The Duck of Minerva

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Syria and Presidential Debate Bingo

October 15, 2012

Greetings, Duck Followers.  I’m Amanda – assistant professor at Mizzou, avid hiker, crazy sci-fi romance novel reader, and pretty competent mother.  I’m excited to be a new “duckling” on the block.  On the eve of the next US presidential debate, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the dire human rights situation in Syria will be mentioned.  I’ll also bet that neither candidate will say definitively that a humanitarian military intervention is needed.

But, in line with my research and that of my colleagues, some forms of military intervention – especially intervention with a stated humanitarian purpose and that against the perpetrator of the abuses- could really help the extremely dire human rights situation in Syria.  Other interventions, however, could exasperate human rights problems.  David R. Davis  and I have made the case that only peacekeeping operations with a stated humanitarian goal will improve human rights after civil war – some other forms of peacekeeping actually lead to a decrease in human rights…. But, that’s after the conflict. What about during the conflict/genocide/craziness?

The research on mass killings indicates that some interventions can help save lives. For example, Matt Krain finds that foreign military interventions that were against the perpetrator or for the target lessened the severity of existing genocides.  Reed Wood  and Jacob Kathman also find that impartial intervention helps stop killings in the long term.  Jackie DeMeritt finds in a forthcoming JCR piece that supportive interventions stop killings before they start but that interventions in opposition to the government can thwart an existing mass civilian killing.

Looking beyond mass killings, however, Dursun Peksen of the University of Memphis has a new piece that concludes that military interventions actually lead to increases in some human rights abuses.  So, even though some interventions may stop the worst-of-the-worst of the mass killings and genocides or aid in post-conflict situations, they are not without their costs, even for the populations they are intended to help.

Anyway, I’m putting all of these articles on my Presidential Debate Bingo card….Hope they come up!

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Amanda Murdie is Professor & Dean Rusk Scholar of International Relations in the Department of International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs (Stanford, 2014). Her main research interests include non-state actors, and human rights and human security.

When not blogging, Amanda enjoys hanging out with her two pre-teen daughters (as long as she can keep them away from their cell phones) and her fabulous significant other.