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Both Pol. and Ethical Philosophy > Humanitarian intervention and ethics

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message 1: by Diana (new)

Diana K. | 5 comments Hi, everyone! I'm planning to write my dissertation on the philosophical aspect of humanitarian intervention+just war theory+applied Ethics. I was just wondering if anyone could suggest books/authors i should look at for this? Primarily for the philosophical aspects of humanitarian intervention.

Thank you! :)

message 2: by Feliks (last edited Jun 08, 2018 09:26AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments Humm.

I'd start with Lytton Strachey's 'Eminent Victorians' to gain familiarity with the charitable mindset in its most strident manifestation. Not the whole thing--merely two of the biographies in that quartet (Florence Nightingale and Chinese Gordon). Easy read.

Gladys Aylward is another interesting figure; Schweitzer of course (any paper would be remiss without mentioning these names).

Colonial interventions: wouldn't be a bad idea to start with the 1917 Revolution in Russia; when Allied powers all landed 'missions of mercy'. Earlier? Perhaps a nod to 'the Year of the French'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_R...

The Conquest of the Indies show 'vested motives' perhaps at their worst; Friar Bernard Santiago (if I recall the name correctly) recounts the bloodshed involved with the-saving-of-souls. Might be worth a passing reference.

On the side of the good, you might read up on the history of the early Catholic church for the development of the missions and hospital/monastic orders.

Economic historian Karl Polanyi covers the history of poorhouses and (govt) relief programs in Britain and Europe. George Dangerfield covers the Late Victorian/Edwardian era of British liberalism; the suffragette movement; the Irish question; etc.

message 3: by Diana (new)

Diana K. | 5 comments Hi Feliks,

This helps massively! I’ll get started on these texts. Thank you! :)

message 4: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jun 08, 2018 11:14AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4348 comments Mod
Diana wrote: "I'm planning to write my dissertation on the philosophical aspect of humanitarian intervention+just war theory+applied Ethics. I was just wondering if anyone could suggest books/authors i should look at for this? Primarily for the philosophical aspects of humanitarian intervention."

See generally my Goodreads reading list on international law, international politics, and foreign policy. This list contains many books that are broader than your topic. Regarding your specific inquiry, you might consider (to the extent you have not already considered) the following:

Thomas L Pangle and Peter J. Ahrensdorf, Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1999). This book has been on my shelf since 2001, but, notwithstanding my intentions, I have still not read it. The table of contents indicates that it discusses classical realism (Thucydides), classical idealism (Plato and Aristotle), classical cosmopolitism (the Stoics and Cicero), the Christian teaching on just war, modern realism (Machiavelli and his successors), modern idealism (from the Grotian law of nations to Kantian international organization), twentieth-century realism (Hans Morgenthau), and neorealism (Kenneth Waltz). (I last read Morgenthau's classic Politics Among Nations when I took his course by that name from him in 1965; I didn't entirely agree with him then, and I still don’t.)

I thought Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices was an interesting and informative analysis of such issues, but when I posted a review of it on Amazon, I was immediately attacked by right-wing trolls (who had obviously never read the book, which had nothing to do with partisan politics).

My above-linked reading list contains several books critical of the neoconservative US foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. That, of course, is a long story.

I may have additional information later, but I must leave now for an appointment. I'll consider this further later today.

message 5: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments Another: William James 'The Variety of Religious Experience'. James is a good reference for the earliest figures in the history of man's charitable impulses. He will give you the leads on all the spiritual figures you may need. 'Lives of the Saints' for further detail (sorry, can't recall author).

Let me know when you're planning on discussing American aid or military adventures and I'll give that some thought too. Mexico, Philippines, the Barbary Wars, all worth considering.

message 6: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4348 comments Mod
Also, of course, the works of George F. Kennan (see my reading list), which present a somewhat "realist" approach, notwithstanding the conservative misunderstanding of the containment policy he adumbrated shortly after World War II. I have read much of his work over the decades.

message 7: by Diana (new)

Diana K. | 5 comments Get Alan,

Thanks for your suggestions! I've added them to my reading list. The philosophical concepts (Morgenthau etc) I've read extensively and might include within the essay. I don't have that many words allowed to go into massive depth, and I need to consider political, philosophical, ethical reasons as well as discussed the humamitairan/military interventions that have taken place from a philosophical POV. I'm thinking including neoconservatism, elements of realism and liberalism, and concepts of post-colonialism to an extent. :)

message 8: by Diana (new)

Diana K. | 5 comments Hey Feliks,

Thanks for those. Struggled to find the author you were thinking of for Lives of the Saints as there are also fictional books and novels with the same title. If you do recall the author, let me know :)

I'm definitely thinking including military intervention as the primary purpose of humanitarian intervention has become overshadowed by military missions :)

message 9: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments that author seems to be Alban Butler

A daring theme to employ in your dissertation might be the always-overlooked benefits of colonialism. Not to undercut the tremendous disadvantages of that episode; but what people often forget today is that with the coming of seagoing navigation itself, all of the indigenous peoples of the Southern latitudes were at risk from piracy/plunder from any adventurer who might ever land there. Although the Europeans eviscerated the resources of many a colony they also provided order, stability, rule of law, courts, medicine and education. With a British garrison in place, privateers could not simply land and wreak havoc. Whole colonies could have been slaughtered outright if lands were left to corsairs.

Someone I read recently too (JA Hobson's, 'Imperialism: A Study') discusses in-depth whether the colonies ever really gave good ROI back to their host nations. It's also an excellent consideration as well.

message 10: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jun 08, 2018 11:32AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4348 comments Mod

See also the International Law and Politics topic in this group.

message 11: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments She'll want at least a sidebar on the use of humanitarian military missions (successful ones Israel's 'Raid on Entebbe'), botched ones ('Operation Eagle Claw'), but especially the underhanded 'false flag' type of ruses disguised as missions-of-mercy. Such as Hitler's stratagems in Austria and Alsace-Lorraine which opened WWII. He frequently claimed to only act in the cause of 'protecting German citizens there' etc etc etc

re: the International Law thread, if my mention of the case of Castioni isn't there, I'll cite it now. Castioni, 1891 deals with how to try a member of a citizen's uprising, which when storming a palace, Castioni accidentally shot a palace guard. It morphed into an international extradition case, but the central issue was whether a politically motivated violent act (or accident stemming from a political action) should be handled differently than a normal criminal matter.

message 12: by Feliks (last edited May 15, 2020 12:41PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments Something for a possible future discussion:

The uproar going on in today's politically-sensitive culture often strikes me as surreal. In domestic US news headlines, each month lately seems to bring forth a new lawsuit over some issue of workplace sexism, a similar scandal in Hollywood; or maybe a pro athlete accusing his teammates of racism, etc etc etc.

It's surreal to me because over all the hullabaloo and finger-pointing and public apologies (people being forced to attend 'sensitivity classes' and such) ...my question is, does no one remember that the USA continually dispatches our armed forces around the world or that we routinely occupy other nations? Vietnam of course; but also Iraq and other parts of the Mid-East. Since WWII the list is much longer than that --we've had troops in the Caribbean, Europe, all over.

The reason I put this musing under 'humanitarian intervention' topic is because I'm wondering why it is such a 'non-topic' these days, the fact that American armies are frequently stationed in other countries.

How 'politically sensitive' can these episodes possibly be for the citizens among whom we impinge upon? In Vietnam, there were infamous cases highlighting the atrocious behavior of our troops (the MyLai massacre, for example) and in Iraq there was the Abu Ghraib scandal.

These are crude examples I admit; but what I'm trying to get at is this: our domestic policy has a schizoid disconnect from our foreign policy. US troops are landed in other countries and the age-old 'them vs us' or 'natives vs invaders' mindset takes hold, as it always has since the days of the British Raj. Or, to pre-1776 America, when a big issue was 'soldiers being housed' in the homes of colonial citizens.

An occupying army from a major power probably can't help but that it's troops 'behave badly' towards the host country they find themselves in. It's a 'circle the wagons' mentality which is usually ugly.

Are US soldiers sent to 'sensitivity training' after they open fire at some 'furtive movement they see on the side of the road'? No. It could very well have been a 'local' planting a mine or booby-trap. The soldiers are trained to shoot and kill if necessary.

I'm just wondering what literature is out there for this point I'm raising. Aren't 'ethics' tossed aside any time one nation intervenes in the affairs of another?

(hypothetically) Said another way: if my nation is exploiting your nation for cereals --if a canal runs through your land which is vital to the economy of my land, and I'm willing to kill you to protect it --why would I participate in elaborate courtesies and manners intended to show how much I care about your feelings?

message 13: by Feliks (last edited Dec 17, 2020 10:15PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments Not sure how many of us today are familiar with the strange tragedy of the ocean liner St. Louis, which traveled from Germany to North America at the start of WWII.

The vessel carried a 'human cargo' of impoverished German-Jewish refugees. But when the ship successfully crossed the Atlantic, ports in Canada, Cuba, and even the United States were closed to them.

It's a hopeful sign of diplomatic progress that such a thing could not happen today. How ridiculous, inexplicable, and indefensible that no country in the west, could 'find a place' for a mere 937 more mouths.

In the United States, Secretary of State Cordell Hull was apparently responsible for withholding traditional American aid towards these travelers who literally had no where else to go.

The ship was forced to return to Europe, and although some escaped; many of the refugees later wound up in concentration camps.


message 14: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments Archer Blood and 'the Blood telegram'. A remarkable episode in the annals of American Foreign Service.

Still relevant to how government whistle-blowers are treated today.

The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide

Washington Post book review:

Background to the 'dissent channel'

The first message in the 'Dissent Channel' came from the consulate general in Dacca, East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

In March 1971, the central government’s armed forces began a wave of killings of Bengalis in East Pakistan in what proved to be a vain attempt to suppress separatist sentiment in that distant province. The campaign horrified the American consul general, Archer K. Blood, who sent a series of cables urging Washington to take a public stance condemning the atrocities.

Unknown to Blood, or to Secretary of State William P. Rogers, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger was using Pakistan as the go-between in the still-secret U.S. opening to China. For that reason, among others, Blood’s appeals were ignored.

On April 6, 1971, Blood’s staff sent a message via the Dissent Channel saying that America had to act “to salvage our nation’s position as a moral leader of the free world.” Consul General Blood did not sign the dissent, but appended a note endorsing it.

Kissinger believed the message was written to be leaked, and said that Secretary Rogers thought it “outrageous” that his diplomats were writing petitions instead of reports. Blood was recalled and his career thereafter stunted. Like his earlier messages, the dissent had no effect on U.S. policy.

AFSA gave Archer Blood its Christian Herter Award for Constructive Dissent in 1971. To his credit, Secretary Rogers presided at the ceremony (“I think he was a little embarrassed,” Blood said later.) Archer Blood is remembered and revered as a friend of the country (Bangladesh).

--Harry Kopp

message 15: by Feliks (last edited Jan 29, 2022 05:28PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments Something one does not often see anymore in today's world. Political protests involving public self-immolation.


There was a girl who did this to herself, on my college campus. I didn't know her personally, but I had been an occasional spectator at her demonstrations.

message 16: by Feliks (last edited Feb 19, 2022 08:58PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1519 comments I post the following information tentatively, not quite sure of where to place it, either. I can't pin down a single source. Here are a few links which prompt this post:


This is partly why I feel little but scorn for the uproar which emanates from today's outspoken, oh-so-strident 'armchair' activists. The internet does nothing so well as promote passivity.

To my way of thinking, the only Americans who can boast of their liberal idealism are men who fought in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam. They put their lives on the line, for the cause of freedom. Who else has any standing to speak?

Everyone today loves to characterize totalitarianism as demonic beings from some other era, "beasts-in-human-form" who would not be possible today. But all such critics speak conveniently from a position of comfort and safety. Who actually fights? Is a Siberian gulag any different than a Nazi concentration camp?

As the links above show, Russians were treating Jews in utterly the same way in the 1970s as Germans did in the 1940s. The 1970s are within our own lifetimes. That's not 'some other era' when people were possessed by evil. What did valiant Americans do about it? Nothing. We cowered before Russia for decades. Russia executed, interned, or deported untold numbers of Jews/undesirables, and what was our response? Nada. We didn't lift a finger.

The worst kind of American is the provincial kind who watches the world fall apart on a little screen, from the serene coziness of their living room.

We allowed the invasion of Czechoslovakia. We allowed the invasion of Afghanistan. We allowed the oppression of Poland and Hungary. We allowed genocide in East Timor; the Chinese oppression of Tibet. We never stepped in to save South Africa or Haiti or Darfur or Uganda or the Khmer people or the Philippines, or anywhere else. Seen a missing KAL airliner recently, anyone? When it comes right down to it, the history of America since WWII is one of diplomatic expedience, but moral cowardice.

The modern-day west, never fights for anything unless its the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal. So to anyone today hectoring the rest of us --screaming at us --for more human rights, I say: prove it. Fight for it, or hush up. We haven't stepped up in a long, long while --the internet makes it even less likely that we ever will.

I beg everyone's pardon for my outspokenness this evening.

message 17: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4348 comments Mod
Feliks, I just spent an hour writing a long response to your preceding comment. Somehow, I have lost my draft, and I don’t have another hour to recreate it. Suffice it to say that the United States cannot, and should not, be the policeman of the world. We have learned that the hard way in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. World War II was a conventional war. The United States can always win a conventional war against militarily inferior powers, but it has never won an unconventional war. Moreover, the U.S. could not have taken on the Soviet Union militarily during the Cold War without a serious risk of thermonuclear war, resulting in the destruction of the planet and all human life in it.

We must, however, defend our formal allies, specifically NATO, against Russian or other aggression. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but we will respond with severe economic sanctions if Russia reinvades Ukraine (they already took Crimea in 2014 and have been fighting a proxy war in eastern Ukraine for many years).

There is much more that I could say, but I need to get to bed now, and my lengthy comments in this forum are distracting me from my need to complete the research and writing of my book on ethical philosophy and my subsequent book on political philosophy.

message 18: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla | 85 comments I think Joe Biden’s handling of this Ukraine situation is promising. He is telling Putin that if you invade Ukraine, then we (the United States-led western democracies) will use our financial power to ruin you and your cronies by taking your wealth. The subtext, of course, includes the risk to Putin that we might also treat him as an international terrorist placing his personal safety in jeopardy.

I don’t know if this strategy will work. But I admire it.

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