Saturday, February 9, 2013

LD Mar 2013 Humanitarian Intervention - Background

Resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.

For part one of this analysis, click here.

UN Resolution 2131 (part):
1. No State has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are condemned.
2. No State may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights or to secure from it advantages of any kind.  Also, no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist, or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State.

State Sovereignty

The modern concept of state sovereignty has its roots in the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648 and which ended the Thirty-Years War.  The treaty codified the principle of territorial integrity and the right of political self-determination.  Another important agreement was that each state was legally equal to the other.
Gordon 2008:
A Westphalian nation-state has two main characteristics: a specific area of land which is considered part of the nation, called territoriality, and a ruling structure that has the ultimate power to rule over the nation without yielding to any external agency. The latter provision is especially important; to be a sovereign nation, authority cannot come from outside the state. Conversely, the authority of a Westphalian nation-state is limited to the boundaries that define the nation’s territory. This concept is called territorial integrity, and is an important aspect of relations between two Westphalian nation-states.

In the modern world, with the rise of the UN, the spread of democracy, formation of the European Union, the increasing influence of non-state actors, and globalization, the relevance of the Westphalian concepts of sovereignty may be changing.  Seventeenth century Europe during the time of the Thirty-Years War was a world of empires and powerful ruling classes. The 1700s was a time of revolution in which nations, like the United States emerged by throwing off colonialist super-powers and the concepts of state legitimacy shifted in favor of a paradigm in which sovereignty was derived from the citizens of the nation rather than a ruling class or the external recognition of neighboring states.  The problems of applying Westphalian concepts to a post-colonial world are seen in Africa.

Deng 2010:
...sovereignty as a concept and institution is central to the discourse on the legitimacy of states’ functions and their impact on the rights of its citizens. While the Hobbean social contract theories, in which state sovereignty was anchored, granted rudimentary elements of legitimacy to the state in the 21st century, the post-Westphalian state has to immerse itself in the sociology of rights in order for it to earn its legitimacy from its citizens and the international community. This human rights paradigm on sovereignty has transformed and reconstructed the concept of sovereignty to an extent that positivists, who glorify states’ functions and security in a presumed anarchic world, express their deep concerns about the eventual and unacceptable weakening of state sovereignty.
Indeed, many post-independence African states have continued to raise the flag of sovereignty to justify their pernicious actions against their citizens; a fact that has turned their citizens into hapless victims and hostages in their own countries and blemished their legitimacy claims. Almost all African countries continue to institutionalise state sovereignty that they inherited from colonial powers, rather than national sovereignty, which implies people’s sovereignty or what others dub as popular sovereignty. In this way, Africa as a region and a people has remained powerless, marginalised and somewhat irrelevant in terms of the centres of powers in the world because of the entrenched state sovereignty that has been failing to empower African peoples and, instead, reinforced and retrenched neo-colonialism.
...While the doctrine of self-determination is as old as the French Revolution and the American Revolution in the 18th century, the application of this doctrine became more pronounced in the fight against colonialism by the marginalised and colonised peoples of the world. These two revolutions established a new political order which was based on a new conception of sovereignty that vested sovereignty with the people and its representatives. As Depaigne noted:
The sovereign is no longer the king, but the nation. Sovereignty is tied to human rights. The sovereign derives its legitimacy from the freedom and wellbeing of its constituent parts: the individuals. This relation is reciprocal. Human rights legitimise the sovereignty of the nation and, in turn, this sovereignty legitimises human rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 21 (3) refers to the will of the people as the basis of the authority of government. In other words, state sovereignty should not derive its legitimacy from the control of a specific territory per se, but also the will of the people it purports to be under its control must be respected and the main source of its legislation.

Realism, Idealism, Sovereignty and Human Rights

This resolution is about international relations and the interaction of one state with another.  Therefore, it is prudent to gain a background on international relations theory.  It is vital to understand whether a state acts out of concern for humanitarian principles or whether it is acting from purely selfish motives, such as enhancing its standing in the international community.

Fortman 2011:
Insofar as the mass media pay attention to human rights questions and issues, their focus is primarily on international relations and foreign policy. This would not give any reason for concern if the emphasis were just on human rights as an end to be achieved. What permeates international relations is, however, human rights as an instrument to uplift a state’s own credibility while undermining that of other states. In that respect two distinctive ways of twisting human rights may be discerned: Offensive and defensive human rights.

Offensive human rights implies a focus on violations by other states. Illustrative in this respect is the usual practice in the relations between Cuba and the United States: In whatever forum possible, motions are put forward to censure the rival state. The term defensive human rights, on the other hand, refers to the practice of signing and ratifying whatever treaty possible (not uncommonly with pre-announced reservations) as well as incorporating human rights standards in the country’s national constitution, not as a first step towards implementation but simply as a point of positive reference whenever questions are asked as to the country’s human rights record. To be sure, the ensuing state obligations are internationally enforceable only if systematic non-compliance were first reported to the UN Security Council and next resulted in action in the form of sanctions.

This could happen only very rarely as international governance is extremely weak in practice. Consequently, state sovereignty – also a UN foundational principle (UN Charter Article 2) – has remained a crucial obstacle to the enforcement of international human rights law.

One of the most popular theories of international relations is known as realism or a variant, neo-realism and finds part of its foundation in the social contract theory.  The state seeks to preserve itself and its citizens and so only acts in accordance with those purposes.

Korab-Karpowicz 2011:
In the discipline of international relations there are contending general theories or theoretical perspectives. Realism, also known as political realism, is a view of international politics that stresses its competitive and conflictual side. It is usually contrasted with idealism or liberalism, which tends to emphasize cooperation. Realists consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states, which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their own national interests, and struggle for power. The negative side of the realists' emphasis on power and self-interest is their skepticism regarding the relevance of ethical norms to relations among states. National politics is the realm of authority and law, whereas international politics, they sometimes claim, is a sphere without justice, characterized by active or potential conflict among states.

I should also mention idealism as a competing theory of international relations which enjoys support by some IR theorists.

Driving idealists visionaries is the huge bet that most have placed on the potential of liberal democracy to become the organizing principle of all international relations. Idealists see cardinal features of liberal democracy, such as limited government, equal rights, a constitution, the rule of law, consent of the governed, individual rights, and religious pluralism, as being essential around the world. Of this, acclaimed political theorist Jonathan Schell, in a chapter somewhat critical of this kind of liberal internationalism, makes the following wry comment. The “plan of the liberal democratic state,” he writes, “is based on a formula that seems to beg for application in the international sphere. Might not nations enter into a social contract just as individuals supposedly once did? Why should domestic governments alone be founded on nonviolent principles? Why stop at national borders? Shouldn’t a system of cooperative power, the key to resolving disputes without violence, be extended to the limits of the earth? Thought glides smoothly and easily to this conclusion.” (Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, 2003, pp 265-266.)

I feel compelled to introduce you to some of the fundamental concepts of IR theory because the motivations for intenvention in humanitaruan crises are crucial in determining whether the nations is acting out of some genuine concern for the protection of human rights.  Two notable examples in recent histroy are the US intervention in Kosovo and the lack of intervention in Rwanda.  If the US was concerned about the violation of human rights, why were the responses in each case different?

On Legal "Intervention"

I suppose there is an argument to me made, there are many kinds of intervention.  Certainly, if the US suspected some kind of wrong doing is taking place inside another country, they may take a series of actions aimed at mitigating the wrong.  There are diplomatic actions which can be taken which may be effective in stopping the abuses.  Typically, these kinds of interventions are related as "expressions of concern" or even statements which "condemn" the actions of other states.  To be sure, some of that diplomacy may even threaten an escalation if the offending country refuses to get its affairs in order but that kind of "diplomacy" crosses the line in violation of the UN prohibitions against coercion.  When the item of concern is the perceived abuse of human rights, additional steps may be taken through a recognized body such as the United Nations.  The U.N. also has a diplomatic corps and will express "concern" and urge compliance with international norms aimed at protecting human rights.  The UN or other nations may escalate intervention by injecting humanitarian relief for the afflicted population.  In some circumstances, the UN may intervene with armed "peace keepers".  However, the peace keeping forces are usually always "invited" by the two parties involved so as to not violate the sovereignty of the country.  For the most part, these diplomatic efforts to mitigate human rights violations may be considered legal responses.  The actions completely in accord with international treaties and laws and do not violate the rights of states to manage their own affairs.

Still, we have seen many times in history how diplomatic efforts have failed to prevent human rights abuses.  Diplomacy takes time and in the meantime, people are suffering.  UN fact finding missions take time, the efforts to compile findings into reports, take time.  UN debates and agreements require effort and time to reach conclusion and in the meantime, extreme suffering and death may be occurring on a massive scale.  Sometimes, during this period of international hand-wringing, some states will take unilateral action to avert human tragedy and those actions may cross the line between legal and illegal intervention.

For me, the idea of legal and illegal intervention is critical to this debate.  If a nation suspects another of violating the rights of others, there are certain legal steps which can be taken to address the issue.  Indeed, a great deal of diplomatic pressure can often be brought to bear without any kind of direct intervention in the internal affairs of the suspect country.  So why must these kinds of legal actions be justified?  If a nation is taking legal steps to mitigate harms by another state, no justification should necessarily be required.  However, once the nation takes actions which directly intervenes in the internal affairs of another state, a legal threshold has been crossed which requires justification.

Coady 2011:
I define intervention as an intentional act of one state or group of states or an international agency aimed at exercising overriding authority on what are normally the “internal” policies or practices of another state or group of states. It is crucial here, therefore, that the target state (as I will call it) does not consent to the intervention. So the bombing of Serbia as a means of protecting Albanian Kosovars clearly counts as intervention, whereas the actions of the coalition that went into East Timor with the consent of the Indonesian government do not. The GulfWar is not an intervention because it was not essentially an intrusion into the internal politics of Iraq—though it arguably developed into that with later military efforts to protect the Kurds—but an effort to aid Kuwait (with its consent) against an invasion by Iraq.

Forced Entry

No country will "break down the front door" of another country and rush in to save someone without bringing a whole lot of firepower.  The moral arguments in favor of intervention (despite international laws to the contrary) are very similar to the arguments which may or may not justify authorities kicking open the door of a private residence in order to prevent domestic violence.  Even in places where there is a legal justification for taking this action, there is still a kind of strict scrutiny which must be used to determine; was a life truly in imminent danger, was there no other less invasive course of action that could be taken and was the response of the authorities proportional with the threat?  In international law, there is no legal justification for direct intervention, either militarily, or by using other forms of infiltration and coercion to alter the internal politics and decision-making process of a sovereign state.  Moreover, in the case of humanitarian interventions, there is no reason to believe such intervention will end the abuses much less prosecute the perpetrators.  The best that can be hoped for, the abuse is stopped for a time.

Abass 2011:
"In classical international law, the only means through which to exert pressure on States not to violate the rights of foreigners were diplomatic intervention, such as an exchange of notes, a regular exchange of views on States' international obligations, and so on.  If the situation were particularly desparate, then it might require the use of force against the concerned States in what is known as a 'humanitarian intervention' (see Chapter 10).  We will recall, however, that the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, which is still practiced today, has always been very unpopular, precisely because it overrides a States' sovereignty to do as it pleases within its own territory, including how it deals with its people.  Even then, humanitarian intervention does not give violated people justice, it only compels a State to stop violating its people's rights on a massive scale.  This means that such violations could continue even after the intervention, provided that they are neither massive nor particularly gruesome.  Humanitarian intervention is available only when human suffering reaches a particular threshold, often determined with reference to genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.  It is not available to violations of such rights as freedom of movement, freeedom of expression, and so on."

Continue to the Affirmative position.


Complete International Law, Ademola Abass, Oxford University Press, 2011

T. Modibo Ocran

The Ethics of Armed Humanitarian Intervention, United states Institute of Peace
C. A. J. Coady, 2002

Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth, International Organization 55, 2, Spring 2001, pp. 251–287
Andreas Osiander

The Origins of Westphalian Sovereignty, History Department, Western Oregon University
Kelly Gordon, 2008

The New Sovereignty in International Relations
DAVID A. LAKE, 2003, Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

The Evolving Concept and Institution of Sovereignty, Challenges and Opportunities
Biong Kuol Deng, AISI Policy Brief, 2010

Human Rights in the Context of International Relations
Bas de Gaay Fortman on July 2011

Korab-Karpowicz, W. Julian, "Political Realism in International Relations", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

Realism and Idealism in International Relations
by Charles Strohmer


  1. You guys are retards! WHERES THE AFF AND NEG PART!?

    1. Dude calm down. He gets to it eventually.

    2. Anon,

      You realize you're getting a wealth of information for free, right? Show some gratitude or just rage quit and never come back.

  2. If your going to be rude, just research your own evidence and background.

  3. Doing a speech and debate tournament. this was soo helpful.


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