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Fabio Massimo PARENTI: “Humanitarian Fundamentalism”: Implications and Contradictions in IRs
September 12,2019   By:
“Humanitarian Fundamentalism”: Implications and Contradictions in IRs
 
Fabio Massimo PARENTI
 
Italy
 
Abstract: “Humanitarian” wars and media campaigns to support them have shaped international relations during the last decades. They have been manifestations of Western HRs doctrine application, which in turn presupposes the primacy of “individual rights” on “collective rights”, as well as the primacy of a new “universalistic criterion” over the “particularistic principles” regulating IRs legal framework - State sovereignty respect. We can call “humanitarian fundamentalism” this one-sided perspective. 
 
This HRs doctrine is embedded in Western liberal tradition, does not include the respect of other set of rights (common/collective rights) and is in blatant contradictions with the main principles regulating IRs, theoretically and practically. Universalistic principle, HRs, based on individual rights, are in contradiction with the particularistic functioning and view of the international order and law. The latter is based on theoretical equality between nation states, on nation-state self-determination, on respect of nation-state independence and territorial integrity. At the same time, it is practically hierarchical, considering the different weight of Security Council countries, permanent and not permanent. In other words, according to the empirical trends, few countries that forged the UNs order and its legal bases have been working against it since 1990s.
 
In this paper, I firstly review Zolo’s contribution in identifying these contradictions. Secondly, I will look at the valuable efforts of Chinese scholars to develop a systematic HRs socialist theory based on historical changes and peculiarities of societies. In this Marxist-inspired understanding of HRs, it seems to be there a space for combining “common/collective” and “particular/individual” values attached to peoples’ historical needs. China, with other countries, contested this humanitarian ideology, functional to impose the will of few on the majority (see for example UN conference on HRs in Vienna 1993). In this respect, it is interesting to note the efforts of Chinese scholars to elaborate a socialist HRs theory-coherently with the Chinese history, development and reforms-focused on socio-economic development, poverty eradication and sovereignty respect.
 
Finally, I will provide empirical evidences to demonstrate the Western abuse of HRs doctrine (principles) in its fight against “terrorism” (the new enemy) for geopolitical goals (perpetrating the US-driven system). In other words, the West uses a universalistic narrative of HRs to fulfil specific goals of domination, as in the cases of Western wars and campaigns against Iraq, Libya and Syria. 
 
Zolo states that, “humanitarian wars contradicts all the HRs principles… condemning thousands of people to death in the name of universalistic values”. In other words, we are before a pretext to fulfil a project of domination, not new in the western modern tradition. 
 
Chinese Dictionary:

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