Some thoughts on my readings for my International Ethics class. A case that was given to support just war was that of the Rwandan genocide. Genocide is an unthinkably evil act, and one that we should have a moral duty to prevent whenever possible. But does the prevention of genocide by one government justify military action? If we take "objectional moral actions" as just cause for war, then any conflict in history can arguably be justified by defence of the moral values of the aggressor. Yet at the same time, can we allow genocide to be carried out simply because the perpetrators occupy or even work for a different state to our own?
War in my view can never be jusified. So how to treat cases of genocide as in Rwanda? My answer would be to treat the perpetrators not as a state that may be invaded, but as criminals that must be stopped. UN peacekeeping forces should act not as soldiers but as the global policemen that they are intended to be, with the world as their jurisdiction. If murder is commited and the government in jurisdiction is unable or unwilling to bring the murderer to justice and prevent further crimes, then the UN must step in to protect the global citizens at risk. This intervention should not be military in nature but instead protective, seeking not to remove a genocidal government (and so engage in a protracted war with the intent of killing or disabling any supporters of the regime) but instead simply to stop the individuals concerned, as policemen do within their own jurisdictions. And just like policemen, if the UN peacekeepers encounter opposition to their attempts at preventing this genocide, and all other options are exhausted, then they may have to resort to lethal measures. These deaths however must be incidental, unavoidable and unfortunate, never a primary goal of the mission.
Those who commit genocide are killers, and those who try to stop them need not be engaging in war. Humanitarian intervention does not justify war against a government, only justice against a group or individuals.