“Pacifism is a very good idea; unfortunately, it doesn’t work,” insists Bernard Kouchner, the former French foreign minister, co-founder of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and staunch advocate of humanitarian intervention.
It is better to save one life than not to do anything.
But can a military campaign ever be strictly humanitarian? Or is the defence of human rights just a facade for imperialist agendas?
In this episode of Head to Head, Mehdi Hasan challenges Kouchner on Western involvement in conflicts such as Mali, Libya, Kosovo and Rwanda, and asks whether France’s recent interventions mark a return to its colonial past.
In the middle of a heated exchange and when pressed by Mehdi Hasan, Bernard Kouchner agreed in part that France should apologise for its role in the Rwandan genocide. This is the first time a senior French official, and former member of the government, has made such a public admission.
Kouchner is one of the architects of the concept of the right to interfere. On the ground in Rwanda and Kosovo, the French doctor has always argued that the West has a responsibility to protect human life, regardless of international borders.
Joining the discussion are Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and former editor of the Socialist Review; Barak Seener, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London and founder of Strategic Intelligentia, a humanitarian and security consultancy firm; and Hamza Hamouchene, campaigner, activist and president of the Algerian Solidarity Campaign.
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