Humanitarian Intervention: the Contemporary Debate

  • Oliver Ramsbotham


The question of humanitarian intervention is not a new one. It can be traced back in recognisably modern form to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and, in particular, to the writings of Victoria (1532), Gentili (1598) and Grotius (1625). It emerged as part of a wider process which saw the early development of modern international law at the time of the break-up of Christendom, the voyages of discovery and beginning of European overseas empires, and the evolution of the early modern state. In the centuries that followed, a number of other conceptual developments took place which have cumulatively served to define the issue in the form in which we find it today, above all, the articulation of the nonintervention norm from the eighteenth century, and the assertion of the principles of popular sovereignty and self-determination from the time of the American and French Revolutions. The debate was fully joined in the nineteenth century, particularly in relation to interventions by Western powers in the collapsing Ottoman Empire, and re-emerged unresolved in the twentieth century. Since 1945 the legal-political framework has been provided by the Charter of the United Nations. The significance of the issue today can best be brought out by setting it against this historical background.


Security Council Humanitarian Intervention International Politics Carnegie Institute International Order 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Akehurst, M., ‘Humanitarian Intervention’, in: Bull, H. (ed.), 1984, 95–118.Google Scholar
  2. Arend, A. and Beck, R., International Law and the Use of Force, London: Routledge, 1993.Google Scholar
  3. Beitz, C. et al., International Ethics, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  4. Berdal, M., Whither UN Peacekeeping? Adelphi Paper 281, London: Brassey’s for the International Institute of Strategic Studies, 1993.Google Scholar
  5. Brownlie, I., International Law and the Use of Force by States, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bull, H. (ed.), Intervention in World Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  7. Bull, H., Kingsbury, B. and Roberts, A. (eds.): Hugo Grotius and International Relations, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  8. Coste, R., ‘The moral dimensions of intervention’, Harvard International Review, 28–9, 67–8, Fall 1993.Google Scholar
  9. Damrosch, L. (ed.), Enforcing Restraint: Collective Intervention in Internal Conflicts, New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  10. Damrosch, L. and Scheffer, J. (eds.), Law and Force in the New International Order, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991.Google Scholar
  11. Delbrück, J., ‘A Fresh Look at Humanitarian Intervention under the Authority of the United Nations’, Indiana Law Journal, 67(4), 887–901, 1992.Google Scholar
  12. Falk, R., ‘Intervention Revisited — Hard Choices and Tragic Dilemmas’, The Nation, 20, 755–64, 1993.Google Scholar
  13. Farer, T., ‘An Enquiry into the Legality of Humanitarian Intervention’, in: Damrosch, L. and Scheffer, J. 1991, 185–201.Google Scholar
  14. Forbes, I. and Hoffman, M. (eds.), Political Theory, International Relations and the Ethics of Intervention, London: Macmillan, 1993.Google Scholar
  15. Franck, T. and Rodley, N., ‘After Bangladesh: The Law of Humanitarian Intervention by Military Force’, American Journal of International Law, 67, 275–305, 1973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Garigue, P., ‘Intervention-sanction and “droit d’ingérence” in International Humanitarian Law’, International Journal, 48(4), 668–86, 1993.Google Scholar
  17. Gentili, A., De Jure Belli Libri Tres (trans. from 1612 edn), Washington DC: Carnegie Institute, 1598/1933.Google Scholar
  18. Greenwood, C., ‘Is There a Right of Humanitarian Intervention?’ World Today, 49(2), 34–40, 1993.Google Scholar
  19. Grotius, H., De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres (trans. from 1646 edn), Washington DC: Carnegie Institute, 1625/1925.Google Scholar
  20. Harriss, J. (ed.), The Politics of Humanitarian Intervention, London: Pinter, 1995.Google Scholar
  21. Hashmi, S., ‘Is There an Islamic Ethic of Humanitarian Intervention?’ Ethics and International Affairs, 9, 55–73, 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hassan, F., ‘Realpolitik in International Law: After [the] Tanzanian-Ugandan Conflict “Humanitarian Intervention” Re-examined’, Willamette Law Review, 17, 859–912, 1981.Google Scholar
  23. Henkin, L. et al. Right v. Might: International Law and the Use of Force, New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  24. Hoffmann, S., Primacy or World Order: American Foreign Policy since the Cold War, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978.Google Scholar
  25. Jackson, R., Quasi-States, Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  26. Johnson, J., Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  27. Johnson, J., ‘Threats, Values, and Defence: Does the Defence of Values by Force Remain a Moral Possibility?’ in: O’Brien, W. and Langan, J. (eds.), 1986, 31–48.Google Scholar
  28. Keen, M., The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.Google Scholar
  29. Klintworth, G., Vietnam’s Intervention in Cambodia in International Law, Canberra: AGPS Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  30. Kuper, L., Genocide, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.Google Scholar
  31. Lillich, R., ‘Forcible self-help by states to protect human rights’, Iowa Law Review, 53, 325–51, 1967.Google Scholar
  32. Lillich, R. (ed.), Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  33. Macrae, J. and Zwi, A. (eds.), War and Hunger: Rethinking International Responses to Complex Emergencies, London: Zed Books for Save the Children Fund (UK), 1994.Google Scholar
  34. Mayall, J., Nationalism and International Security, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Meron, T., ‘Common rights of mankind in Gentili, Grotius and Suarez’, American Journal of International Law, (85), 110–16, 1991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mill, J.S., ‘A Few Words on Non-intervention’, in: Dissertations and Discussions, Political, Philosophical and Historical, vol. 3, 147–78, London: Longman, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1875/1959.Google Scholar
  37. O’Brien, W. and Langan, J. (eds.), The Nuclear Dilemma and the Just War Tradition, Lexington, MA:Lexington Books, 1986.Google Scholar
  38. Ogata, S., The State of the World’s Refugees: The Challenge of Protection, New York: Penguin, 1993.Google Scholar
  39. Parekh, B., ‘Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention’, unpublished paper, 1996.Google Scholar
  40. Pease, K. and Forsythe, D., ‘Human Rights, Humanitarian Intervention and World Politics’, Human Rights Quarterly, 15(2), 290–314, 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pogany, I., ‘Humanitarian Intervention in International Law: The French Intervention in Syria Re-exdamned’, International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 35, 182–90, 1986.Google Scholar
  42. Ramsbotham, O. and Woodhouse, T., Humanitarian Intervention in Contemporary Conflict, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  43. Reed, L. and Kaysen, C. (eds.), Emerging Norms of Justified Intervention, Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1993.Google Scholar
  44. Roberts, A., ‘Law, lawyers and nuclear weapons’, Review of International Studies, 16(1), 75–92, 1990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ronzitti, N., Rescuing Nationals Abroad through Military Coercion and Intervention on Grounds of Humanity, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985.Google Scholar
  46. Smith, M., ‘Ethics and Intervention’, paper given at the International Studies Annual Conference, London, March 1989.Google Scholar
  47. Tesón, F., Humanitarian Intervention: An Enquiry into Law and Morality, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Transnational Publishers, 1988.Google Scholar
  48. Thomas, C., New States, Sovereignty and Intervention, London: Gower, 1985.Google Scholar
  49. Thomas, C., ‘The Pragmatic Case against Intervention’, in: Forbes, I. and Hoffman, M. (eds.), 1993, 91–103.Google Scholar
  50. Trachtenberg, M., ‘Intervention in Historical Perspective’, in: Reed, L. and Kaysen, C. (eds.), 1993.Google Scholar
  51. Vattel, E. de, The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and of Sovereigns, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1758/ 1964.Google Scholar
  52. Verwey, W., ‘Humanitarian Intervention under International Law’, Netherlands International Law Review, 32, 357–418, 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Victoria, F. de, De Indis et De Jure Belli Relectiones, Washington DC: Carnegie Institute, 1532/1917.Google Scholar
  54. Vincent, R., Nonintervention and International Order, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.Google Scholar
  55. Vincent, R., Human Rights and International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  56. Wheeler, N., ‘Pluralist and Solidarist Conceptions of International Society: Bull and Vincent on Humanitarian Intervention’, Millennium, 21(3), 463–88, 1992.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Press Ltd 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Ramsbotham

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations