UA Historian Debates at Oxford Union on Humanitarian Intervention

May 30, 2019

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UA historian David Gibbs (at left) debated Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, at Oxford Union on March 4, 2019, about humanitarian intervention.
Photo courtesy of Oxford Union UA historian David Gibbs (at left) debated Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, at Oxford Union on March 4, 2019, about humanitarian intervention.

 

This spring, David N. Gibbs, professor of history at the University of Arizona, participated in a debate at the Oxford Union at Oxford University.

The Oxford Union, the world's most prestigious debating society, has hosted debates with international experts since 1823.

The topic of the debate, which took place on March 4, 2019, was "Humanitarian Intervention: A Contradiction in Terms?" Gibbs debated Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, and co-author of the United States Patriot Act.

Gibbs, who wrote the acclaimed book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, argued in favor of the proposition, and Chertoff argued against it.

"Humanitarian Intervention: A Contradiction in Terms?"

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David N. Gibbs
Photo courtesy of Oxford Union UA historian David N. Gibbs wrote the book "First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia.”

Global inaction has been criticized for exacerbating humanitarian crises, with the atrocities committed in Rwanda continuing to weigh on the conscience of the international community. However, in light of recent failures in foreign intervention, including Iraq and Libya, the West has had a crisis of confidence in its ability to meet its “Responsibility to Protect.”

From the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, to the man-made famine in war-torn Yemen, to Assad’s re-consolidation of power in Syria, the international community faces a reckoning with what it means to pursue humanitarian aims in foreign policy. Faced with these dilemmas, should intervention continue to be seen as the appropriate solution for humanitarian crises? Or are the long-term results produced worse than the consequences of inaction?

Watch the debate "Humanitarian Intervention: A Contradiction in Terms?"

Debate description from Oxford Union