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"Humanitarian intervention, which is ruled out by realism and the morality of states, can only be justified by a cosmopolitan morality." Discuss.

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Introduction

Lucy White War, Peace and International Ethics Tutor: Mr. Barry Holden Spring 2001 Essay 2: "Humanitarian intervention, which is ruled out by realism and the morality of states, can only be justified by a cosmopolitan morality." Discuss. The concept of humanitarian intervention has been an issue in world politics ever since the Cold War. Since the Gulf War it has been argued1 that there is a need for increased thought about when humanitarian intervention is justifiable. One of the main arguments against the idea of humanitarian intervention is that it contradicts the concept of the sovereignty of states. The leading characteristic of the world political scene in recent centuries is the place of the sovereign state as its chief component. By definition, sovereignty denotes complete exclusion of other states from a state's domestic affairs. Intervention by other states into those affairs thus challenges the essential nature of a state and has consequently always been regarded as a hostile act. Nevertheless intervention has in practice been a common feature of international politics. This essay will discuss whether humanitarian intervention can be justified in relation to the morality of states, realism and cosmopolitan morality. It is widely accepted that there is a clear overlap between human rights and the justification of humanitarian intervention. Most say that, where there is gross infringement of human rights, humanitarian intervention is justified. ...read more.

Middle

But hypothetical contracts are not binding, hence the impure forms of functional realism are more plausible.3 One of these impure forms is that citizens have obligations to aid those beyond their borders, therefore a legitimate government is entitled to fulfil these obligations. It is agreed that the state has obligations to its citizens, but when confronted with the needs of others it is dubious whether or not the government has obligations to aid them. This impure form of functional realism seems to drift towards the idea of cosmopolitan morality, in that the state boundaries are dissolved, and that everybody should aid each other purely because of the fact that we are all human beings. Consequentialist realism is the most plausible of all the varying forms of realism. But it still does not prove that humanitarian intervention can be justified. Consequentialist realism states that states should pursue only their own national interests to produce the best consequences for all. It argues that states should only take their own interests into account when policy making. Consequentialist realism points out that people should be treated as equals, regardless of their race, nationality, sex of religion. This is an understandable point which leans towards cosmopolitan morality; an individual does not decide whether they are going to be born into an oppressive regime or not. Does this give others the right to discriminate against them? ...read more.

Conclusion

What will happen when the troops withdraw? The likelihood is that the same, or similar, oppression will occur again sometime in the future based on the fact that it is with in the culture or nature of that state; this points to the issue of cultural relativism. It seems likely that states will only intervene if it is in their national interest, it is accepted that no state will intervene if it is likely that they will fail in their task of ending the suffering of innocent individuals. No state can ever know if it will be successful, but one can make an educated guess when the situation presents itself on an ends-means basis. Should humanitarian intervention be justified in any case? Should states be generally restricted in what they get up to within their borders? If one looks at it from a realistic point of view, we can see that humanitarian intervention is very costly to the intervening state. The cost of military tools and troops are of importance, but of equal significance, if not more significant, is the human cost in casualties. It is, therefore, easier to look at hypothetical instances rather than having to be faced with the ultimate decision. The fact that it is widely believed that humanitarian intervention is justified in response to the gross infringement of human rights gives a lot of weight to the argument for the inclusion of humanitarian intervention in international law. Precise laws are needed; what constitutes a human rights violation needs to be accurately pinpointed. ...read more.

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