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News Features  


 

Goodness and ugliness of altruistic impulse

One redeeming feature in this growing altruism - though abused at certain instances - is the enhanced attention and respect that nations are compelled to extend towards democratic ideals and human rights. The present trend tends to check the undemocratic and dictatorial designs of leaders in certain countries

By Milinda Rajasekera
Dictatorial manner in which Sadam Hussein ruled Iraq that provided the United States and other western nations with reasons to interfere

Among the subjects of intense debate in the national and international political arenas today is the right or the propriety of a country or a group of countries to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. This subject has come to the fore because of the increasing tendency for countries to show interest in what goes on in other countries – neighbouring or otherwise - in the global community.
While some countries show this interest in subtle, indirect and diplomatic ways, others are direct and blatant in their intervention and interference in internal affairs of countries outside theirs. True, the UN Charter and various covenants and resolutions adopted by the world body permit UN agencies to intervene in situations where basic human rights of citizens are brazenly violated in member nations. But there are limitations and checks that restrict such interventions in internal affairs of sovereign nations. The history of such interventions, however, shows that interested nations have ignored or overcome these restrictions and proceeded to execute their plans and programmes, designed, more often than not, to promote their selfish interests.
Interference
Reasons or excuses for such interference are many. One outstanding reason is the growing global concern about violation of human rights and exponential eagerness for promotion of ideals of democracy. Some countries are prompted to intervene in domestic matters of neighbouring countries on the excuse that upheavals in those countries constitute a threat or a danger to the stability of the intervening country. India’s interest in our country’s internal affairs is a clear example.
There are also some countries and organisations that are genuinely concerned about abuse of human rights. They think that they are duty-bound to raise objections and do whatever possible to avert such abuses and to provide relief to victims of such violations.
Whatever the reasons, selfish or altruistic, it would appear that, as in all other activities, in this matter too, the strongest impulses that drive some nations to unfair and unethical action arise from frailties inherent in human nature such as selfishness, egoism, cruelty and duplicity. Selfishness mixed with egoism makes persons think that all that they own, value and subscribe to - such as country, language, religion, concepts and ideals - are incomparably superior to those of others. Similarly, nations also, not only have such thoughts, but endeavour to propagate and promote, or foist theirs on other nations.
Human rights
Cruelty is a vice that is universally abhorred and condemned, but is often committed nevertheless, particularly in pursuance of self-interest or self-preservation. The practice of duplicity or double standards is clearly observable in the commission of acts of cruelty. Acts of cruelty when committed by one nation regarded as good and acceptable while similar acts become bad and contemptible when committed by another nation. They turn blind eyes to injustices and violation of basic human rights occurring within their boundaries, but their eyes and ears are wide open to such things happening in other countries.
Whatever the provocations, reasons or excuses, and whoever the parties responsible, the fact remains that armed conflict is abominable and synonymous with brutality and cruelty that involves killing and maiming of people and destruction of property. Attempts are often made to justify armed clashes on the ground of provocation or self-defence. These arguments are considered acceptable legally, but not morally since they lead to destruction. No war could be devoid of crime.
Reasons to interfere
Evidently, it is internal disorder, disunity and maladministration in countries that generally lend provocations, reasons and excuses for outside nations to meddle with domestic affairs of another country. In recent history, it was the dictatorial manner in which Sadam Hussein ruled Iraq that provided the United States and other western nations with reasons to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Many excuses were found for military intervention and finally Sadam Hussein was executed, the commitment to UN Charter requirement to regard sanctity of human life as inviolable, notwithstanding.
The current operation launched by NATO to save civilian lives in Libya has ironically led to extensive destruction of life and property.
The remedy for this deplorable situation appears to lie in individual nations honestly committing themselves to the conduct of their administrations in strict conformity with concepts of good governance. Good governance obviously means genuine respect for democratic ideals, rule of law, human rights and other features that promote peace and harmony in society. This indeed is a tall order to be followed in countries with acute problems mainly arising from historical reasons including spells of foreign rule that have robbed nations of their indigenous values and ideals.
One redeeming feature in this growing altruism - though abused at certain instances - is the enhanced attention and respect that nations are compelled to extend towards democratic ideals and human rights. The present trend tends to check the undemocratic and dictatorial designs of leaders in certain countries. Such leaders are compelled to be alive and alert to the upsurge of popular wrath against autocratic regimes that is taking place around the world today.