McIntyre, Richard [faculty advisor, Department of Economics]




genocide; united nations; international law


At the beginning of a new millennium, following, perhaps, the most socially and technologically progressive eras of human history, the end of genocide and other egregious crimes against humanity still remain out of reach. In situations of such grave emergency, when all attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict fail, the determination implicated in the post-World War II maxim “never again” typically falls short, as yet more millions of innocent victims are murdered for ideological or political lies. When there is not a lack of moral conviction, a determined nation might still find themselves entangled in a web of norms of international law that preclude a military force from enforcing universal human rights. Finding this situation to be not only morally intolerable but logically inconsistent with standards and values averred by international society, I set out in my honors project to present a re-conceptualization of the moral and legal framework of intervention. Using Kant’s theory of justice, it will first be argued that protecting universally-established human rights constitutes a perfect duty—both a binding and enforceable obligation. Without a common notion of our responsibilities as both individuals and nations, garnering support for such risky endeavors will hardly be possible. Second, the legal right of an outside force to intervene, when deemed the only possible mechanism to end such an atrocity, must be established. Despite breaching the jus cogens of international law, typically understood, I attempt to show that interventions, in the context of canonical agreements and conventions, can be recognized not only as acceptable but mandatory on the part of the international community. While not proposing a cosmopolitan utopia, I intend to convey the truth in the sentiment expressed by Pratap Mehta that “there is no such thing as a ‘humanitarian crisis’ happening elsewhere.”