Humanitarian Intervention

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The key objections to humanitarian intervention include the conflict of interests with the self-interested state and sovereignty, the difficulty of internal legitimacy, the problematical Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, and the debate over legality of intervention. The issue of morality stands as an overarching issue which touches on all of these. Overall, one finds that despite a moral imperative to intervene, humanitarian intervention should not occur but is perhaps the lesser of a series of evils.

In realist theory, states are self-interested in that their own ‘relative gains’ are favoured over ‘absolute gains’ (i.e. gains for the entire society of states). This raises questions of motive and the potential for abuse in executing humanitarian interventions, particularly those that are unilateral. This potential for abuse is a serious flaw in the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. States can intervene in the affairs of other states under the pretence of humanitarian intervention. This makes it easier for hegemonic western countries to intrude into the business of weaker states, particularly where the regime is not democratic. This in turn not only undermines state sovereignty, but sets an international precedent where humanitarian interventions (unilateral ones in particular) are brought under suspicion , , . Realists put forward the notion that no humanitarian interventions are motivated by conscience alone and that the loss of their own funds, soldiers and efforts are motivated by state greed and power. This creates an internal contradiction within humanitarian intervention – that it is not humanitarian at all, but rather an opportunity for power plays by more powerful states. This might be a reason behind the se...

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