Is there a the duty to intervene? Intervention and the responsibility to protect



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IS THERE A The duty to intervene? INTERVENTION AND the responsibility to protect*
ABSTRACT: This article considers the duty to undertake humanitarian intervention. It first examines the arguments for the duty to intervene and questions the possibility of supererogatory humanitarian intervention. It then considers the leading objections to this duty which, it is argued, are largely unpersuasive. In the final section, the article considers the duty to intervene in the context of the responsibility to protect (RtoP) doctrine, which provides the framework within which debates about humanitarian intervention now in large part occur.
CITATION: James Pattison (2013) “Is there a Duty to Intervene? Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect”, Philosophy Compass, 8 (6), pp. 570–6.

I. Introduction

Since the early 1990s, there have been numerous humanitarian interventions, including in Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Liberia, Libya, Sierra Leone, and Somalia. Such interventions raise several ethical issues. The issue that has received by far the most consideration over the past three decades is whether there is a right to intervene. However, there is now widespread agreement amongst philosophers, political scientists, and practitioners that humanitarian intervention is sometimes permissible and, as a result, this issue is currently far less contested. Recent attention has focussed instead on whether there is a duty to intervene.1 On the one hand, the lack of effective action in response to the genocide in Rwanda and the development of the responsibility to protect (RtoP) doctrine have led to a growing sense that there exists a duty to intervene on occasion. On the other hand, the existence of this duty is contested by many, largely due to the material (and ultimately moral) costs of intervention for the intervener.

In this article, I will consider the duty to intervene and the surrounding debates. I will first examine the arguments for this duty (in section II) and reject the possibility of supererogatory intervention. In section III, I consider the leading objections to this duty which, I will argue, are largely unpersuasive. In section IV, I will consider the development of the RtoP doctrine, which now provides the framework within which debates about humanitarian intervention and the duty to intervene occur. I will (briefly) suggest that, although the RtoP may have been important politically for the tackling of mass atrocities, the doctrine has some underlying philosophical problems in its account of the duty to protect.2

II. Arguments for the Duty to Intervene

Let us start by considering some of the arguments for the existence of the duty to intervene. The first is the ‘Self-Interest Argument’. This is the seemingly straightforward argument that it can be in a state’s self-interest to undertake humanitarian intervention on occasion. Unlike the other defences of this duty, it is clearly consistent with Realism. This is because the duty to intervene here comes not from the duties to those suffering the humanitarian crisis, but rather from the state’s duty to promote its own citizens’ interests. Why might humanitarian intervention be in the self-interest of a state? To start with, it may be for narrow, material reasons. For instance, tackling a humanitarian crisis in a neighbouring state may prevent border incursions or large refugee flows. States may also have an enlightened self-interest in tackling humanitarian crises so that, in general, the international system is more rule-governed and orderly, comprising of human-rights respecting states, rather than subject to the instability that can arise from humanitarian crises. In addition, as certain International Relations (IR) constructivists suggest, humanitarian intervention may promote the state’s self-interest in a broader sense of self-interest that concerns ideational factors (e.g., Wheeler 2000). For instance, taking on humanitarian intervention may improve the perceived legitimacy of the state in the international arena—its international standing and reputation—and demostrate that it is a good international citizen (see Wheeler and Dunne 2000).

Most arguments for the duty to intervene tend to focus, however, on duties to those beyond the borders of the intervening state. Although these arguments may appear to be cosmopolitan (and, for simplicity’s sake, I will frame them as such), one need not be a cosmopolitan to endorse the duty to intervene (as we have already seen with the Self-Interest Argument). One may accept that states have some duties to those beyond their borders, such as the duty to tackle genocide, whilst accepting that they have greater duties to those within their borders and that nationality or communal autonomy is, to some extent, noninstrumentally valuable. For instance, the renowned noncosmopolitans David Miller (2007, 270) and Michael Walzer (2002) endorse the duty to intervene (albeit in limited circumstances).

On what I will call the ‘Positive Duty Argument’, the duty to intervene stems from positive duties to those beyond the borders of the state (e.g., Bagnoli 2006; Caney 2005; Glanville forthcoming; Tan 2006). On the ‘nonrelational’ cosmopolitan version of this argument, these positive duties stem from the basic premise that we possess duties to those beyond our borders simply in virtue of their common humanity (e.g., their universal human rights or moral equality), regardless of our current institutional arrangements (Bagnoli 2006; Gomes 2010).3 There is also a ‘relational’ cosmopolitan version of the Positive Duty Argument.4 This suggests that we have duties to undertake humanitarian intervention in virtue of the common, global institutional background that establishes principles of justice. For instance, in its 2001 report, The Responsibility to Protect, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) (2001, XI) implies this view to some extent. The ICISS claims that the foundations of the RtoP and therefore the duty to intervene lie in the shared practices of sovereignty, legal obligations under human rights instruments, the responsibilities of the Security Council, and the developing practice of states and other organisations.

On what I will call the ‘Negative Duty Argument’, the duty to intervene is defended on the basis of negative duties (e.g., see Fabre 2012, 181).5 The argument is that states and other agents have a duty to undertake humanitarian intervention as a way of redressing their previous violations of the negative duty not to harm those beyond their borders. For instance, a state may have a duty to undertake humanitarian intervention to redress the severe instability that it caused with its unjust colonial policies. Thomas Pogge (1992) presents a relational cosmopolitan account of the Negative Duty Argument, which runs as follows. Many of us are implicated in the upholding of an unjust global economic order that leads to extreme poverty and humanitarian crises. This is through policies such as the supporting of dictators, unequal trade tariffs, intellectual property rights, environmental pollution, and an unfair system of borrowing and resources privileges that leads to violent conflicts (Pogge 2008). Consequently, we have violated our negative right not to harm those beyond our borders. To redress these wrongs, Pogge argues, humanitarian intervention (and, more generally, the redistribution of wealth to those who do badly out of the current arrangements) is sometimes required. Of course, those that may be responsible for the humanitarian crisis may not be best placed to intervene. In fact, they may sometimes not possess the right to intervene since their intervention would not meet the requisite permissibility conditions (e.g., it would be ineffective and opposed by those in the target state). Nevertheless, the responsible parties may be required to take other reparative action, such as financing another agent’s intervention.

The duty to intervene is also sometimes said to be a corollary of the right to intervene (e.g., Davidovic 2008; Tan 2006). I will call this the ‘Correlation Argument’: if it is the case that humanitarian intervention is morally permissible on occasion, despite its likely harms (e.g., in terms of collateral damage) and the potential overriding of states’ sovereignty and communal autonomy, the situation must be very severe. In fact, it must be severe enough to mean that it is impermissible to not intervene. However, as David Lefkowitz (2011, 88–91) and Jeff McMahan (2010a, 56–7) argue, this argument does not by itself provide a reason why states and other actors forgo their right to neutrality. On its own, it largely asserts the duty to intervene and lacks a clear response to those who maintain that a state has a right to remain neutral. It relies on a further reason, such as the Self-Interest Argument, Positive Duty Argument, or Negative Duty Argument, to show why nonintervention is impermissible (e.g., there is a positive duty to tackle mass atrocities).

The Correlation Argument also denies the possibility of supererogatory humanitarian intervention. This is disputed by those who claim that when humanitarian intervention will be very costly in terms of soldiers’ lives or the states’ resources, they are not obliged to act, but can choose to do so if they want (e.g., Fabre 2012, 179–81). However, it seems that, although citizens and soldiers can choose to take on higher costs, their government and perhaps states always possess pro tanto duties to minimise costs to their soldiers and citizens. Therefore, humanitarian intervention is a matter of weighing duties, with duties not to intervene owed to soldiers and citizens (and perhaps some third parties) on the one hand and duties to intervene owed to those beyond the states’ borders on the other. Depending on which way the balance tips, there will always be a duty either to intervene or to not intervene. So, although humanitarian intervention may be supererogatory for certain individuals, such as intervening soldiers, since they can choose but are not required to take on very high risks, it may not be supererogatory for governments or states.

III. Objections to the Duty to Intervene

Having considered the potential groundings for the duty to intervene, let us now consider the leading objections to this duty. Note that some of these objections may also be sufficient to ground a rejection of the right to intervene, although I focus generally on the objections to the duty to intervene. The objections to the duty to intervene make one of the following claims: (i) the duty to intervene is too demanding; and/or (ii) the duty to intervene conflicts with—and is outweighed by—other morally important duties. In both senses, the duties focus on the moral costs of humanitarian intervention. These costs can be divided into those that concern (i) the intervener’s citizens, (ii) the intervener’s soldiers, and (iii) third parties. Let us consider each in turn.



(i) Duties to citizens of the intervening state

The objection to the duty to intervene based on the costs to the intervener’s citizens highlights the fiduciary duties that states owe to their citizens. On what Allen Buchanan (1999) calls the ‘discretionary association view of the state’, the state is based on a hypothetical contract between citizens whereby it accepts strong fiduciary obligations (note that Buchanan goes on to reject this view). Citizens agree to this contract on the basis that the state will promote their interests rather than anybody else’s; therefore, the state must occupy itself exclusively with its citizens’ interests (Buchanan 1999, 75).6 When states undertake humanitarian intervention, they impose costs on their citizens, such as increased taxation or reduced public spending, to assist those beyond the social compact, and therefore violate their fiduciary obligations towards their own citizens. Indeed, humanitarian intervention can be extremely expensive. For instance, the cost of the NATO operation in Kosovo (including some post-intervention peacekeeping and reconstruction) was estimated to be $48 billion (ICISS 2001, 71).

The notion that states possess fiduciary obligations towards their own citizens seems plausible. Indeed, cosmopolitans may accept that such duties are instrumentally justified—generally states’ looking after their own citizens’ interests might be the best way of achieving cosmopolitan justice. But how strong should we regard these duties? The discretionary association view implies very strong, absolute duties on behalf of the state to promote the interests of their citizens. As Buchanan (1999, 78) persuasively argues, this seems problematic because it denies the existence any duties to those beyond the borders of the state, including positive duties to provide humanitarian aid and, perhaps most counter-intuitively, negative duties not to engage in imperialism, colonialism, and exploitation. This view also seems counterintuitive because it would potentially rule out humanitarian interventions that receive majority support from the intervener’s citizens, such as in a ballot on whether to intervene or, less precisely, according to opinion polls. The majority may support intervention and the use of their resources to assist those beyond the borders of their state, but humanitarian intervention would still violate the terms of the contract for those who oppose intervention. As Buchanan (1999, 76) points out, since intervention would almost always use at least one citizen’s resources in a manner that they do not choose, the state would be acting illegitimately according to the discretionary association view.

A further plausible response to this view comes from Richard Vernon (2008), who argues that to justify one’s right to form exclusive mutually beneficial associations, it is necessary that others outside of this association are in a position to form their own association as well. When outsiders are not in a position to do so, such as in cases of political collapse or violent oppression, a reasonable effort needs to be made to assist outsiders to set up flourishing civil societies, such as by undertaking humanitarian intervention on occasion. To see this, suppose that Amy, Beth, Chloe, and Debbie are stuck on a desert island. Amy, Beth, and Chloe join together to form a co-operative. By acting together, they are able to find sufficient food and shelter. Yet, Debbie cannot survive alone. Amy, Beth, and Chloe refuse to let Debbie join and do not assist her to survive, even though they could do so at little cost to themselves. It seems that their co-operative is illegitimate: it should, at the very least, assist Debbie to survive. Hence, it seems that legitimate political association depends to some extent on the position and treatment of outsiders. To that extent, the discretionary association view, which completely ignores the claims of outsiders, is morally problematic.

Does this mean that states do not possess any fiduciary duties? This would be too quick. The discretionary association view’s insight that states should look after their citizens’ interests can be retained without endorsing the more unpalatable position that it must occupy itself exclusively with its citizens’ interests. One could hold instead that the primary role of the state is to promote its citizens’ interests. On this more moderate view, states may still possess some duties to those beyond their borders, including to undertake humanitarian intervention in certain circumstances, even if it will be costly for its citizens (e.g., see Buchanan 1999; Pattison 2010). For instance, humanitarian intervention may be a duty even though it subjects its home population to some costs (e.g., increased taxation) because it will help a much greater number of noncitizens avoid even greater costs (e.g., the mass violation of basic human rights). In addition, a more moderate view of fiduciary duties may allow for majoritarianism: an intervener that has majority support from its population may be able to take on further costs than would otherwise be permitted. It would have, in effect, a mandate from most of its population to forgo its fiduciary obligations to some extent.

(ii) Duties to soldiers

The claim that there is not a duty to intervene because humanitarian intervention typically imposes high costs on intervening soldiers, such as the risk of death, to which they do not agree is perhaps the most frequently made objection to the duty to intervene. This objection rests on two premises: (i) individuals cannot be permissibly coerced to fight in cases of humanitarian intervention and (ii) regular soldiers do not tend to agree to undertake humanitarian intervention. Before considering each claim in turn, it should be noted that this objection primarily concerns cases of risky humanitarian intervention. If humanitarian intervention can be conducted without any significant costs being borne by the intervening soldiers, such as the NATO interventions in Kosovo and Libya (where there were no casualties on the intervening side), this objection to the duty to intervene would not apply.

Those who defend the view that it is impermissible to force individual soldiers to undertake risky humanitarian intervention highlight that individuals are not under a duty to take on significant costs when engaged in acts of rescue. Although they may agree to take on significant costs, they do not have duties to do so. By analogy, a private citizen is not morally required to enter into a burning building to save another without their prior consent. To force them to do so, the objection runs, would be to seriously wrong them. Consequently, conscription for humanitarian intervention is morally impermissible (e.g., Baer 2011; Fabre 2012, 185–6; Tesón 2011). Humanitarian intervention is a duty only if states have an army of volunteers who clearly agree to the risks (e.g., Baer 2011; Fabre 2007 & 2012).

This objection focuses on individual soldiers’ duties. In reply, it might still be the case that the intervening (i) government or (ii) state has the duty to intervene. First, it might be claimed that the government (or, more generally, a third party) may justifiably force its soldiers to fight, against their wishes, because, for instance, this will save a much greater number of lives (Baker and Pattison 2012). This response is often made in defence of the occasional permissibility of conscription in cases of national defence: when there is no other reasonable option, civilians can be permissibly forced to fight in order to fend off an unjust aggressor, even if the costs will be excessive for them (and they do not consent to these costs). The argument can also be made in the context of humanitarian intervention. Suppose that in 1994 French leaders could have used France’s conscript army to intervene much earlier that it did (and much more effectively) in response to the genocide in Rwanda (and, more precisely, that the French soldiers would not have consented to the risks). It seems that, even if the intervention would have been excessively costly for some of the soldiers (e.g., their death was likely), French leaders still had a duty to enact intervention. Their duties to their soldiers would have been outweighed by their duties to tackle the genocide. Consequently, it does seem that, even if the costs appear to go beyond those that individual soldiers are morally required to bear in the tackling of mass atrocities, and they do not consent to these costs, humanitarian intervention may still sometimes be a duty. On this view, the consent and interests of soldiers should not be given overwhelming weight in leaders’ deliberations when they decide whether to undertake humanitarian intervention.

Second, it might be argued that there is a collective duty on behalf of the state to intervene. States may possess collective duties to undertake humanitarian intervention and the seemingly excessive costs for the intervening soldiers may not be excessive for their state (Gross 2008; Lango 2001). John Lango calls this the ‘moral paradox of intervention’: ‘even if it is obligatory for (the citizens of) a state (collectively) to intervene, it can still be only supererogatory (individually) for its citizens’ (2001, 186). In fact, in this context Michael Gross (2008) argues that conscription may be preferable for humanitarian intervention because it can better spread the costs amongst soldiers of performing the state’s collective duty of intervention.

Lefkowitz (2011, 90–1) doubts the existence of the paradox since he thinks that collective group costs are ultimately costs to individual group members. Yet he does not deny the duty to intervene. Instead, he (2011, 96–101) plausibly argues that individuals may possess duties to engage in ‘moderately dangerous’ humanitarian interventions and, as such, conscription for intervention may be a matter of the duty-enforcement of individuals. His argument runs as follows. Individuals have a duty to contribute their fair share to the collective moral task of ensuring that all enjoy their basic moral rights. When there is a large enough pool of those who potentially contribute to humanitarian intervention, the likelihood of any one individual having to actually undertake humanitarian intervention will be low. In such cases, the risk of harm to any potential conscript in undertaking intervention will not be excessive, as long as the intervention will not be very risky for those actually selected. In such cases, it is reasonable to demand that those actually selected should shoulder the risk of securing others’ basic moral rights. How should individuals be selected? He proposes a lottery as the fairest procedure. But this is not necessary, he argues, for there to be an individual duty. There may still be the duty to intervene if the level of risk that an individual will face would be no more than if there were the ideal procedure.

We have seen then that the first premise of this objection is subject to several notable rejoinders. Let us now consider the second premise. Martin Cook (2000) argues that, although soldiers agree to a citizen-soldier contract when they sign up that means that they accept greater risks, this is only for the state’s defence of its vital interests. They do not agree to undertake such costs in so-called ‘wars of choice’. Yet this claim appears to be increasingly outdated. Given the frequency of peace operations and humanitarian interventions, it seems that soldiers can expect that their state will engage in humanitarian interventions when they sign up (see Pattison 2010, 110–11; Tan 2006, 108–9). Moreover, enlistment documents typically do not distinguish between the types of wars that those enlisting will be required to fight (Baker and Pattison 2012).

A further objection to conscription for humanitarian intervention comes from Cécile Fabre (2007; 2012), who argues that even when intervention would be almost risk-free, conscription cannot be justified because the individuals would need to be trained to be able to undertake intervention, which would be unduly costly for them. This is because such training would undermine their freedom of occupational choice. Her underlying point is that individuals are not morally required to acquire specific skills in order to assist the needy. However, this argument seems to be vulnerable to two responses. First, as Lefkowitz (2011, 93–4) argues, individuals have duties to undertake their fair share of the collective burden of providing what is necessary to secure basic moral rights. This may render permissible conscription for preparation for intervention—it is simply a matter of duty enforcement. Second, even if one holds that individuals do not possess duties to acquire the skills necessary to intervene, governments and third parties may still be able to permissibly order individuals to train for such eventualities in order to avoid, for instance, mass killing. Suppose that it is likely that our state will be invaded by an unjust, murderous external aggressor. It may be permissible for our government to require of some individuals that they train to be ready to tackle the aggressor. Similarly, if Rwanda were likely to suffer another genocide shortly, it seems that some of us could be ordered to train to be ready to tackle this genocide.



(iii) Duties to third parties

A different sort of objection concerns duties to third parties. One obvious objection in this context is that humanitarian intervention can be disproportionate when it violates negative duties to third parties, for instance, when those in neighbouring states experience high levels of collateral damage. However, I want to focus here on positive duties to third parties: the suggestion is that humanitarian intervention is typically not a duty (and potentially not permissible) because the resources used to undertake humanitarian intervention would be better spent elsewhere (e.g., Tadros 2011). For example, rather than spending $48 billion on the intervention in Kosovo, NATO should have used the money to tackle global poverty instead, and doing so would have saved more lives. This objection draws on the notion that, when there is a forced choice between saving two sets of people, numbers matter, and you should save the greatest number (see Hsieh, Strudler, and Wasserman 2006). There are, then, positive duties to third parties sometimes not to engage in humanitarian intervention.

This objection seems to have some force. However, it is likely to be limited in application. The duty to save the greatest number is relevant only when there is a forced choice between two or more permissible actions, with only one being possible. Yet it might be that a sufficiently capable potential intervener could tackle all the serious violations of human rights that could be tackled permissibly (which may be not that many—several potential interventions may not meet the Just War permissibility conditions). Alternatively, there may be one permissible option—to intervene. In addition, it is worth noting that it is widely held that there is a strong (albeit complex) link between global poverty and conflict. Therefore, tackling conflict by engaging in humanitarian intervention may therefore be the best way of tackling global poverty.

IV. The RtoP and the Duty to Intervene

Thus far, I have considered the moral arguments for and against the duty to intervene and suggested that the arguments for this duty seem to be more persuasive. The duty to intervene is also implied in certain versions of the RtoP doctrine, which is the context within which debates about the ethics of humanitarian intervention (and more broadly responding to mass atrocities) are frequently framed. In this section, I will consider this doctrine and how it relates to the duty to intervene.

In their 2001 report, the ICISS argue that sovereignty implies responsibility and when states are unwilling or unable to look after their own citizens, such as in cases of mass atrocities, sovereignty is temporarily suspended and the international community has a responsibility to protect. The international community’s responsibility to protect involves the responsibility to prevent such crises and to rebuild afterwards, and to react to crises—which may, on occasion, necessitate humanitarian intervention. States at the 2005 UN World Summit agreed that there exists a ‘responsibility to protect’, although they limited this notion somewhat. This responsibility was restricted to four types of humanitarian crisis—genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—and it was made clear that any military intervention must be authorised by the UN Security Council. The third major evolution of the RtoP was in 2009 with Ban Ki-moon’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, which frames the RtoP in terms of three pillars, with humanitarian intervention largely falling under pillar three (‘timely and decisive response’).

In general, much of the emphasis of the RtoP has been to assert that humanitarian intervention is only one option in response to mass atrocities—there are several nonmilitary or noncoercive options. Nevertheless, the duty to undertake humanitarian intervention is one of the central, value-added aspects of the RtoP (this is despite the 2005 World Summit agreement, which implied that intervention was only permissible). Although states have stepped back from clearly defending this duty, it is implicit in much of the rhetoric surrounding the RtoP, such as the claims that there should be ‘no more Rwanda’s’ and, in Ban Ki Moon’s latest report, that ‘[i]naction is not an option’ (2012, 16). The debate is now claimed to be not about whether something should be done, but what should be done (see Bellamy 2010 on Darfur and Kenya). Hence, inaction in the face of mass atrocities is seen as impermissible. Moreover, some hold that there is a legal duty to undertake military intervention in response to genocide on the basis of the Genocide Convention and, especially, in light of the 2007 ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Bosnia v Serbia case. For instance, Luke Glanville (2012) is more sceptical of the former, but thinks that there may be a developing international legal duty to protect, largely stemming from the latter.

There is debate surrounding whether the RtoP has been politically beneficial (e.g., Hehir 2012; Luck 2011), but it does seem that it has had some positive effects on tackling mass atrocities, particularly in their prevention (see Bellamy 2010). But, although politically expedient, it might be argued that there are some underlying philosophical problems with the doctrine. For arguably good pragmatic reasons (see Luck 2011), the RtoP doctrine now focuses only on certain violations of human rights, and in particular the four crimes listed above. Some (e.g., Serrano 2011) claim that the RtoP’s scope is unduly narrow, at least philosophically (if not pragmatically), in the sense that lesser violations of civil and political rights are wrongly excluded. The focus may also be unduly narrow (again, philosophically) in that it is on civil and political rights, rather than socioeconomic ones. So, in contrast to the more pragmatic RtoP, the moral duty to protect basic human rights (and the duty to intervene) may include protecting socioeconomic rights (see Axworthy and Rock 2007, 56; Fabre 2012, 174).

The RtoP is also statist. It favours statist political solutions and the state has been claimed to be the ‘bedrock’ of the RtoP (Ban-Ki Moon 2009, 10). This may appear to conflict with the seemingly more cosmopolitan thrust of a duty to undertake humanitarian intervention. The RtoP’s emphasis on states and statist solutions may also conflict with what is ultimately required to be able to carry out the duty to intervene. That is, to be able to undertake the duty to intervene effectively everywhere where required, it may be necessary to establish global, rather than statist, institutions to undertake humanitarian intervention. Without, for instance, a UN standing army and reform of the UN’s political system, there will be no guarantee that states will engage in humanitarian intervention in all cases where they are morally required to do so (Pattison 2010, 233–9). To that extent, the duty to intervene prompts the duty to reform our governing political institutions and the international system, that is, reform to ensure that the duty to intervene and the responsibility to protect are discharged effectively (see Glanville forthcoming; Tan 2006).


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1*I would like to thank Kok-Chor Tan and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on an earlier version of the article.

Other issues that have been subject of recent debate include who possesses the duty to intervene (see Pattison 2010; Tan 2006) and whether interveners should take on greater burdens when intervening (see Lucas 2003; McMahan 2010a & 2010b; Øverland 2011; Pattison forthcoming).



2 I define humanitarian intervention as ‘forcible military action by an external agent in the relevant political community with the predominant purpose of preventing, reducing, or halting an ongoing or impending grievous suffering or loss of life’.

3 Bagnoli (2006) also thinks that the duty to intervene is a perfect duty and includes a duty to coerce the wrongdoer. Nonrelational accounts of justice hold that social practices ‘do not play any role in the justification and formulation of a given set of principles’, although may condition their application (Sangiovanni 2007, 6).

4 Relational accounts of justice in general hold that ‘practice-mediated relations in which individuals stand condition the content, scope, and justification of those principles’ (Sangiovanni 2007, 5).

5 To be sure, Fabre also endorses the Positive Duty Argument.

6 It should be noted that only the duty to undertake humanitarian intervention that is not in the interest of the intervener is ruled out on this view. If we adopt a broader account of self-interest, such as that defended by constructivist IR scholars discussed in the previous section, there may be few such cases because humanitarian intervention may generally be in the intervener’s interests.



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