Letter: History also says military intervention can work

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BRIAN CATHCART is without doubt right when he tells us that armed intervention is 'never a tidy business'. War by its very nature is not a tidy business. The emotions it stirs up and the confusion it creates see to this. Messier still is any war justified as humanitarian intervention: the seeming contradiction of advocating extreme violence as a means of preserving human life and dignity throws up enormously complex moral and practical dilemmas.

What is not quite so clear is the value that we are to place on such a statement. Arguments that humanitarian intervention has in the past not been successful or that it possesses potential for abuse lend nothing to this debate. We should be aware of its past misuse but there is nothing inherently wrong in the practice of such intervention. Its success or failure is simply a question of political will. I tend to agree with Professor Lauterpacht, the international legal scholar, who said that 'ultimately peace is more endangered by tyrannical contempt for human rights than by attempts to assert, through intervention, the sanctity of human personality'.

Jonathan Prentice