Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Humanitarian Invasion - An Abuse of Power?

Having read Ranciere’s “Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man?” multiple times now, I find that fully comprehending the ideas and assertions of the essay is rather complex and confusing. Personally, I was completely hung up on the statement which Ranciere uses (albeit halfway through his essay) as the foundation for his arguments: “the Rights of Man are the rights of those who have not the rights that they have and have the rights they have not” (5). What? I had hoped that class today would clarify this but it seems to have baffled the majority of us. Ranciere explains that according to Arendt, rights are “Either a void or a tautology” (5). However, he believes there is a third assumption which is ignored in Arendt’s arguments and that is what brings us to the previously stated and extremely complicated sentence. Essentially, what comes out of his musings are two things: first, that rights are written inscriptions for society, and second that they are the rights of those who use and verify the validity of their rights.

Since Andrea already posted a very thorough blog on the arguments of Ranciere, I’d like to focus on the conclusion that Ranciere draws from his new third assumption. He traces the progression of the Rights of Man from being the rights of those with certain civic rights to becoming Human Rights and eventually the new right to “humanitarian interference.” By his account, Rights of Man were essentially the “rights of the rightless” (1), which lead to the obligation of society to uphold those rights for them. In modern, western society, humanitarian aide is generally considered one of the highest goods a person or nation can do. However, Ranciere uses curiously negative language in his description of this phenomenon and I wonder what he may be implying when he describes the right to humanitarian interference as “the right to invasion” (1)?

Historically, many wars have occurred over what seems to be Human Rights. World War II is best remembered for victory over Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The War in Iraq is said to have began in order to free the Iraqis from their tyrannical leader. The Civil War is remembered best as the war in which the Yankees freed the slaves. However, is this really why the wars began or have we simply started using this new right to humanitarian interference as an excuse for personal gain? In my opinion, nations have abused this new right as both an excuse to conquer and a way to rally its subjects. It seems that as a nation, we only act when we are either provoked or it is to our advantage. Because of this, defending the rights of the rightless has become the byproduct of something much less noble – invasion.


Anonymous said...

I think after hearing the explination in class and thinking aobut it more it does make sense. It took me many times reading the senence over and over thinking it through to feel satisfied with my general understanding. I think ultimatley Ranciere is playing with the language in this sense because it fits the same confusion when discussion civil rights corresponding with human rights, and vice versa. Both are very confusing but when thouroughly anaylized they both become more clear.
"rights are inscription for society, and second that they are the rights of those who use and verify the validity of their rights." I would have to agree with this statement because the rights that are spoken of are not really anything enforced lawfully rather they are just more of moral standards to live by.
I also agree with the final discussion about wars using the idea of human rights to justify their reasoning. Almost every ware has been battled over economical, religious, or political. Policitcal in the sense of gaining power. There always just happens to be some sort of human right issue in the mix that people find a reason to fight for that makes sense.
I think overall Rannciere's arguments are those of value and make very good points.

Andrea said...

Personally, I do think that in some cases it is necessary for a nation to step into another country’s business for the sake of human rights. Although the War in Iraq has proven to be more of a humanitarian interference for personal gain than some of the other examples, I’d have to disagree and say that the Holocaust was a pretty solid reason to begin WWII. Sometimes it’s worse to sit back while a country is doing something as terrible as not only stripping people of their rights but also killing millions in a genocide. What would current Germany be like if no one had stepped in to stop the massacre? Even worse, how would it have affected the rest of the world? The Nazis were a powerful force and it was almost an obligation for other nations to invade before they took over other governments.

Anonymous said...

You leave us with a very good question Melanie! I specifically like the part where you mention humanitarian interference as an excuse for personal gain, I have never thought of it this way. Are we really concerned with the rights of people or are we trying to show we are strong and fighting back for what happened on 9/11?

I agree that nations have abused this right, but we also must realize that humanitarian interference is not only war. Humanitarian interference is also exactly what I want to do when Im older, which is to become a traveling doctor and "interfere" with other nations healthcare and improve on it. I guess this could be considered as "defending the rights of the rightless" in terms of defending the healthcare of people who don't have a complex enough government to provide adequate healthcare to their nation (not that theyre exactly "rightless" but maybe "right deprived")

Jane Tsui said...

I agree with what most people here said. A lot of people and nations have used the excuse of fighting for the rightless as an excuse, but it’s important to not let this reaction be the only or default reaction, or we’re going to be just as guilty of wrongdoing. And there’s also the possibility of the rightless abusing their status as rightless to gain sympathy and thus power, although that would be very difficult to accomplish with how self-centered the majority of people (unconsciously) are today. Or we could truly want to fight to protect the rightess yet unintentionally yearning personal gain. There are many ways to twist a question like this and its answers.

Carolina said...

I believe that what Ranciere meant exactly that with his comment, "the right to invasion" (1). No war has not begun where the people that are so called helping the needy do not benefit from the help. The "humanitarian interface" is a cover up to make it seem as if you are doing a deed for those who need it. At least countries have the decency to help before receiving what they actually went to gain. What I do not understand is why would Ranciere make these claims if he was going to code them in a way that you would have to decipher the true meaning of his words. My only concern is that this so call help will become a never ending cycle since it has been going for sometime now. I wonder how badly this so called "humanitarian interface" will turn out.