The capacity to focus on the issues of humanitarian intervention signals the
maturation of the field of ethics and international affairs. Interventions in
Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Somalia, for example, indicate a new willingness on
the part of the international community to involve itself in the internal
affairs of states. However, acts of humanitarian intervention bring with them
concerns of consistency and effectiveness, which require deep attention and
careful response. Issues of state sovereignty versus moral imperatives continue
to challenge external actors.
This essay discusses the subjective and objective changes that have occurred within international relations with regard to humanitarian intervention and examines intervention from the realist and liberal theoretical perspectives. Using traditional liberalist theory as a basis, the essay offers a new version of liberalism in which the historic guarantee of state sovereignty becomes subordinate to human rights claims, thereby supplying a justification for humanitarian intervention.
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