Humanitarian intervention and its dangers: a hypothetical

A recent post here, and several useful comments on it (worth reading if you haven’t already), discuss the dubious theory of ‘humanitarian intervention’ as a means for a state to intervene by force in another country to prevent or stop a ‘humanitarian disaster’, such as an act of genocide, if necessary (or if desired) by-passing the procedures laid down in the UN Charter for obtaining prior authority from the Security Council for the use of force in another country other than in self-defence. This of course has Iraqi and Kosovo (and Darfur and Rwandan) echoes. Prompted by this debate, Tony Hatfield has now posed an interesting and relevant hypothetical question on his admirable website about the action that a British prime minister ought to take when faced with an impending ‘humanitarian disaster’ in a central Asian country and the threat of French and American vetoes of any proposal in the Security Council for armed intervention to prevent it. I have described on the Hatfield blog the two alternative options for action (or inaction) that I would favour in the unlikely event of my being a British prime minister in this situation. What would you do? Tell Tony (Hatfield, not the other one. OK, tell the other one too).


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