the war on terror lingers on, Pakistan is coming under fire from all sides. The West asserts that Pakistan should do more, a demand that has gained an iconic status among the many caricatures that depict the complicated situation of the nation. Likewise, India holds Pakistan responsible for fueling the independence movement in Kashmir by supplying training and arms to the militants. It comes as a surprise that Afghanistan, under the leadership of Karzai, castigates Pakistan for giving safe refuge to the militants, the same ones responsible for the present state of the country.
When foreigners tell me that Pakistan was the only country founded on the basis of religion, a sinking feeling envelops me. I bury my head in shame as I realize the extent to which the citizens of a nation that was born of sweat and blood, are defiling the very state that gives them an identity in the world. If one were to peruse through the history of the Pakistan movement, it becomes clear that this nation was made by inspiration and devotion, by a man who perhaps was the greatest statesmen of the 20th century. The senseless slaughter brought about by the greatest migration witnessed in human history will always stand as a reminder to all Pakistanis of the sacrifices made by their ancestors. And yet what one sees on television today makes one weep from the innermost corner of the heart. Never has this nation experienced such turbulence. The common man who is now devoid of electricity, water, sugar, wheat and jobs now resembles a frail creature on the verge of death.
Amidst such troubled times, our nation deserves better leadership. Zardari is a name that brings into mind corruption, ineptitude and that brute smile that has robbed the happiness of millions in the impoverished nation. Having become president by the virtue of a bullet, the man will go down in history as the most despicable figure in our short history, even undercutting the nefarious reputation built by Zia. It is ostensible that the PPPP survives on the brand name of Bhutto, a man so charismatic that his family has successfully traded his name to win 3 elections. Even the late Benazir Bhutto emerged as the leading figure in Pakistani politics as a direct result of her father’s popularity among the masses. It comes as no surprise that her son, Bilawal, is touted to be the next president.
When does a nation accept doom and passively works to make best use of whatever little in hand? At what point does hope give way to acceptance of the harsh reality? These questions serve to showcase the immense psychological trauma endured by the people and how the resolution to this comes from swallowing the bitter pill of reality.

Death: Nature of the Beast

The world keeps on moving at an inexorable pace, seemingly indifferent to the fact that some people forever part ways with their loved ones as they embrace the certainty of death. Even the less liked ones gain an iconic status upon death, with any castigation of the dead soul considered an act that borders debauchery. Although death is never a pleasurable experience, it can be said that life retains its value due to the very existence of its anti- thesis. This follows that one can only fully appreciate the value of human life by realizing the great loss that accompanies death. And if religions are to serve as a guide, death is not the end of life, but rather is a stepping stone into eternity. Albus Dumbeldore's observation that death is but the next great adventure rebuts the conventional notion, a notion that assumes that death is the end of the human organism. That we know so little about afterlife adds to the complexity of such an important realm. Science has, till yet, not been able to venture into human afterlife and therefore the best explanations we have rest on religious dogmas. Considering the proclivity of science to endorse rationality over belief, it becomes rather easy to understand why science does not concur with the multifarious theories that seek to shed light on what happens after death. In a rather ironic way, death serves a useful purpose in that it awakens the goodness embedded in all humanity. The very fact that life is short and is merely a transient stage aids us in our collective understanding of the importance of forgiveness and mercy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Inem is a short story that introduces to us the despicable act of marrying out girls at a tender age. The idea of child brides is inextricably linked with poverty, a practice that literally means that girls are sold for cash. The story also lays bare the social norms and values that govern the lives of countless women. Trapped in roles already prescribed for them, girls find no alternative but to succumb to parental pressure to marry someone who often times is much mature than her. This notion gets credence from the words of Muk’s mother who goes about convincing Inem of her duty to her husband. Inem’s role as a wife is paramount as any minor transgression can result in eternal damnation. This is a testament to the constraining factors that ensure that women lay entrapped in marriage, a male dominant institution that gives women anything but respect. Although Muk’s mother does recognize the vulnerable position the little girl is in, all she does is to convince Inem that she should find redemption in a man who beats her up each day. That Inem has no other option speaks to the conservative nature of the Indonesian society in which the story is set. Poverty is the epicenter of all the reasons that result in child brides. Impoverished parents, in the illusion that girls are a burden better be dealt with, are inexorable in their pursuit to find a compatible match. Something truly ironic about the story is the contrasting emotional states of Inem before and after her marriage. Inem is excited and thrilled at the outset, only to become the desolate and lifeless character we see her to be in the end. The story is told through the eyes of Muk, who is not so different from us in his ignorance of the social norms and values that govern Indonesian life. Muk therefore serves an important role as he unravels the position of women in the society. Consider the child’s naïve perspective along with the more mature voice of his mother which in turn is pivotal to our understanding of the story. It is also worthwhile to unmask the conflict that exists even within the same culture. Consider the differing conceptions of the two mothers of what constitutes the best interests of Inem. This visible difference is largely the culmination of their disparate economic backgrounds.

The Asian world order

The advent of a new world order is the consequence of tectonic power shifts across the globe. Given its profusion of resources, Asia, spearheaded by China, is staring at a period of unprecedented economic growth. China’s fairly tale has made it the centre of the world’s new centre. Something more striking than how a country has pulled 400 million people out of the menace of poverty is the fact that this is just the start of China using its mind boggling potential. . The fall of the West commensurate with the overwhelming ascent of Asia into the corridors of power, a phenomenon largely inconceivable a few decades ago. Many would contend against this, arguing that it is inconceivable that Chinese will become the language of the future or that we will witness an upsurge in Chinese rock music. While it is difficult to accept that within a lifetime, the Western customs that are so deeply ingrained in our lifestyle will be replaced by Chinese ones, our very refusal to accept this is in itself a reflection of the Western ideological lens that we use to make sense of the world. Martin Jacques endorses the view that China’s economic power will translate into cultural influence, as the economic powerhouse spreads it wings with the passage of time.
It is interesting to note how the framing of the question leads us to unconsciously believe that world domination rests on economic progress. This notion is implicit in the claim of Western loss of hegemony as a direct result of economic stagnation .Power encompasses a wider meaning and cannot only be restricted to economic advancement. The cultural appeal of a country and its soft power are pivotal in gaining the recognition and acceptance paramount to any great power. That said, economic power is a stepping stone for a country to expand its sphere of influence.
The claim that the West has been usurped by the rising Asia raises the broader question of how power is defined. As outlined by Paul Kennedy in the ‘Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,’ a nation’s capability to exercise global hegemony rests directly on its productive capacity. Europe, by virtue of the overwhelming economic lead it gained by being the first to embrace the Industrial Revolution, was able to control and maintain its hegemonic position. Economic power has a strong correlation with military influence as the newly found wealth can be used to bolster the country’s defense. China’s growing economic clout will transmute it into next global hegemonic power. The United States is already feeling the pinch of the war against terror, manifested through the huge amounts of defense spending that the country cannot sustain in the long run. This imperial overstretch is among the many signs emerging that the once seemingly invincible hyper power is now in decline.
In the West, one of the misguided notions of conventional wisdom is that as China modernizes, it will become a Western style country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Martin Jacques points out that there are many paths to modernity, a fact intricately linked with the concept of contested modernity. He asserts that Chinese modernity will be shaped by its own culture and history. There is a strong element of national pride and sense of identity among the Chinese, a feeling compounded by the recent financial meltdown and the subsequent resilience of the Chinese economy. This pride also originates from being a part of what Jacques defines as a ‘civilization state’ with a 5000 year old history.
That the Chinese considered themselves the centre of the world is a reflection of this mindset. It is rather difficult to see how a country with such a rich culture and distinctive past can merge and blend into an international system dominated by countries that represent only a small slice of humanity. This serves to justify why a Chinese world order will be very different from that of the West. Therefore, one can dispel the notion that China will become the cornerstone of the Western international order, for it is the very system that it seeks to replace.
It is tempting to dismiss all talk of the changing balance of power as pure hogwash. The United States is still the most powerful nation in the world capable of destroying the world many times over. The level of development in Asia pales in comparison with that of Europe. That said, the winds of change are blowing and it is not sagacious to condone the torrent of changes taking place. Asia’s economic edge is very much palpable and as the years roll forward, even the most ardent supporter of the West will have to concede to the increasing dominance of Asia. If history is to serve as a guide, Britain and USA were able to build their cultural influence and ideological appeal after they had industrialized. There is no reason to believe that Asia will be any different. Beyond doubt, this century belongs to Asia and although we are still at an early stage of the continent’s rise, any astute eye can discern with alacrity that the ‘Age of the West’ is coming to a rapid conclusion.

A reading of Ahmed Essop’s “The Hajji”

‘The Hajji’ by Ahmed Essop is a gripping story based on the internal moral conflict of a man called Hajji Hassen. This inner conflict can only be understood in the wider social and political context which forms the background of this compelling narrative. The story is set in South Africa and the writer, himself born in India, provides a commentary on racial injustice which is intricately linked with the concept of apartheid. This racial bifurcation is a central motif of ‘The Hajji’ as it aids the reader in his understanding of the moral conflict inside Hassen. Due to these racial divisions, Karim’s decision to cohobate with a white women results in his social isolation from the Muslim community. This very racial division breeds loathing in the heart of Hassen, a hatred so great that it transcends religion and fraternity.
In the story, racial separation is palpable, manifested when Hassen goes to Hillbrow to see his brother. The three white youths that mock Hassen in the lift serve an important purpose as they lay bare the social reality of apartheid. The ridicule directed at Hassen cause him to react and in doing so, Hassen exposes the racial mistrust and revulsion present in a country plagued by apartheid. Hassen’s own thoughts are a reflection of social mindsets,” He remained immobile, his dignity clawed, Was there anything so vile in him that the youths found it necessary to maul the last recess of his self respect? ‘They are white’, he said to himself in bitter justification of their attitude.” (Essop, p. 165, 1988). That Hassen mitigates his insult by reminding himself that these were white people is a showcase of the racial hatred that forms the backdrop of the story. This insult has severe ramifications as Hassen is once again reminded of his brother’s decision, one that has tainted his moral integrity.
Hassen is torn between the need to salvage his dignity and self respect with a desire to embrace a brother on the verge of dying. The mercurial nature of Hassen stands as a testament to the inexorable conflict that goes on inside him. Hassen is conscious of the way his behavior is seen by others. This derives in part from the fact that he has been crowned with the consecrated title of a Hajji, which is a constant reminder that he has visited the house of God in Mecca. Such a title symbolizes purity of spirit and nobility of character, a standard with which his behavior is gauged by others and one through which he sees himself. The very title of the story is pivotal to our understanding of Hassen as it magnifies the gap between a man of God and an individual consumed by his need to protect his dignity. This is exemplified by the debate that goes on unabated inside Hassen, ‘Was it for this that he had made the pilgrimage- to cleanse his soul in order to return to the penumbra of sin?’ (Essop, p. 168, 1988). The interplay of religion and culture exacerbate the bitter moral conflict inside Hassen. Hassen himself explains his quandary’ He had recently sought God’s pardon for his sins in Mecca, and now this business of his brothers final earthly wish and his own intransigence was in some way staining his spirit.’ (Essop, p. 162, 1988). It is rather ironic that Hassen professes to be a Hajji, yet he does not have the capacity to grant the last wish of a dying brother. How can a man seek the mercy of God when he is not willing to extend the same to his brother? Such an intriguing question is put by Mr. Mia to Hassen, ‘Hajji, what sort of a man are you? Have you no feeling for your brother?’ (Essop, p. 167, 1988).
Although the brothers have parted ways for ten years and Karim has caused overwhelming humiliation to Hassen by defiling the color line, it would be wrong to imply that Hassen does not love his brother. Hassen displays affection for his brother by remembering the past, ‘O Karim The thought of the youth he had loved so much during the days they had been together at the Islamic Institute, brought tears to his eyes and he stopped against a shop window and wept.’ The fact that Karim can be loved and hated at the same time is a conspicuous signal of the internal struggle inside Hassen. This very behavior of Hassen provides the story the emotional richness that one usually associates with the writing of Ahmed Essop. The climax of the story pertains to a transformation in Hassen, a change accompanied by the sudden resurgence of love for his brother. In this great state of emotion, Hassen is stripped of all worldly consciousness as he strives to embrace his brother for the last time. Such a powerful emotion is captured in plain words by the writer, ‘He would return to Karim. A fervent longing to embrace his brother came over him, to touch that dear form before the soil claimed him. His whole existence precipitated itself into one motive, one desire, to embrace his brother in a final act of love’. (Essop, p. 171, 1988).
It becomes difficult to account for the erratic behavior of Hassen as the story progresses as the initial hesitation gives way to obduracy. Hassen is a man captive to the social definition of what constitutes integrity and manhood. In his attempt to¬ retain his dignity, Hassen paves the way for his humiliation at the hands of the very society that he seeks redemption from. Hassen’s tension is compounded when Karim arrives in the Muslim community, for this leaves Hassen in a very awkward position. Hassen is trapped in the prison of his own making, and although he wants to go back to his brother, his inner sense of moral worth prevents him from doing so. This is the internal moral conflict that resonates throughout the story, one that paves the way to a very tragic ending. Taken together, it is the interplay of culture and racial segregation that overpowered Hassen to behave in such an eccentric way. This beautiful story is ironic in its recognition of Hassen being a religious man and yet not being able to exercise one of the central principles of Islam: forgiveness. The bitter internal struggle of the protagonist shows a man who is bound by forces that make him rebel against his own nature. Although Karim has been painted as a rebel throughout the story, in essence, it is Hassen who deviates from the path enjoined by his religion.

Surprising elements and the value of using statistical data for armed violence.

My initial understanding of armed violence was limited in scope to just acts of aggression committed in war. However, armed violence encompasses a much broader meaning and one cannot condone deaths and injuries in non- conflict and non- war settings. It is rather surprising that the number of deaths in non-war settings actually outweighs the ones in war settings. That 490,000 deaths occurred due to homicide in 2004 alone stands a testament to this. (Chapter 4, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p. 67). Armed violence also includes social and predatory violence like extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and gang violence. These are the forms of violence that are less conspicuous, although this does not mean that they are any less significant. The fact that these can be present in ‘peaceful’ societies makes it all the more important for them to be studied closely. An appreciation of the breadth of this subject only came to me as I progressed through the semester.
Owing to the multifaceted nature of armed violence, one cannot attribute its cause to any one given factor. Consider how armed gangs are formed as a means of ensuring mutual security in a time of disorder and chaos. In many cases, it is ironic that in the absence of any form of security formed by the state, armed gangs represent the only source of protection for the citizens. It is striking, perhaps even shocking, that there are at as many gang members in Central America as there are military personnel (Chapter 7, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p.129). Likewise, kidnappings are in large measure the culmination of economic conditions. Most of such incidents are ones that demand ransom, a clear sign of the economic incentive of the act. Extra judicial killings can also be used to corroborate that armed conflicts have diverse causes. Such incidents are most conspicuous in China where the state frowns upon any criticism leveled against the authoritarian rule. This form of political violence goes largely unreported as it is difficult to see how data is collected when the state, which is itself entrusted to be the provider of security, becomes the perpetrator of aggression. In this case, political oppression born out of the need to suppress freedom of speech and stifle opposition explains the acts of violence.
Given the conventional gender roles that relegate women to domestic roles, I found it surprising that women have actively participated in armed conflicts in at least 57 countries since 1990. Also, more than 30 percent of the fighters in different non-state armed groups like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Communist Party of Nepal were women (Chapter 6, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p.113). Although women are usually the victims of armed conflict, this does not mean that they themselves cannot be among the transgressors.
The indirect effect of armed conflict was a topic that I only became cognizant of during the course of the semester. I could never have realized that the consequences of war can be as bad as or even worse than the terrible act of war itself. The fact that the number of deaths in a post conflict setting can overshadow the ones in war took me completely by surprise. Evidence for this is provided in the International Rescue Committee’s series of mortality surveys in the Democratic Republic of Congo which found that 5.4 million excess deaths occurred between August 1998 and April 2007. Ninety percent of the deaths (4.8 million) were indirect deaths. (Chapter 2, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p.31). It needs to be stated that the indirect effects are more severe in underdeveloped nations as the already crippled infrastructure completely breaks down when violence ensues. The high amount of ‘preventable deaths’ are in large measure due to the worsened social, economic and health conditions in the conflict affected area. In the short run, disease and malnutrition account for a high proportion of deaths. In the long run, the cumulative effects of war on the economy and the infrastructure are responsible for the loss of lives. The loss of precious lives that could be saved in a post conflict society awoke me to the need to aid countries that have recently experienced armed conflict. One can do little to prevent war but it is possible to mitigate the effects by providing aid immediately after the termination of the conflict. This becomes all the more important in light of the fact that the burden of indirect deaths was between three and 15 times the number of direct deaths in the majority of conflicts since the early 1990s (Chapter 2, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p.32). The whole course was littered with violence and was devoid of any semblance of hope. I found reassurance and hope in this way, thus ensuring that I preserve my sanity after having encountered such a torrent of bloodshed and senseless slaughter.
One of the most important feature of conflicts is the high likelihood of their recurrence. The chance of previously terminated conflicts reemerging presents a frightening scenario. Consider how the year 2005 witnessed an upsurge in the number of armed conflicts, largely due to the increased conflict recurrences (Hewitt, Wilkenfeld, Gurr, p.30).This was also the largest annual jump since the end of World War 2, a clear indication of the severity of conflict recurrences. This statistic does not bode well for the future, given the high number of recently terminated conflicts that have a fairly good chance of igniting once again

Part 2
Although not devoid of blemishes, statistics are a very useful tool in the analysis of deaths arising from armed conflict. Statistics about armed conflicts can help us understand the severity of the issue at hand. By providing easy to understand numbers, one can discern the extent of the bloodshed in any armed conflict. Statistics can be easily understood by a wide audience, making them a potent research method. The fact that the results can be replicated give it more validity and reliability. This is particularly relevant to the realm of armed conflict where statistics can provide hard numbers on the number of deaths.
The pro seminar class has revealed how often statistics that we take for granted are incomplete or simply lacking the data that can help us reach a valid assumption. My initial propensity to accept data at face value has given way to a mild suspicion of how the data has been collected. This has resulted in my double checking of the facts stated in any report to find any packaging or measurement errors. The course has broadened my understanding of statistics which although by definition is an exact science, yet there is almost in all cases a room for doubt. In all the readings assigned for this course, one can pinpoint methodological flaws that render the research less valid. What is most striking is how the researchers themselves have a lucid understanding of the way the data is incomplete, yet this is followed by overarching theories that claim to accurately depict the social phenomenon under discussion. Statistics are never perfect which means that it is always sagacious to accept them with a grain of salt.
Statistical data mostly employ a definition that is used as a benchmark. This is intricately linked to the concept of ‘measurement errors’ where different results are gathered due to the particular choices made by the researcher. This is particularly evident in the study conducted by Uppsala Conflict Data program and the International Peace Research Institute, which includes only those conflicts that have accumulated at least 1000 battle related fatalities over the entire course of the conflict and at least 25 in the given year (Hewitt et al, p.27).This results in some conflicts not being included, a blatant example of how statistical data employed to measure armed conflict falls short of the exacting standards we normally associate with it. It really does not make sense that an intense conflict that has claimed 900 lives over a period of 6 months not be classified as an ‘active’ conflict.
The event databases collected on terrorism consider only transnational attacks, attacks in which nationals or groups from one country cross into another to commit acts of terrorism (Hewitt et al, p.51). This is a serious flaw as the number of domestic terrorist attacks outnumbers the transnational ones by as much as seven to one. Therefore, in limiting the scope of terrorist activities to just transnational ones, these data bases have not given a valid picture of the threat posed by terrorism.
Statistics concerning indirect deaths are naturally more difficult to quantify. Given the average ratio of 4 indirect deaths to one direct death, statistics lose their effectiveness as a means of measuring the global burden of armed violence (Chapter 2, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p.32). It is inconceivable to account for all the deaths that result in a post conflict setting due to the outbreak or malaria and malnutrition. This follows that statistics, are at best, merely estimates that cannot give us any amount of certainty. Also, attributing indirect deaths to the impact of conflict is problematic. How can we assume that the deaths that have occurred in a post conflict setting could have been averted without the incidence of war, given the fact that in poor countries there is already a high risk of deaths associated with malnutrition and other preventable diseases? This greatly diminishes the value of using statistics to measure armed conflict and war. Therefore, it is imperative to employ tactics other than statistics in our attempt to obtain a valid picture of the extent of the global burden of armed violence. Qualitative data can complement our knowledge by providing detailed data on how armed conflict happens in the first place. Direct interviews with the victims of war and the general population can reveal the underlying trend that can be easily missed by statistics. The detailed qualitative data gathered can enrich the researcher’s understanding of the subject, allowing him to arrive at a more valid estimate. In stark contrast to quantitative data, qualitative data such as interviews provides an explanation for the emergence of armed conflict, increasing our understanding the subject in a way that can help us avoid it in the future.
Qualitative data can also aid in the discovery of any latent aspects of any social phenomenon. This is particularly relevant when measuring armed violence against women as some cases of Intimate partner violence and rape go unreported. The strength of qualitative methods derives from the ability to obtain a detailed account from a diverse group of people. This broadens the vision of the researcher as he comes to appreciate various perspectives on the subject matter. Consider how honor killings, mainly prevalent in the Muslim world, tend to be covert in nature (Chapter 6, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008, p.120). This can also be extended to acts of rape, where the family, in an attempt to salvage their honor and dignity, do not report the incident. While quantitative data can wholly overlook this factor, qualitative data will appreciate the constraining factors on the victims that prevent reporting of such crimes. In essence, it is a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data methods that have the ability to provide the bigger picture.

Secretariat, Geneva Declaration, (2008). Armed Violence against Women. Global Burden of Armed Violence, 109-120.
Secretariat, Geneva Declaration, (2008). Lethal encounters: Non- conflict Armed violence. Global Burden of Armed Violence, 67-79.
Secretariat, Geneva Declaration, (2008). Other Forms of Armed Violence: Making the Invisible Visible. Global Burden of Armed Violence, 125-136.
Secretariat, Geneva Declaration, (2008).The Many Victims of War: Indirect Conflict Deaths. Global Burden of Armed Violence, 31-39.
Hewitt, Joe Joseph, Jonathan Wlikenfeld, and Ted Robert Gurr, (2010).Trends In Global Conflict. Peace and Conflict 2010, 27-31.

Intervention: Blessing or Curse

The debate around military intervention for the purpose of human protection rests mainly on the infringement of state sovereignty that results from the act of intervention. The examples of Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia and Somalia help to explain the intervention dilemma. Even when intervention was used by the world community, there were questions asked about the legitimacy and intention of the actors involved. Rwanda stands as a blatant example of the dangers of inaction where the UN virtually stood and watched while wide scale genocide was taking place (Chapter1, The Responsibility to Protect, 2001, p.1). The fact that intervention in an armed conflict can actually exacerbate the scale of the problem is somewhat ironic as the intended purpose was to mitigate human suffering, not to augment it.
The very formation of the Commission was an effort to achieve some form of political consensus, given the millions of lives at stake. The Commission has used diversity of opinions including people directly affected by armed conflict and views of intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations. The Commission highlights the importance of developing credible and consistent measures that can serve to guide states in their collective action to prevent loss of human lives.
The Commission considers the traditional language used in the intervention debate as obstructive, as the phrase ‘right to intervene’ has negative connotations. It sidelines the human suffering and highlights the transgression of national sovereignty by using the word’ right’. Therefore, it only makes sense to change the wording to ‘the responsibility to protect’, a term that bridges the divide between intervention and sovereignty. This concept implies that the world community can only intervene when the state directly affected has failed to alleviate human suffering. This acts like a lifeguard for millions of otherwise helpless individuals stranded in the midst of violence. The responsibility for intervention can be traced to specific legal obligations under human rights and international humanitarian law. The responsibility to protect does not only involve reaction but it also encompasses the responsibly to prevent and the responsibility to rebuild.
The world today is very different from that of 1945, with the birth of new states and the rise of transnational actors like terrorism increasing the complexity of the international society (Chapter1, The Responsibility to Protect, 2001, p.3). This increased diversity of opinions has made it all the more difficult to reach a consensus. The end of the Cold war has resulted in the birth of new internal conflicts which coupled with modern technology, have made the war more prone to armed violence.
In light of the growing incidence of armed conflict, prevention of a conflict is perhaps the most feasible result the world community can accomplish through collective action. Military intervention should be used as the last resort, employed only when all other peaceful methods to diffuse the conflict have failed. Intervention only makes sense when there is the threat of a large scale loss of human life and when the intervention does not aggravate the extent of human suffering. Also, Security Council authorization of the intervention provides the legitimacy deemed crucial in an increasingly globalized world.
Membership in the UN itself was a seal of recognition for sovereign states as it meant that it was now the obligation of the organization to protect the territorial integrity of its member states. The conception of state sovereignty fosters international peace and order as the sense of fairness engendered by the concept of each state, irrespective of size and power, as exercising complete domination in its territory, gives an equal footing to all states. These founding principles led to a dilemma, as the increasing intra- state violence meant that international peace was jeopardized at the cost of national sovereignty. An organization that was formed to protect the sovereignty of its members now found out that doing so led to the undermining of its other fundamental goal- maintaining international security. The solution to the clash of these two fundamental principles comes from an understanding of the fact that sovereignty involves a degree of responsibility. State sovereignty does imply a dual responsibility which includes respecting the rights of citizens in addition to respecting the sovereignty of other states. By signing the UN charter, the member states have effectively agreed to protect and safeguard the lives of citizens. The changing of the definition of sovereignty is a central element of the Commission’s work.
The definition of human security has become broader with the passage of time, allowing for not only the physical safety of the citizens but also for their economic and social well being. The traditional definition of security does not fully capture the true magnitude of human suffering. Increasing expectations about human rights can be traced to evolving international standards of conduct for nations in their treatment of citizens. This is intricately linked to the emergence of international institutions with the sole purpose of monitoring human right violations. It is worth noting the influence of the information revolution and global mass media which have made it difficult for governments to condone cases of ethnic cleansing or genocide in even remote areas of the world.
The emerging guiding principle that military intervention is warranted when the state is unable or unwilling to stop conflict involving significant human loss is supported by an array of legal sources. This is, in essence, the growing realization in the world community of the responsibility to protect citizens when in danger. The commission believes that the increasing evidence points out that the Charter’s disinclination to endorse military intervention is no longer so acute as to completely rule out intervention as an option.

Edward N. Luttwak makes a strong case against inconclusive intervention which he advocates prolongs the scale of human suffering by allowing both sides to recuperate after the initial outburst. He argues that there is a natural course of war which ultimately leads to peace after both sides exhaust all of their resources and have no other option but to disengage fighting. This self destroying characteristic of war is not all that bad as it allows for emergence of lasting peace and stability.
Luttwak provides examples of countries like Sri Lanka and Sudan where the conflict is confined to a particular region, allowing for the perpetuation of the war as the unaffected areas can provide much needed supplies (The Curse of Inconclusive Intervention, Turbulent Peace, 2001, p.265). This results in protraction of the war which in turn increases the human death toll. Luttwak makes the point that the ultimate destruction wreaked by any conflict is in some ways crucial to its very termination and the subsequent surfacing of peace and stability.
Luttwak also provides two exceptions to the general rule and goes on to show explain them. In these cases, internal wars have continued without the self effacing feature of conflict coming into play. The first reason that Luttwak provides for this eccentricity pertains to the fact that in most African conflicts, two sided armed fighting is rare. Instead, in most cases, we see one armed group attacking unarmed civilians incapable of defending themselves. This, by definition, does not constitute armed conflict and it also means that there is no weakening of any of the warring factions. His second explanation centers on the natural resources that are used by the perpetuators of aggression to finance the conflict. The fact that these resources can be extracted even with the absolute destruction of infrastructure aids in our understanding of why wars in Africa persist.
A war normally involves a goal so magnificent that the sacrifices of blood, sweat and money are not considered a waste in the process of achieving the desired result. In many cases, the great sacrifices of the war can only be tolerated if the aim used to justify war in the first place is grand enough. This provides an incentive for the group to extend conflict in the hope of finally achieving the aim. Such behavior is intricately linked to human psychology as the human desire to reach out for all that symbolizes splendor is a reflection of the rapacious side of human nature, despite the tremendous physical and economic cost that accompanies such a course of action. Luttwak defines this desire as the strengthening of the political commitment to continue fighting.
That said, if the war goes on without traces of any sign of victory, then humans resort to their rational side. As rationality reigns supreme, the emphasis shifts to minimizing the losses and ending the conflict as nothing rewarding can be possibly achieved. It may seem ironic that this is the stage where conditions needed for lasting and durable peace are engendered. Luttwak asserts that untimely intervention can disrupt the process that culminates in peace.
Luttwak is highly critical of the United Nations; an organization which he believes impedes peace and prolongs war by arranging ceasefires and armistices. He provides us with the example of the Arab Israeli war of 1948-1949 where the ceasefire merely served as a breathing space for the combatants, allowing them to rearm and resume the bloody conflict after the momentary respite (The Curse of Inconclusive Intervention, Turbulent Peace, 2001, p.267). Luttwak likens an armistice to a ‘frozen war’ owing to its ability to prolong armed conflicts. In the absence of great power wars, these two are mainly used to end wars between lesser powers. It is somewhat tragic that the only reason why these great powers feel compelled to take some sort of action is because of the increasing power of the global media which lays bare the terrible inhumanity of war on television. He also castigates the UN peacekeeping contingents for choosing to safeguard their own lives over those of the defenseless civilians. Instead of providing protection to the civilians, their very presence leads to a false sense of security, thus deterring the civilians from escaping their inevitable deaths. The already bleak picture is further dimmed by the inclusion of multilateral organizations that increasingly intervene in armed conflicts around the world. Humanitarian relief agencies are also culpable for exacerbating the scale of human suffering. Consider how the higher living standards in the camps established by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) paved the way for the camps becoming into permanent homes as opposed to a transitory residence for the Palestinian refugees. (The Curse of Inconclusive Intervention, Turbulent Peace, 2001, p.270). These camps keep afresh the memory of the 1948 Arab – Israeli war, thus prolonging the conflict. Perhaps the most egregious of all is the work of some NGOs who feed the very conflict they aim to alleviate. In order to attract attention that ultimately leads to more and more donations, these NGOs protract war for their narrow minded interests by providing material aid to the combatants.

Luttwak’s approach is rather eccentric as he allows for innocent lives to be lost until the mutual exhaustion begins to weigh in to terminate the conflict. In an increasingly globalized world where the media is very powerful, such an approach is rendered impotent as the global outcry at the merciless slaughter will be too loud for any country to ignore. The exhaustion of resources may take years, even decades to ensue and it is inconceivable to allow all the bloodshed in the hope of achieving peace after millions have been wiped out of the face of the Earth.
For me, the ICISS's Report on the Responsibility to Protect gives a better understanding of intervention; although it too is not bereft of conspicuous flaws. In its appreciation of the real world difficulty of intervention over national sovereignty, the ICISS report tries to seek solutions to what is perhaps the most important issue in the realm of intervention. Its wide base and diversity of opinions give it the credibility deemed imperative in a world of varying and often contrasting opinions. The responsibility to prevent is a central theme of the report and which I feel is the real answer to the burgeoning armed conflict in the world. If we were to understand the root causes of the conflict and work on them, then speedy resolution becomes a possibility. That this happens without the loss of precious human lives makes prevention the best tool in our armory to counter armed conflict. Also, the effective changing of wording from ‘right to intervene’ to ‘the responsibility to protect’ is very astute as it shifts the focus to the millions of people under imminent danger from the outbreak of war. By aligning sovereignty with responsibility, states are themselves made the primary guardian of their citizens.
The ICISS report also has some blemishes. The responsibility to react, prevent and rebuild amounts to a serious amount of work and given the plethora of armed conflicts around the world at any given time, it becomes difficult to see how the world community can possibly commit itself on such a large scale. The idea of moral force and collective conscience as causing nations to help distant countries is overblown and hardly applicable to the real world where national interest reigns supreme.

Intervention and State Sovereignty, International Commission on, (2001). The Policy Challenge. The Responsibility to Protect, 1-8
Intervention and State Sovereignty, International Commission on, (2001). A new Approach: “The Responsibility to Protect”. The Responsibility to Protect, 11-16
Intervention and State Sovereignty, International Commission on, (2001). The Responsibility to Prevent. The Responsibility to Protect, 19-23
Luttwak, Edward Nicolae, (2001). The Curse of Inconclusive Intervention. Turbulent peace: The Challenges of Managing International Conflict, 265-272.