Morality of intervention By Bernard Kouchner - Saturday 26th March 2011

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COULD we leave Col Qadhafi`s victims to die in full view of our TV cameras? I think not. It is quite understandable that the UN`s courageous decision to resort to force in Libya should upset our pacifist conscience. Instigated by the UK and France, and backed by the US and other countries, this decision, though necessary, raises major moral and political questions about European integration.
The moral issues relate to the use of violence by states. The question of a just war, which has bothered us since antiquity, may well be addressed with theoretical discourse and historical references, but it remains a source of hesitation and uncertainty that we cannot simply dismiss. These moral uncertainties obviously have a political impact. This is perhaps because European integration is far from complete. The Libyan crisis highlights the need for the EU to grow stronger and gain greater coherence, in keeping with the promise of the Lisbon treaty.
Cultural and economic cooperation between European countries has become commonplace. Indeed much has been achieved in these fields, as the people of Europe can judge. Though such cooperation clearly needs to go further, we may easily grasp its meaning and its method. But in matters of defence, our understanding of the European project is confused, even contradictory. This is, of course, due to the difficulty of convincing states with divergent traditions, historic wounds and ambitions to move forward together. But it is due to the European project itself.
Initiated in response to two world wars, this project derives its legitimacy from its guarantee of peace. How then can it be allowed to lend itself to an outbreak of violence? I see these theoretical difficulties as a good sign, provided they can be overcome and do not lead to deadlock: we all know there could be nothing worse than a warmongering Europe … except perhaps a powerless Europe. So our difficult but necessary task is to steer a middle course.
French doctors found a solution to this conflict. They started venturing across forbidden borders to treat the injured and sick of all communities, and from this eventually sprang Medecins Sans Frontieres. We must confront the need for debate and develop more efficient and responsive tools. Above all, Europe must define a doctrine to guide us through the contrary currents of European diplomacy, which are torn between universalism and isolation.
After several UN resolutions authorising the use of force to protect civilian populations — which at the time I defined as the international community`s right of interference in the domestic affairs of a state — the UN approved, with a unanimous vote by all its members in 2005, the responsibility to protect civilians, over and above borders and sovereignty. After Sarajevo, Kosovo and the conflicts in the Balkans, after Sierra Leone and Guinea, this framework allowed us to intervene over Libya. We should see the Franco-British initiative, subsequently backed by the US, and leading to resolution 1973, as part of this framework.
Fortunately, the UN, the African Union and the Arab League are here to provide us with a legal framework. — The Guardian, London
The writer is former French foreign secretary, UN special representative for Kosovo and co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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