The Role of the 'International Community' in Just War Tradition--Confronting the Challenges of Humanitarian Intervention and Preemptive War

Journal of Military Ethics 2 (2):122-144 (2003)
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Although the use of military force for humanitarian ends seems utterly divorced from the use of such force to combat terrorism, both uses answer to similar descriptions. Both appear to encourage nations that are not necessarily themselves under attack to set aside the reigning conventions of national sovereignty and territorial integrity for the overriding purposes of international law enforcement and protection of vulnerable noncombatants. Both involve offensive rather than purely defensive uses of military force. Both answer to criteria of justification that can be derived more readily from the normative moral principles of the classical just war tradition than from purely descriptive revisions of the 'legalist paradigm' in international relations, because the latter is deeply wedded by precedent to notions of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and a purely defensive use of military force. Most significantly, the justification for both kinds of military action depends essentially upon a notion of 'the international community' that is inchoate and urgently in need of rigorous reformulation. In this paper, I attempt to formulate criteria for the justifiable use of military force for these non-defensive purposes, with attention to the nuances of internationalism that several of the resulting criteria entail. Challenges to the de facto role of the United Nations as the sole authoritative representative of this community, and alternatives to its authority in legitimating the use of military force for purposes of international law enforcement, are considered



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