Is there a duty of humanitarian intervention? : an empirical study with moral implications
Large-scale humanitarian crises in foreign countries raise the question of whether or not other countries have a duty to alleviate that suffering. In extreme cases, humanitarian intervention, that is: military intervention for the purpose of alleviating human suffering, is sometimes advocated as the morally required course of action. This thesis suggests that while the international community has a general moral responsibility to prevent and ameliorate humanitarian crises there is no simple duty of military humanitarian intervention. Hitherto, the question has typically been treated as a matter of either moral or legal principle. This thesis argues that empirical factors, which affect the international community's ability to carry out interventions effectively, have not been given their due weight in the debate. On the basis of evaluations of international responses to crises in Somalia and Rwanda, 1992 - 1994, it is suggested that a range of factors undermine the efficacy of humanitarian interventions. These factors include the impact of state interests, the effects of domestic politics in intervening states and, contrary to expectations, the role of humanitarian considerations in decision making on intervention. By showing the limitations of a simplistic view of a duty of humanitarian intervention the thesis seeks to contribute to reconciling idealism with realism in international crisis-responses. Based on sound moral and political judgment military interventions in humanitarian crises would hopefully be less ambitious and ultimately more effective.