Seton Hall Faculty Offer Perspectives on Foreign Intervention
Sunday, October 27, 2013 • 4:44pm
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Four Seton Hall University faculty experts examined the merits and difficulties of foreign intervention from political, legal, religious and philosophical points at a recent panel discussion on campus.
“The question we want to discuss this afternoon is how and when should a nation intervene militarily in another country’s internal affairs,” Dr. Ki Joo Cho, of the religious studies department, said.
He also said that it is important to ask these questions because the answer helps reveal to the international community how the world population views itself in terms of equality.
Choi introduced the audience to the concepts of proportionality and discrimination, explaining that the least amount of force possible should be used in a military intervention and that the safety of civilians should always be on top of an invading country’s list of priorities.
He also said these concepts tied into the larger theory of just war and how they affect the innocent people living in a country about to be invaded.
“The just war theory is not simply a grocery list of things to check off when we go to war,” he said. “Proportionality and discrimination do not justify minimal effort on the part of an intervening force that results in endangering civilians.”
Dr. Elizabeth Wilson, a former Washington, D.C., lawyer who teaches in the School of Diplomacy, focused on the legal aspect of foreign intervention. She emphasized the need to prevent human rights violations, whether the United Nations Security Council approves intervention or not.
“The Security Council often fails to approve military intervention when it is needed the most to prevent human rights violations,” she said. “There is emerging customary law in favor of humanitarian intervention that falls outside the Security Council charter.”
Wilson also noted, however, that though human rights violations area fact of life in much of the world, stopping them need not require all-out invasion. Rather, she said, it is simply a matter of recognizing and admitting that there is a situation before it erupts into violence.
“When it comes to attracting the attention of the news media and the international community, there is still the argument that violence works,” she said. “Protesters have been given the message that nonviolence doesn’t work. We have to eliminate these incentives to violent protests and against nonviolence. In looking for early warning signals, the international community needs to pay more attentions to nonviolent protests.”
Monsignor Joseph Reilly, dean of Seton Hall’s theology school, outlined what is known in the Catholic Church as “fraternal correction," and how to implement it in a public setting.
He explained that before interjecting themselves into another country’s affairs, leaders must ask a number of questions including whether an action truly violates human rights and whether any other nation is likely to intervene on the behalf of the victims.
“If we can answer yes to all of these questions, maybe we should intervene,” he said. “The point is, there are other frameworks that might be useful other than the just war theory.”
The last speaker of the afternoon was Dr. Vicente Medina, from the philosophy department.
Medina tasked the audience with asking themselves what the difference is between at terrorist and a freedom fighter.
“Freedom fighters are combatting on behalf of certain ideals, and acting according to their principals,” he said. “But so are terrorists. Who actually decides who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter?”
The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.