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Moral Justifications for Humanitarian Interventions

Moral Justifications for Humanitarian Interventions


The increase in internal conflicts in the post-Cold War helped propel the forefront concern for individuals. While peace and security have historically constituted the pillars of the international institutional system, a door opened to make effective regime for the protection of human rights across borders. For humanists, humanitarian intervention was a necessary evil to mitigate human suffering often caused by ethnic and religious differences. However, this practice is still often seen as a form of neo-colonialism and in contradiction with the highest standards governing international relations, or the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention. The rationale of humanitarian interventions pulls into two different directions. On one hand, according to the realist perspective, the sacredness of state's sovereign rights is given pre-eminence and the states are not allowed to use armed interventions against the protective integrity of another state. Owing to this fact, intervention is not acceptable. On the other hand, for moral liberal approach, the interventions are justified to punish the wrongdoers and protect the innocent.


The Moral Basis of Intervention

The intervention process is not new as even in the 16th and 17th centuries, such wars were justified as a means of protecting the rights and upholding the laws. It is thought to be the right if not duty of rulers to enforce certain norms and laws beyond their kingdom. Such as one type of oppression that was seen as a justified intervention by the moralists of Middle Sages is the mistreatment of Christians by the non-Christians. Such principles are also applied to the conquest of America on Spain (Nardin, 2002, pp. 57-70). The most significant of such universal laws is of natural law. According to which the rules of moral behaviour are set by the nature. Nature law is said to be a set of rules that are known by binding and reason on all rational individual. The rules of nature law are more general than different particular communities norms and also justify the rulers in intervene, defend the innocent and punish the moral wrongdoers.

A more detailed moral foundation to the humanitarian interventions is provided by the idea of common morality which emerges from the natural law. It depends neither on custom nor positive law but according to the basic principle of common morality, human do not posses rights because they are member of a specific community but they belong to the human community. It is not covered under legal, religious connotations, mores and customs of specific communities and that is why it is minimal morality. Such ideas stem from the critical reflection on customs and laws and also based on reason and logics (Nardin, 2002, pp. 57-70). The assumption says that human beings are rational and choosing and they ought to live according to certain standards. Every individual has to respect the activities of other and also must support each other in suitable ways.

Various philosophers such as J.S Mill (Doyle, 2001, pp. 212-235) argue in support of ...
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