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From the “Right to Intervene” to the “Responsibility to Protect”:Western Humanitarian Intervention from the Perspective of Discursive Power

Author: Chen Xiaoding and Wang YaqiSilver Editor Source: Contemporary Asia Pacific StudiesTime :2014-09-26 15:10:00

Abstract: In the Post-Cold War period, under the leadership of the United States, Western states have constructed two narratives of humanitarian intervention: “the right to intervene” and “the responsibility to protect,” and have engaged in an ongoing process of developing theoretical support to strengthen the legitimacy of these narratives.This has resulted in a major shock to the international order.By analyzing the connection between the logic of these narratives and ultimate acts of intervention, this article considers the cases of Western intervention in Iraq and Libya.By closely following the flow of logic from agents to context, to channels, to the way in which the narrative is recognized, it deconstructs Western discourses of humanitarian intervention.The article argues that so-called humanitarian interventions are often advanced by narratives constructed by interest driven actors, and do not have their roots in response to authentic humanitarian crises.Such interventions not only depart from the fundamental objectives of “defending human rights,” but in many cases actually cause even greater humanitarian crises.As a rising great power, China should breakdown Western monopolies over discourse: it should shift away from passive response towards active molding of narratives; it should use a plurality of channels to construct high quality discourse, and strengthen recognition of China’s own humanitarian discourse.At the same time, China should also leverage the United Nations as a legitimate platform for discourse, and become involved in shaping international norms with respect to humanitarian intervention both through constructing new narratives and through its practical involvement.This will enable China to enhance its influence over international discourse.