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Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

16. Humanitarian Intervention and Political Self-Determination  

William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter argues that there is a just cause to intervene militarily in a state that systematically violates the human rights of its members. It rejects the views of those who contend that there is no justification for humanitarian intervention because there are no universal moral values. The chapter accepts that the value of political self-determination can explain what is wrong with humanitarian intervention in some cases. However, appeals to this value are decisive less often than many critics of intervention suppose. One concern with adopting a permissive attitude towards humanitarian intervention is that this might be open to misuse. The chapter then articulates a role for international law in authorizing intervention to minimize this risk. It concludes by clarifying how these arguments fit within a wider set of considerations pertinent to the justifiability of humanitarian intervention.