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Unformatted text preview: Ethics 118 (January 2008): 228–257 q 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0014-1704/2008/11802- 0005$10.00 228 From Humanitarian Intervention to Assassination: Human Rights and Political Violence* Andrew Altman and Christopher Heath Wellman An international consensus has begun to take shape around that idea that the cross-border use of armed force by states is morally permissible if such force is required to stop or prevent human-rights abuses amount- ing to a supreme humanitarian emergency. At the same time, it is widely believed that political assassination is a form of murder and so morally impermissible in principle, regardless of the ends for which it is done. In this article, we reject these views. We argue that armed intervention 1 is morally permissible when (1) the target state is illegitimate and (2) the risk to human rights is not disproportionate to the rights violations that one can reasonably expect to avert. 2 Moreover, once one accepts that such intervention is sometimes permissible, it becomes untenable to hold that political assassination is impermissible in principle. The article is divided into six main sections. In the first two sections, * We are grateful for the comments and suggestions of two anonymous referees and the associate editors of Ethics . 1. Adapting Terry Nardin’s definition, we understand intervention as the exercise of coercion by one state within the jurisdiction of another state, without the uncoerced permission of the government of the latter state. See his “Introduction,” in NOMOS XLVII: Humanitarian Intervention , ed. Terry Nardin and Melissa Williams (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 1. 2. Our moral analyses are framed in terms of “human rights” because it is the most commonly accepted moral vocabulary for discussing state violence and, we believe, the best way to capture at the deepest level of moral thought the demands that derive from the moral status of persons. Thinkers whose foundational moral commitments are oth- erwise can still accept the arguments of this article as long as they can understand reference to human rights as grounded in, or a surrogate for, what they regard as the most basic moral demands connected to the status of personhood. On the question of what rights are human rights, our view is that the best place to start is with articles 3–20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html. Altman and Wellman From Intervention to Assassination 229 we explain the consensus view on armed intervention, criticize the two main arguments on its behalf, and outline our alternative account. Next we argue that our account provides a more adequate treatment of in- tervention in wars of independence than does the consensus. In the fourth section, we contend that the permissibility of armed intervention does not depend upon the consent of the intended beneficiaries. The fifth section explores what the rules of international law ought to be...
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This note was uploaded on 09/27/2011 for the course PHILOSPHY 106 taught by Professor Mcmahan during the Fall '10 term at Rutgers.
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