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Humanitarian Interventions and Ethnic Conflicts. Lsn 24. Post-Cold War Environment. Cold War threats were potentially catastrophic but they were also measurable and somewhat predictable

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Post cold war environment
Post-Cold War Environment

  • Cold War threats were potentially catastrophic but they were also measurable and somewhat predictable

  • The bipolar structure and the desire to avoid superpower confrontation had provided a certain degree of order and stability

  • The post-Cold War period was much more ambiguous and uncertain and many new threats emerged

CIA Director James Woolsey described the post-Cold War environment by saying, “We have slain a large dragon (the U.S.S.R.) — but we now live in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes. In many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of.”

Ethnic conflict and humanitarian crisis in the 1990s
Ethnic Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis in the 1990s

  • The Cold War structure had kept in check ethnic divisions in many countries and limited military interventions

  • The end of the Cold War changed all that

    • UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali advocated the “legitimate involvement” of the UN in “peace enforcement” and “peacemaking” operations

    • President Clinton proclaimed a “National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement”

  • After the Cold War, the United Nations went from an average of three or four peacekeeping operations a year to 13 in December 1992

Ethnic conflict and humanitarian crisis in the 1990s1
Ethnic Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis in the 1990s

  • “In a globalized war, bad things that happen in other countries spread more quickly to our shores. Genocides spawn refugees, who destabilize their neighbors. Corruption sparks financial meltdowns, which rock the world economy. Pandemics hopscotch across the globe.”

    • Peter Beinart in explaining why the US intervened in Kosovo where there was “no direct threat to the US” (Time, 23 Apr 2007, 28)

International efforts
International Efforts

  • The United Nations Charter proclaims one of the UN’s principle purposes as being “to maintain international peace and security”

  • Sometimes the UN effectively intervened in these crises, sometimes it didn’t

    • Same for the United States

Un charter
UN Charter

  • Chapter VI

    • “Pacific Settlement of Disputes”

    • Security Council can investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute

    • Council can recommend action but the recommendations are not binding on its members

  • Chapter VII

    • Council is not limited to recommendations

    • Can take action, including the use of armed force, to maintain or restore international peace and security

  • Peace enforcement operations often are called “Chapter VI and a half”

Peace operations
Peace Operations

  • Peacekeeping Operations

    • Require consent of all parties involved in the dispute

    • Monitor cease fire, truce, etc

    • Support diplomatic efforts to support long term political settlements

    • Force used as last resort

  • Peace Enforcement Operations

    • Apply or threaten military force to

      • Compel compliance

      • Restore or maintain peace

    • Do not require consent of all parties

Peace enforcement
Peace Enforcement

  • Subordinate Operations:

    • Forcible separation of belligerents

    • Establishment and supervision of protected areas

    • Sanction and exclusion zone enforcement

    • Movement denial and guarantee

    • Restoration and maintenance of order

    • Protection of humanitarian assistance

Limitations of the un
Limitations of the UN

  • No army of its own

    • Reliant on ad hoc contributions from its members

  • Can never divorce itself from the political agendas of its members

  • Inadequately trained staff of military professionals and managers

Case studies

Case Studies

Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor, and Kosovo


  • Tension and violence between the Hutu and Titsi tribal groups in Rwanda was longstanding

    • The Titsi had long held power even though the Hutu were the majority

  • In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the Hutus overthrew the ruling Tutsi king


  • Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries

    • The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990

  • The violence reached its peak in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus

Deep gashes in the skulls of victims of the Rwanda genocide evidence the violence of their deaths


  • The Tutsi rebels ultimately defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994

  • Approximately 2 million Hutu refugees, many fearing retaliation, fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire

    • Many perpetrators of the genocide secretly blended into the refugee camps and escaped justice

Rwandan children in the refugee camp at Ndosha, Zaire


  • Outside powers such as the United Nations urged peace, but coming on the heels of the disaster in Somalia, there was no meaningful intervention

  • The world basically stood by until the bloodshed finally ran its course

    • “…The world must deeply repent this failure… Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough--not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honor the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda ...” (UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 1998)


  • During the Cold War, Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic state successfully held together by communist totalitarianism

  • When the strong communist leader Josip Broz Tito died in 1980, ethnic divisions became more open


  • Yugoslavian republics began to seek independence

    • Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia broke away in 1991

    • When Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence in 1992, an ethnic civil war ensued

    • Bosnian Serbs, with external support from Serbia, initiated an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against Bosnian Muslims

Unearthed mass grave containing the bodies of some of the 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys murdered when Serbs overran the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica


  • United Nations peacekeepers entered Bosnia in 1992 but were extremely ineffective

  • The United States was very reluctant to commit ground troops to what promised to be a messy and long-term situation

    • The US did begin air and naval patrols in 1993

The Serbs took UN peacekeepers hostage and chained them to potential target areas to prevent airstrikes


  • Finally in 1995 President Clinton responded to mounting European pressure and, the US and NATO conducted air strikes against the Serbs and forced them to the bargaining table

  • The Dayton Peace Accords of November 1995 ended the fighting and authorized a NATO peacekeeping force of over 60,000 troops

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, left, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, center, and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, right, initial the DPA at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio


  • The US participated in IFOR (Implementation Force) and SFOR (Stabilization Force) until 2004 when NATO passed the mission off to the European Union’s EUFOR

  • The military tasks associated with the DPA were completed within a year

    • Still SFOR was necessary as a security presence while civilian implementation took place


  • A 1991 military coup in Haiti ousted the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide

  • UN embargoes and other sanctions against the military government failed to bring about a return to the legitimately elected government


  • Thousands of Haitians fled to the US in fragile boats

  • In 1994, President Clinton ordered a 5,000- man force to occupy Haiti in Operation Uphold Democracy


  • A last minute diplomatic effort led by former President Jimmy Carter and including Senator Sam Nunn and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell was in Haiti on Sept 18 when elements of the 82nd Airborne were broadcast on TV departing Fort Bragg, NC

  • The synergy of this diplomatic-military effort motivated the junta to agree to a peaceful solution


  • Upon landing, the American force met almost no opposition and Aristide was returned to power in October

  • Token American and international forces remained in Haiti through 1998 maintaining order and conducting nation building operations


  • In 2004 an armed rebellion forced the departure of Aristide and violence and technical delays postponed democratic elections until 2006

  • Haiti continues to be beset by a host of problems including being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere

    • 80% of the population lives under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty

East timor
East Timor

  • Portugal had colonized the island of Timor in the mid-sixteenth century and ceded control of the western half of the island to the Dutch in 1859

  • Japan seized control of Portuguese Timor during World War II, but after the war Portugal reasserted its control

  • In 1974, Portugal sought to establish a provisional government and a popular assembly that would determine the status of East Timor.

    • Instead, civil war broke out between those favoring independence and those wanting integration with Indonesia

    • Unable to control the situation, Portugal withdrew and Indonesia intervened militarily

East timor1
East Timor

  • Indonesia integrated East Timor as its 27th province in 1976 and waged an unsuccessful campaign to pacify the population, during which some 100,000 to 250,000 individuals were killed

  • The United Nations never recognized this integration, and both the Security Council and the General Assembly called for Indonesia’s withdrawal

East timor2
East Timor

  • In 1999, Indonesia allowed East Timor to vote on whether it preferred autonomy within Indonesia or independence

  • 78% of East Timor’s residents voted for independence, but rather than allowing a peaceful transition, pro-integration militias and Indonesian security forces instituted a reign of terror

    • Over 1,000 people were killed and between 300,000 and 500,000 were forced from their homes

  • In the violence, the majority of the country’s infrastructure and nearly all its electrical grid were destroyed

East timor3
East Timor

  • International condemnation of Indonesia’s actions was followed on September 12 by Indonesia’s decision to accept an offer by Australia to lead an international effort to restore peace

  • This effort became known as International Force East Timor (INTERFET)

  • By late September Indonesian forces had been replaced and order reestablished

East timor4
East Timor

  • In October 1999, the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) deployed to East Timor to replace INTERFRET

  • On May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state.

  • However a military strike and near collapse of law and order broke out in April 2006

    • Timor-Leste requested another Australian-led contingent, the International Stabilization Force (ISF), deploy to restore peace in late May.

  • In August, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was established and began the replacement of ISF soldiers with UN police officers

East timor5
East Timor

  • Timor-Leste held presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 amid in a largely peaceful atmosphere and has been able to sustain operations with the support and assistance of UNMIT and international donors

  • However, security remains a critical problem

    • There was an assassination attempt on President Jose Ramos-Horta in February 2008 by a renegade soldier

    • The prime minister’s motorcade was also ambushed but Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão escaped unharmed

  • Though not without its problems, the international intervention in East Timor is considered a relative success.


  • Ethnic Albanians comprised about 14% of Serbia’s population

    • Most of the Albanians lived in the province of Kosovo

  • Throughout the 1990s, Serbian military and police forces battled the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA or UCK)

  • By 1998, the Serbs had embarked on a campaign to systematically cleanse Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian population

Camp Stenkovich II in Macedonia held approximately 20,000 refugees.


  • Diplomatic efforts centering around talks at Rambouillet, France broke down thanks to Serb intransigence

  • On March 24, 1999, NATO initiated Operation Allied Force in order to

    • Stop the Serb offensive in Kosovo,

    • Force a withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo,

    • Allow democratic self-government in Kosovo,

    • Allow a NATO-led international peacekeeping force into Kosovo, and

    • Allow the safe and peaceful return of Kosovar Albanian refugees.


  • Still the West was unwilling to commit ground troops and Operation Allied Force was entirely an air campaign

    • An Army aviation task force was positioned in Albania but not used because of numerous difficulties

    • In one sense the KLA served as allied the ground force

F-16s at Aviano Air Base, Italy preparing to launch in support of Operation Allied Force


  • On June 9, 1999, Serbia agreed to a Military Technical Agreement that ended the 11-week war

  • On June 12, KFOR entered Kosovo under the authority of UN Security Resolution 1244

  • Ironically, upon entering Kosovo, one of KFOR’s main duties was protecting the Serb minority


  • Kosovo remains a difficult international problem

    • Kosovar Albanians overwhelmingly support Kosovo independence while the Serb minority in Kosovo and Serbian officials in Belgrade oppose it

  • On February 12, 2002 former Serbian President Milosevic went on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

    • He died in 2006 before a verdict was reached

  • Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008


  • From an international law perspective, OAF got mixed reviews

    • It violated traditional principles of nonintervention and nonaggression

    • It could set a precedent for using military force for humanitarian reasons

    • It represented the use of force by a regional organization (NATO) without UN Security Council authorization

The legitimacy of intervention
The Legitimacy of Intervention

  • “Is there some threshold at which human rights violations become unacceptable and a state’s sovereignty no longer precludes intervention? Is it the 500th slain ethnic citizen or the next refugee after 10,000 have been forced to leave home that triggers intervention or makes it legitimate?”

    • Robert Tomes

Holocaust victims in a mass grave

Rwanda bosnia haiti east timor and kosovo
Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor, and Kosovo

  • What are the common themes that emerge from these case studies?

  • What is the most important requirement in correcting the situations?

  • What are the capabilities and limitations of the UN?

  • Why should we care about any of these situations?

Practical exercise
Practical Exercise

  • China militarily seized Tibet in 1951

  • Tibet’s former ruler and spiritual leader of the Buddhist religion, the Dalai Lama, leads a government in exile in India

  • From time to time tensions between Tibet’s government in exile and China’s Communist Party have boiled over into protests or fighting

Practical exercise1
Practical Exercise

  • Hypothetical Situation

    • Violence erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa after Chinese military forces conducted a brutal crackdown against Tibetan dissidents who China accused of murdering several ethnic Chinese

    • The Tibetan government in exile claims over 900 Tibetans were killed

    • An estimated 4,000 Tibetans have fled to Nepal were violence has also broken out with Nepali authorities and the Tibetans have gathered in makeshift refugee camps outside of Katmandu and demanded assistance from the UN

Practical exercise2
Practical Exercise

  • Role play

    • UN

    • China

    • Tibetan government-in-exile

    • Nepal

    • US

    • India

Humanitarian interventions and ethnic conflicts 1263201

  • Final Exam Review