Humanitarian Intervention Essay

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No intervention can be considered “just” or “humanitarian” unless it is supplemented with the right authority, just cause, and right intention.

Moreover, it should be used only as the last resort.

What remains absent from both international law and practice, however, are clear rules on how we decide when such collective violence is justified, whose obligation and right it is to intervene and what limits and sanctions exist to restrain the behaviour of those who intervene, or to punish those who intervene without international agreement.

The problem in all humanitarian interventions is that those powers with the capacity to apply force at a distance for humanitarian or other ends are generally also those with economic and strategic interests overseas and are often also states which refuse any cosmopolitan restraint on their own military action.

Questions concerning humanitarian intervention include: How can a democratic country legally attack another country or invade a sovereign state? What is the credibility of the United Nations (UN) if a group of countries are able to usurp the power to intervene in the name of humanitarianism? What are the politics, economics, and ethics behind humanitarianism?

In post–cold war politics, Western Europe and the United States have engaged in humanitarian interventions in Somalia (1992–1995), Haiti (1994), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995), and Iraq (2002).

In the absence of coherent international legal order, law cannot provide the sole basis for humanitarian intervention.

It must instead be found in ethics, which can be highly subjective.

For instance, the Israeli interventions in Lebanon in 2006 cannot be legitimized under the failed state dictum.

All sovereign states have the right to decide matters within their own territorial jurisdiction.


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