| Head to Head is Al Jazeera’s new forum of ideas - a gladiatorial contest tackling big issues such as faith, the economic crisis, democracy and intervention in front of an opinionated audience at the Oxford Union.
From Bosnia in 1994 to Syria today, via Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, is western military intervention ever justified?
In this episode of Head to Head at the Oxford Union, Mehdi Hasan challenges one of the world’s most renowned public intellectuals, Bernard-Henri Levy, on the rights and wrongs of liberal intervention, and the difference between humanitarian concerns and the pursuit of special interests.
Levy is France’s most famous philosopher, a journalist and bestselling author of more than 30 books, with Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism being his most recent book. He is the founder of the New Philosophers' movement and a leading thinker on humanitarian intervention.
The attack plans are ready. Everyone knows it will not take much to deal the regime a death blow. All we need is a pilot.
Levy has undertaken important missions for the French government in the world's most troubled areas and was famously instrumental in getting NATO to act quickly and decisively in Libya. He now wants the same to be done in Syria: “Bashar al-Assad is a paper tiger because he’s weak, therefore it is doable,” argues Levy, “We cannot let the blood bath go on like this!”
“When I hear liberal interventionists make this case it always seem to be either we bomb or we do nothing,” replies Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan. “Is there no middle ground? Is there no coercive diplomacy?”
Joining this discussion are: Dr Rama Mani, an expert on peace, justice and human security and a senior research associate of the University of Oxford’s Centre for International Studies, she has also co-authored a book on Responsibility to Protect: Cultural Perspectives from the global South and has formed part of peace-building missions across Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan; Peter Oborne, a broadcaster who has made documentaries on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a political commentator for The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph , the author of The Rise of Political Lying, And A moral Duty to Act amongst others; and Salma Yaqoob, a former leader of the Respect Party, a socialist political party in the UK, and one of the founders of the Stop the War Coalition , she is also a critic of indiscriminate liberal interventionism.