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How should we seek to determine what to do in relation to the human rights violations committed by the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant?

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This is an undergraduate essays that uses the normative theoretical approach in order to better determine how the US led coalition should intervene against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It first compares several forms of political
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  B035423 How should we seek to determine what to do in relation to the human rights violations committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant? B035423 Words: 2991  B035423 A report from the United Nations (UN) human rights council indicated that 'the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is perpetrating serious human rights violations in areas which are under its de facto control; including torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, and extrajudicial killings' (UN Human Rights Council, 2015, p.25).   This has moral implications that cannot be solved by only using empirical data, thus needing a normative approach (political philosophy), which is 'associated with systematic rigour, narrowness of focus, and an emphasis on the importance of reason' (McDermott, 2008, p.11).   International actors are constrained by limited options, and must take the cost and benefit of intervening in the conflict into consideration. The options are either military intervention, economic intervention or humanitarian aid. Unintended consequences of intervention must also be considered because militias operating under Iraqi government control have also committed human rights violations (UN Human Rights Council, 2015, p.25). Intervention against ISIL could leave a power vacuum that might allow these predominately Shiite militias to freely commit war crimes. The essay will discuss the moral theoretical framework that should be employed to best determine how to tackle ISIL, rather than to give a concrete solution. Reflective equilibrium shall be employed, in order to reflect and revise ones beliefs and judgements (Daniels, 2013), because the nature of the conflict against ISIL is trickled with unintended consequences, that would render a more consequentialist approach unjust. The essay will begin by giving background information regarding the conflict with ISIL, and then it will introduce reflective equilibrium as the theoretical framework that should be used. Other theoretical approaches like consequentialism shall  be discussed. Finally, using reflective equilibrium, the possible options of intervention will be discussed. At this point we shall determine that humanitarian aid is the most justified. The present strategy of the US led coalition (the coalition fighting ISIL) has been to conduct  B035423 targeted air strikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (US Department of Defense, 2015); this is referred to as Operation Inherent Resolve. The US led coalition shall be referred to as the coalition. However, the United States Agency for International development (USAID) has also reported the distribution of $186,382,354 worth of aid in Iraq (USAID, 2014), and $3,046,343,013 worth of aid in Syria (USAID, 2015). The effectiveness of this aid has been questioned because of the decentralised nature of USAID, which has not ensured effective communication and monitoring between the US government and its contractors located in Iraq and Pakistan. This resulted in unnecessary costs and lower performance in USAID's workforce (US Department of State, 2012). There has also been concern with the financing of ISIL, as the organization acquires a significant amount of its revenue by exporting oil. As a result, the UN security council has unanimously passed a resolution to place more pressures on the financial institutions of countries neighbouring ISIL, in order to check for illegitimate transactions (private donations to ISIL) (UN  News Centre, 2015). Although many of the countries helping the Iraqi government defeat ISIL have strained relations amongst each other, they have continued supporting the Iraqi regime against ISIL. These actions may not always be in the best interest of these countries (e.g. US and Iran). The shift in alliances has indicated a dilemma, in which self-interest conflicts with moral judgement. It is  beneficial for the US and Iran to individually support the Iraqi government, but since they are both supporting the Iraqi government, they are indirectly supporting each other in fighting ISIL. Therefore, their judgements are allegedly supplemented by basic moral obligations (the US and Iran  possess a sense of fairness) and judgements, which surpass self-interest. Reflective equilibrium will be use d as a way of thinking, and Judith Thomson’s claims system will be used as a way of determining ones beliefs. The method of reflective equilibrium  B035423  brings beliefs into balance, consistent with each other, as they all must adhere to the principles or rules that we believe govern them (Daniels, 2013). Reflective Equilibrium is the method in which one 'revises' upon their beliefs, working back and forth among their considered judgements and  principles that they believe govern them, in order to achieve an acceptable coherence (Daniels, 2013). Their reflective equilibrium may be modified as new elements arise in our thinking (Schroeter, 2004), which is why judgements seem to incorporate a degree of intuition. Peter Singer (a utilitarian) gives a different approach, like in his case for justifying humanitarian aid in 'East Bengal', when Bangladesh experienced a severe famine in the early 1970's. Consequentialism is the view that normative properties depend only on consequences, and that one should make a decision,  based on the consequences that will follow said decision ( Sinnott-Armstrong, 2014 ). Utilitarianism is a variant of consequentialism, which bases decision-making on the maximization of overall happiness ( Sinnott-Armstrong, 2014 ). Singer provides two points, stating that the West would not be sacrificing anything of moral importance (1972, p.231) by increasing humanitarian aid to Bengal, and that westerners should give money to Bengali relief funds up to the point of marginal utility- that is, the level at which, by giving more, westerners would cause as much suffering to themselves or their dependants, as endured by a Bengali prior to their donations (1972, p.234). This approach complements the morality of the Bengali situation, however it does not take fairness into account. Instead it reinforces an unjust system where the happiness of the majority always trumps individual interests, regardless of morality. The situation with ISIL cannot be tackled with this mindset,  because according to John Rawls, consequentialism stipulates a perfect knowledge of every consequence each option will have (Scheffler, 1988). The outcome could also be morally unjust, such as the bombing of cities controlled by ISIL. In the long run this could save more lives, as this limits the mobility of ISIL, however there would be collateral damage and innocents will die. Reflective Equilibrium is effective, because it is flexible in dealing with all of these possible consequences in a way that is fair. Consequentialism does not address unintended consequences  B035423 appropriately. The trolley problem reinforces the difficulty in decision-making, using utilitarian thought. The trolley problem describes a situation where a tram has malfunctioned and has two possible railways that its driver can choose from. One railway has five people, whereas the other has one  person. Death is unavoidable in these options; the driver can steer one way and kill one person, or steer the other way and kill five people (Thomson, 1976, p.206). A utilitarian would choose the former. Compare this to a doctor, who can save five sick patients in need of new organs. By killing a healthy person, the doctor would be able to save the five sick patients and transplant the organs from the cadaver to the patients (Thomson, 1976, p.206). The case with the tram seems to have less moral weight than the organ case. Judith Thomson pointed the reason as having to do with 'claim'. This claim refers to someone’s rights in a certain situation. A claim is a means to justify a certain action; the claim to live (Thomson, 1976, p.209). Taking the organs out of the healthy person is unjustified, as it violates the persons claim on their organs. There are variations in cases, so   we must look at each of these cases individually (Thomson, 1976, p.217). Reflective equilibrium complements Thomson's claims system better than utilitarianism, because the claims system focuses on the justification of actions, not always taking into account the maximization of overall happiness. Social contract theory allows us to outline the basic moral principles society agrees upon, and it is through these principles that we shall determine what to do in regards to ISIL. Societies act uniformly through these social contracts, unless they are contested by rebel groups (which is the case with ISIL). In the theory of justice, Rawls introduced a thought experiment in which a group of  people were to form a social contract under a veil of ignorance. This veil of ignorance prevents  people from knowing arbitrary facts about themselves that would influence the agreement; facts like race, gender, ethnicity, etc. (Wenar, 2013).   Under this scenario, every person involved would strive
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