Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 313–328

Reconciling Just Causes for Armed Humanitarian Intervention


DOI: 10.1007/s10677-015-9594-4

Cite this article as:
Aloyo, E. Ethic Theory Moral Prac (2016) 19: 313. doi:10.1007/s10677-015-9594-4


Michael Walzer argues that the just cause for humanitarian intervention is not met if there are only “ordinary” levels of human rights abuses within a state because he believes that respecting the right to collective self-determination is more morally important than protecting other individual rights. Several prominent critics of Walzer advocate for a more permissive account of a just cause. They argue that protecting individuals’ human rights is more morally important than respecting a right to collective self-determination. I argue that these two accounts are far more similar than either Walzer or his critics realize because collective self-determination requires the protection of some human rights in order to allow each person the opportunity to participate in collective choices. Consequently, the just cause for intervention is met whenever at least some important human rights of one person are violated and others are being credibly threatened. The counter intuitive conclusion of my argument is that justified interventions can actually promote rather than undermine collective self-determination because just interventions allow innocents, who otherwise would have excluded from this process, the opportunity to contribute to collective choices. Of course, a just cause is insufficient in itself for intervention to be permissible because other just war precepts must also be met.


Humanitarian intervention Just war theory Collective self-determination Human rights Sovereignty Just cause 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Hague Institute for Global JusticeDen HaagNetherlands

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