Ethics & International Affairs Volume 25.1 (Spring 2011): Features: Precommitment Regimes for Intervention: Supplementing the Security Council [Abstract]

Apr 6, 2011

Despite the various accomplishments of the UN Security Council, it remains an imperfect institution for managing forceful intervention to prevent humanitarian disasters, and is, due to its composition, also less than effective in protecting weak democracies from violent overthrow.

We contend that although the UN Security Council is arguably legitimate, it is sufficiently defective that it lacks exclusive legitimacy. If an institution possesses exclusive legitimacy in a domain of action, then all other parties are obligated not to act within that domain, unless they have the institution's authorization. We consider two different types of alternatives to the UN Security Council for authorizing military action across borders: a democratic coalition and a precommitment regime, by which a state could authorize intervention within its territory in advance and designate the intervenors, subject to certain explicit triggering conditions and provisions for accountability. We argue that a precommitment regime is preferable to a democratic coalition, because it would be permissible under existing international law, would not pose a threat to sovereignty since it operates with state consent, and would be less of a challenge to the legitimacy of the Security Council. We also show that the precommitment regime proposal can be viewed as a constructive development of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine.

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For an online response to this article from Aidan Hehir, click here.

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