Justifying Humanitarian Intervention to the People Who Pay For It

Ned Dobos

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    The practice of humanitarian intervention, which involves one state (or coalition) intervening militarily into another state in order to prevent abuses of human rights, raises a plethora of ethical and political issues. How is foreign intervention to be reconciled with state sovereignty? Is intervention a threat to international peace and stability? Are alien values being imposed on the target society? Each of these questions has been thoroughly explored by both philosophers and jurists. But the notion that a state infringes the rights of its own citizens by waging war to defend the human rights of foreigners has received relatively little attention. The only thorough philosophical exploration of this problem to date - Allen Buchanan's 'The Internal Legitimacy of Humanitarian Intervention' (1999) - is the focus of this paper. My aim here is not to offer a resolution to the 'internal' problem, but simply to show that Buchanan misrepresents it in several important respects. First, Buchanan understates the strength of this objection: it is much more resilient than he gives it credit for. Secondly, he overstates its scope, or the range of humanitarian interventions to which it applies. And finally, Buchanan is mistaken to think that whether or not an intervening state fulfils the rights of its own citizens can be determined prior to, and therefore independently of, the question of whether its actions are consistent with the rights of the society targeted by the intervention
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)34-51
    Number of pages18
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

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