Guarini Institute Presents: 20 Years of Humanitarian Intervention

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On October 15th 2012 the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs was honored to host a discussion on the last 20 years of humanitarian intervention. The conference took place in the Aula Magna. The event was well attended, with many professors from John Cabot University, as well as many other scholars and practitioners interested in Humanitarian Aid and related fields present. Due to the multicultural composition of both the panel and the audience the discussion was conducted in Italian and simultaneously translated into English.

General Vincenzo Camporini began the discussion by raising the utility of coordinating the parallel use of politics and the military. He made a poignant point on the evolution of military intervention, stating that traditional objectives such as controlling a port or sacking a capital are secondary to policy goals during humanitarian interventions. In light of this change, General Camporini stressed the importance of reciprocal communication between policy makers and the military so intentions and implications of military interventions are well understood by both entities.

Andrea Angeli followed General Camporini by putting forth the idea that peacekeeping efforts should be kept to the shortest possible timetable due to the fact that it is impossible to train combat troops to be completely culturally sensitive. Angeli believes that a continued presence of foreign troops can only lead to resentment in the host country.

Veronica Colombo stressed the importance of collecting first hand knowledge before considering any form of intervention. She cited the Muslim Brotherhood and their attempts at what she termed “Humanitarian Jihad”. Their strategic use of diction resorted to indigenous knowledge, and was also appealing to international tastes. In Arabic there is no concept of “Freedom” besides being the opposite of slavery. In western countries freedom is a long held and popular cultural icon that has many more association than simply the opposite of slavery. By running their campaigns under the slogan of freedom, the Muslim Brotherhood gained western acceptance while simultaneously appealing to local sentiments that the populace had long been treated as slaves by their government. Sourcing local knowledge made their “Humanitarian Jihad” much more effective.

Guido Rampoldi rounded out the conversation by discussing the complexity of war and the media’s role in singling out what is communicated to the rest of the world. Rampoldi suggested that coverage of war is rarely accurate and always slanted one way or another. He followed his comments on the media by talking of Kosovo and how Western powers had stamped their identity on the conflict. He suggested that Western powers hold their liberal-democratic ideals so close that they inflict them on other countries without regard to their effects on the host country.

The conference was concluded with a stimulating question and answer session and light refreshments.