The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention

By Stanley Hoffmann; Robert C. Johansen et al. | Go to book overview
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Robert C. Johansen

S TANLEY HOFFMANN ARGUES convincingly, first of all, that humanitarian intervention is fraught with so many dangers of abuse and difficulties in execution that the international community should proceed with utmost caution as it expands the instances where it may be practiced. Indeed, readers might be a bit surprised that he wants to open the door to additional interventions at all, given his long and persuasive litany of reasons why states are reluctant to accept the risks and costs of military interventions, or, if they do intervene, why such interventions either may not uphold high normative standards or succeed in practice. The calamities of United Nations efforts in Somalia and Bosnia illustrate the moral, military, and political difficulties. Despite the difficulties, however, Hoffmann believes, secondly, that to refuse to intervene at all is morally unacceptable in cases where gross violations of human rights occur and that to rule out humanitarian intervention completely would encourage unilateral interventions, which are more inclined to abuse than multilaterally administered interventions. These two central themes live in tension with each other, as Hoffmann acknowledges.

In commenting upon his stimulating analysis, I will advance the thesis that scholars and the international community should give more emphasis to finding a third path between doing nothing and sending in the troops. This path should include instruments that are nonmilitary yet still coercive. Indeed, international measures that aim at "less" than deploying military forces may, in the end,


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The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention


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