By Mick Krever, CNN
The former French foreign minister issued an impassioned plea on Tuesday for the world to follow France’s lead in protecting populations under imminent threat from war.
France, in dramatic fashion, has been at the forefront of intervening in deadly conflicts over the past few years, whether in Libya, Mali, or now Central African Republic.
“We are human beings, protecting human life,” Bernard Kouchner, who served under President Nicolas Sarkozy, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“Were we supposed to let them die?”
There are 1,600 French troops now in Central African Republic under United Nations mandate, assisting African Union forces; two French soldiers were killed there last week.
The U.N. says more than 200,000 people are being forced to flee their homes in Central African Republic, where hundreds have been killed in sectarian violence between Muslim rebels, who ousted the president in May, and Christian militias.
France, Kouchner said, is simply applying the principle that one should intervene before, “not after the bloodbath, not after the killing.”
“There was no choice, no choice.”
He was referring to the “Responsibility to Protect,” a U.N. initiative enshrined in 2005 that called on the “international community” to protect civilian populations from “genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement.”
French President Francois Hollande, in an interview with Amanpour in September, emphasized that France is not trying to “apply its ambitions” around the world.
It is a point that Kouchner echoed.
“We are not the police of the world,” he said.
The United States, he said, was, “more or less the police of the world, for good or bad reason. … We are not arrogant enough to try to replace your country, not at all, not at all.”
Kouchner was also the founder of the humanitarian organizations Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders).
“This necessity to protect human life,” he said, “was born in France among the French doctors.”
And he was also in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide that resulted in the swift deaths of nearly a million people.
At the time, the international norms governing intervention hardly existed, he said.
“Now,” he said, “we don't have to ask for excuse[s] to say, ‘Oh, sorry, but we are protecting human life.’”