International eyes

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There was a time when individuals and nations were expected to act in a civilized manner while still maintaining their own “sovereignty”. It was when people and states attempted to force their ideas on others and take action to impose their beliefs that steps were taken against them.

Nazi Germany is an example. Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Brutal suppression of political opposition continued unabated and was of little European or global concern until the annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland in 1938. Even then, it took an armed invasion of Poland to bring the Europeans to declare war.

The question then was, at what point should the world have intervened to stop Hitler’s Germany? Maybe the bigger question is, at what point did the world have the right and justification to intervene?

Between 1975 and 1979, an estimated 25 percent of the population (around 2 million) of Cambodia was killed under the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. Documents reveal that the US government—and by extension Europe and the United Nations—had detailed knowledge about the carnage. However, the US and the UN took no steps to end the crimes that were still under way.

Under the UN banner, military “peacekeeping” missions have been conducted on nearly 100 occasions since then. Many, if not most, were made under the support of a UN resolution, not at the request of the nations involved. During the Rwandan Civil War in 1990, the UN sent a military force of about 3,000 under several UN resolutions.

An argument can be made about international intervention in a nation’s internal affairs because of “alarm at reports of systematic, widespread and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law” that “constitutes a crime punishable under international law”.

Yet, this all goes directly against the UN’s own reasons for existing. The UN Charter sets out the following purposes: maintaining worldwide peace and security; developing relations among nations in order to solve economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian international problems; and providing a forum for bringing countries together to meet the UN’s goals.

There is no permanent legal basis for an intervention by an international force in a nation’s domestic affairs, whether the US-led UN action in Korea in the 1950s or the US-led Southeast Asia Treaty Organization intervention in Vietnam. It is all “made up as we go along”. To this list we can include the 2003 US invasion of Iraq (not the response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait), helping the opposition overthrow Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and the current involvement in Syria.

The Vice President recently commented on the government’s drug-enforcement policies and implementation to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs saying: “To know that the international community’s eyes are on us…gives us comfort, courage and hope.”

Where were the “international community’s eyes” when China invaded and occupied Panatag Shoal? That is what the United Nations was created to do. Where is the UN statement on the latest developments?

The internal political situation in South Africa is in chaos with opposition calls for the removal of President Jacob Zuma for corruption, abuse of office and human-rights abuses. Yet, the opposition parties know they are not in a position to take power democratically, so the only choice they have is to destabilize the situation in the country through widespread and increasingly violent protests.

Recent history has given us many examples of “international eyes” on a nation’s domestic issues turning into “boots on the ground”. The days of “mind your own business” may be gone. The line between national sovereignty and international interference is becoming increasingly blurred.