Michael Aaronson

This piece is available on SecEUR: http://www.seceur.info/en/euro-view-mike-aaronson-on-natos-chicago-summit.html

Posted in Hybrid Threats, NATO | Leave a comment

When the term “intervention” is used in the context of international crisis management people usually think of military intervention. That is a reflection of how narrow our view of intervention has become, in the context of the willingness of a generation of Western political leaders to launch military expeditions in far-off countries in response to threats of different kinds. Other, less coercive, forms of intervention such as diplomacy or mediation have been relatively neglected by politicians and academics alike. However the emphasis on coercive intervention, backed up by Chapter VII Resolutions in the Security Council, reflects a very Western-centric world view. While the Libyan case might appear to vindicate such an approach, that of Syria certainly does not.

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There has been much debate about the merits or otherwise of forcible intervention to stop the killings in the Syrian crisis. This has never looked likely, partly because of the Russian and Chinese veto in the UN Security Council but also because of the inherent difficulty of the task, not least given the fragmented nature of the Syrian opposition. Given the impotence of the international community to prevent mass atrocities against segments of the civilian population is there any hope that the threat of being held to account will encourage the regime to show restraint, or are they free to continue to act with impunity?

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People sometimes find it hard to grasp the difference between the concepts of impartiality and neutrality, as used in a humanitarian context. The current crisis in Syria shows the importance of distinguishing between the two.

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Right now it is impossible to watch the News on TV, to open a newspaper, or to go online, without coming across discussion about the merits or otherwise of international intervention in Syria and Iran. In the case of Syria the main driver is human protection in response to the government’s brutal crackdown on its citizens, whereas in Iran the issue revolves around the threat to international peace and security posed by the government’s continuing refusal to meet IAEA demands for transparency about its nuclear programme. Nevertheless a common element is an acceptance in Western policy, academic, and media circles that coercive intervention is a perfectly legitimate subject for discussion; one may be strongly for it, strongly against, or somewhere in between, but there is little if any questioning of why we are discussing this at all. Is this not rather odd?

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Posted in Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Mike Aaronson, Syria | Tagged , | Leave a comment

With the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2016 of 27 October and the statement on 28 October from the NATO Secretary-General announcing the end of NATO’s air campaign, the UN-mandated intervention in Libya is now officially at an end (although the UN Security Council, using the customary language, remains “actively seized of the matter”). Was it a success?

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The U.K.’s leading non-governmental aid agencies have launched an appeal for funds to support their work with people affected by the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa. The DEC appeal, launched on 8 July, will no doubt once again demonstrate the generosity of the public when they are asked to respond to this kind of emergency. But there are also lessons to be learned in terms of how we understand and categorise international intervention.

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Posted in Libya, Mike Aaronson | 1 Comment

Sir Michael Aaronson addressed the Plenary lecture of the annual Political Studies Association, in London on the 21st of April. Further details about the PSA 2011 Conference can be found on their website: http://www.psa.ac.uk/2011/

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Posted in Libya | Tagged | 2 Comments

Why does my heart sink when I hear the current UN-mandated action in Libya described as “humanitarian intervention”? After all, over the last 20 years the term has acquired currency — not only among Western politicians but also academics — as a description of coercive, usually military, intervention ostensibly for humanitarian purposes.

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Posted in Libya | Tagged | 6 Comments