Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 8-1-2020

Publication Citation

27 Indiana J. Global Legal Studies 371 (2020)


When the United Nations (UN) was formed, one of its most

important goals was to render war obsolete. The UN Charter states as a

goal the hope to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt first described his vision for a

post-World War II international organization, he envisioned an

organization that would promote and facilitate "international

cooperation . . . to consider and deal with the problem of world

relations." He also wanted a council that would "concern itself with

peaceful settlement of international disputes." The UN Charter itself

took the then-unprecedented step of outlawing war, stating that "all

Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means,"

and that "all Members shall refrain . . . from the threat or use of force

against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

However, the UN Charter does not address the important potential

exception of humanitarian intervention. This lack of clarity has led to a

robust debate that continues to this day-can a state legitimately use

force for humanitarian purposes? Today, many countries have embraced

the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, which allows countries to

intervene in a humanitarian crisis if five criteria are met. One is that

of reasonable prospects which asks, is "there a reasonable chance of the

military action being successful in meeting the threat in question, and

are the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the

consequences of inaction?"* Unfortunately, this level of scrutiny needs

to be revised; instead, it should be more rigorous to account for world

leaders' consistent inability to estimate the effects of their intervention.

Additionally, cultural disruption should be considered as one of the

negative effects in this balancing test to address concerns about the use

of humanitarian intervention as a pretext for colonialism.

In this article, I intend to offer a potential solution to address these

concerns. In Part I, I will examine the development of the doctrine of

humanitarian intervention and its transformation into the

Responsibility to Protect. In Part II, I will discuss two of the potential

problems with the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. The first problem

is countries using humanitarian excuses as a pretext to advance

national aims. The second problem is countries not accurately assessing

the consequences of intervention. In Part III, I will discuss my potential

solution to address these problems - heightening the balance of

consequences test. This will be used to determine whether

humanitarian intervention should be attempted and requiring countries

to consider the desires and culture of the country that is the object of

the intervention before intervening.

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