Revolution and Intervention

Noûs 54 (1):533–253 (2020)
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Provided that traditional jus ad bellum principles are fulfilled, military humanitarian intervention to stop large scale violations of human rights (such as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes) is widely regarded as morally permissible. In cases of “supreme humanitarian emergency”, not only are the victims morally permitted to rebel, but other states are also permitted to militarily intervene. Things are different if the human rights violations in question fall short of supreme humanitarian emergency. Because of the importance of respecting political self-determination, in cases of “ordinary oppression”, we normally think that rebellion might be permissible, but not military humanitarian intervention. Thus, according to the received view, the conditions for the permissibility of intervention coincide with the conditions for the permissibility of revolution in cases of supreme humanitarian emergency, but not in cases of ordinary oppression. In cases of ordinary oppression there is an asymmetry between the conditions for the permissibility of revolution and intervention (call this the Asymmetry View). Should we accept the Asymmetry View? I answer this question by outlining an account of political self-determination and by illustrating the complex role that this notion should play in discussing the morality of revolution and intervention.

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