A state to call their own: Insurrection, intervention, and the communal integrity thesis

Journal of Applied Philosophy 27 (1):26-38 (2010)
Many reasons have been given as to why humanitarian intervention might not be justified even where rebellion with similar aims would be a morally legitimate option. One of them is that intervention involves the imposition of alien values on the target society. Michael Walzer formulates this objection in terms of a people's right to a state that 'expresses their inherited culture' and that they can truly 'call their own'. I argue that this right can plausibly be said to extend sovereignty to at least some illiberal governments, and therefore to impose at least some moral constraints on humanitarian intervention. The problem for Walzer is that this right cannot form the basis of a constraint that applies to foreign intervention exclusively. Once the details of Walzer's argument are teased out, it becomes apparent that civil war and revolution must be equally restricted by this right. Hence a people's prerogative to be governed in accordance with familiar traditions cannot coherently be invoked to show that intervention is impermissible in cases where insurrection is taken to be justified.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5930.2009.00469.x
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