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Humanitarian intervention

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S106-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2006
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

The legality, legitimacy and morality of humanitarian intervention are matters of great controversy. Disagreements abound over what weight should be placed on the humanitarian motives of intervening states as against the outcomes that such actions produce. Moreover, there is no consensus in the international community, or among commentators, as to what level of human suffering should trigger an armed response. Such controversies are exacerbated by divisions over where to locate legitimate authority for the use of force. Does it rest solely with the United Nations (UN) or are there other sites of legitimation such as the community of liberal democratic states? Beyond this, there is an even more fundamental debate as to whether humanitarian intervention can ever be morally justified. Some believe that it violates the compact between states and citizens; others maintain that state leaders and citizens alike have moral responsibilities to protect endangered peoples; and that on occasions this requires governments to accept the costs and risks of armed rescue.

Citing this article:
Wheeler, Nicholas J.. Humanitarian intervention, 2006, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S106-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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