Humanitarian intervention causes more harm than good



The peace and security among nations across the world remain a critical subject matter as depravities and vices continue to characterize all human endeavors or interactions. Such social vices and depravities are seen in the midst wars and conflicts, political instabilities, human right abuses such as human trafficking and slave trade etc. It is true that the peace and harmony of the world has always been seriously threatened by these acts of hostilities. The international bodies including the United Nations (UN), Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other relevant institutions have not rested on their oars in terms of putting proper measures in place to safeguard the peace, security and progress of the world. These bodies have provided meaningful support to nations that suffer acts of conflicts, abuse of human rights and other several forms of hostilities. The support rendered by the international communities is summed up in the substance of humanitarian interventions. Humanitarian intervention refers to the efforts made by a foreign state or the international community mainly through the use of military or armed force to help avert violations of human rights in another state (Kuperman & Crawford, 2014, p. 61). Conversely the importance of humanitarian intervention has been largely questioned. This is because the consequence of it has mostly had adverse effects on the nations’ involved. This paper however explores humanitarian intervention with much emphasis on the degree of harm it has caused some states rather than the good.

Overview and modern trends humanitarian intervention

According to Nelson (2016) humanitarian intervention is a state sponsored involvement in curbing the frequency of human right violations in another state often with the use of military force (p. 36). Abuse of human rights and dignity is prevalent in several countries around the world. Such destinations are often governed by dictators and tyrants who refuse to regard the basic rights of people or implement laws that ensure the rights of citizens are protected. Under such circumstances, there becomes the responsibility of the international communities to intervene and make sure that such important rights of the people are protected. However humanitarian interventions primarily encompass the use of armed or military forces to achieve the intended purpose. Bajoria and McMahon (2013) added that humanitarian interventions go beyond the use of military forces as humanitarian aid and international sanctions are also sometimes used (p. 158).

Therefore humanitarian intervention refers to the use of both forcible and non-forcible means to prevent violation of human rights in order to lessen the suffering of populations within a sovereign state (Pieterse, 2016, p. 76). Humanitarian intervention is necessitated on a number of grounds including instances where a sovereign state is heavily involved with actions that cause suffering and grief among its citizens. It must be noted that humanitarian interventions are inspired mainly by humanitarian goals and not any other interests (Kuperman & Crawford, 2014, p. 87). This is to state that the action is mostly embarked upon through interfering in the internal affairs of the host government to force it to act responsibly in terms of respecting the rights and liberties of its citizens.

Humanitarian interventions are normally sanctioned by the UN Security Council (Hehir & Murray, 2013, 3) based on its information of trends of dire circumstances on the people of a member state. This means that there is an international standard that member states should follow pursuant to respecting the basic rights of people. Failure to ensure the implementation of such standards calls the intervention of other states which culminate into humanitarian interventions. However there have been several instances where the intervener has no prior express authorization form the UN Security Council. This can be described as unauthorized intervention because the state uses force to embark on actions that the UN has not sanctioned. A typical example refers to the NATO’s intervention in Kosovo (Koh, 2017, p 288).

There have been several examples of military intervention from time to time. A few recent ones to report include the coalition of military intervention in Libya in 2011 in addition to the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq which occurred in 2014 till present (Koh, 2017, p. 290). A critical review of the cases indicate that the governments of these sovereign states were engaged in acts that did not just trample on the rights of the citizens but caused them suffering and anguish. It is against this backdrop that humanitarian interventions were voted for in such countries such that peace and tranquility for the masses will thrive. The actions of an intervener become legitimate when it has the backing of the United Nations Security Council.

Positive Impacts of humanitarian intervention

The legitimacy and the significance of humanitarian intervention has been an important debate in the political space of the global community. While some analysts raise questions about the justification and the importance of the action, others argue for the need to carry out the action as may be sanctioned and directed by the UN.  It is relevant to note that military intervention come in different forms. These include diplomatic and economic support rendered to states to ensure development, sanctions preferred against the host state and military intervention (Hehir & Murray, 2013, p. 76). Each of these types of interventions carries its own positive and negative impacts on the host country. The following discussions explore the merits of humanitarian intervention as regards bringing hope to and protecting the rights of the suffering masses in a sovereign state.

According to Averre and Davies (2015) the principal underpinning factor that warrants the basis for military intervention reflects the need to respect and protect human life (p. 822). The political and economic leaders of the world have a duty to make sure rights of people in all walks of life are protected and respected. It becomes therefore necessary to intervene in the internal matters of other sovereign states that trample on the basic rights of people and to make sure the populations in the host country attain their freedom. These actions undeniable provide the needed support for people who may be in dire need. Pieterse (2016) pointed out that humanitarian intervention by the use of military force provides immediate end to aggressions and warfare in a country and recommences a process of de-escalation (p 76). This means that humanitarian intervention seeks to provide humanitarian help and as well offer protection to innocent civilian lives. To this extent humanitarian intervention can be said to impact positively on the lives of the oppressed and the afflicted.

Paris (2014) revealed that humanitarian intervention leads to an awareness creation in respect of human rights and rights of the vulnerable in society such as women and children as well as people with disabilities (p. 570). This is true to the extent that the intervention of a state in another sovereign state as purported to bring relief to the suffering masses particularly helps to increase awareness on the need to respect the rights of people. There are even such situations where the citizens of the host countries may be ignorant of their own rights and liberties. This comes on the back of the government doing everything possible to flatten and disrespect the basic human rights as endorsed by the United Nations. Under such situations where the citizens are not even fully aware of their rights, the authority may take them for granted and disrespect most of these rights. Humanitarian intervention therefore becomes an eye opener for people to realize what rights they have and why such rights ought to be respected by governments. Military intervention again put pressure on the host government to begin to do things right to safeguard the dignity of its own people (Evans, Thakur & Pape, 2013, 203).

Humanitarian intervention helps to topple unjust regimes and bring freedom sovereignty to the people of a state (Paris, 201, p. 576). Unjust regimes constitute countries whose leadership governs with oppression and coercion. Such regimes force its citizens to abide by their rules and regulations without questions. In the process they tend to commit atrocities against its own people who may resist any form of oppression mated out to them. This however leads to the formation of rebel groups and high in uprisings and unrests. Properties get destroyed and precious human lives are lost in the midst of the disturbances. Humanitarian intervention through the use of military force becomes a necessity for the purpose of controlling the situation and most importantly tumbling the rule of the oppressor and the tyrant. This remains the only means by which peace may be restored in such states paving way for effective governance systems that supports growth and development of the people.

Humanitarian interventions further help to establish firmly the rule of law and democratic governance systems in a state (Stahn, 2014, p. 30). This paves way for citizens to express their opinions without any fear of victimization on the governance systems in the country. The laws of the state become empowered and call on everybody irrespective of their position to respect them in order to ensure smooth governance. Humanitarian intervention helps to bring people who are guilty of war crimes to book and ensure that justice is served (Evans, Thakur & Pape, 2013, p. 200). This serves as deterrent to others and discourages any interests they may entertain to commit hostilities.

Negative impacts of humanitarian intervention

There is a huge perception that the intention or interest of the intervener goes beyond the common concern to alleviate the plight of the citizens of the host state. Bajoria and McMahon (2013) for instance pointed out that there are discrepancies in when and where interventions take place thus bringing forth the element of an ulterior motive of the intervener to the limelight (p 165).  This means that there are no consistencies in the operations of the intervening states towards carrying out the action. Therefore decisions that go into embarking on the action show a pattern of unpredictability which overrides the common interest helping to protect the rights of people in the host state. Nelson (2016) added that humanitarian intervention is based on the basic principle of cost benefit analysis (p. 70). By this they meant that, actors who take up the responsibility to intervene do so upon consideration of the cost involved. In a situation where the cost of intervening is too high, many actors begin to decline responsibility to get involved. The point to make is that the actors that seek to make the intervention look at the potential benefits to exploit before they embark on the action. This questions the genuineness of the intentions of the intervener relative to the original purpose of carrying out humanitarian intervention.

Need a custom paper ASAP?
We can do it today.
Tailored to your instructions. 0% plagiarism.

According to Averre and Davies (2015) actors who seek to bring peace and protect the rights and interest of the citizens tend to exploit the natural resources of the host country to their advantage (p. 812). This means that the intervener takes advantage of the situation and robs the host country of the rich natural resources in the process of mediating to bring peace. Under such circumstances the actors who intervene are seen more of an enemy rather than an independent mediator in the hostility. The host governments are very familiar with the supposed evil intention of the intervener and tend to resist the operations to the core. Such developments lead to the destruction of more lives and properties as there are continued warfare or fighting between pro-government forces of the host country and the military troupes of the intervening country. This does not serve the interest any of the two parties except to deepen the woes host country causing more lives to be lost and properties destroyed.

Hildebrandt et al. (2013) revealed that the military intervention by the USA that saw the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011 killed tens of thousands of Libyan nationals (p. 253). There are further estimated millions of Libyans who have been turned into refugees as a result of the humanitarian intervention. Hildebrandt et al. (2013) again pointed out that the U.S invasion of Afghanistan in the name of humanitarian intervention has claimed about 220,000 Afghan lives since 2001 (254). It further estimates the death of US citizens and its allies to about 2,500. But the number of people who have lost their homes, families and turned refugees run into millions. Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to have experienced life threatening injuries as a result of the intervention.  There is denying the fact that cities are ravaged, precious lives are lost, populations are displaced and turned refugees abroad through humanitarian intervention. There is therefore no justification to state that humanitarian intervention is of important benefits to the citizens of the host country. Rather it is the intervener who controls affairs receives benefits.

There are again discrepancies between the intent of the intervener and the outcome of their actions. Binder (2015) stated that the use of sanctions to force host countries to change its style of governance is counterproductive (p. 720). This is because the use of diplomatic sanctions only helps to strengthen regimes in terms of having more opportunity to cause supplementary suffering to its people. The case of sanctions preferred against Iraq in the era of Saddam Hussein did little or nothing to pressure the regime to surrender but actually made things worse for the populations of Iraq (Stahn, 2014, p. 30). This is because resources became scarce for the people and humanitarian aid were not enough to meet their demands. The consequences of humanitarian intervention pose herculean challenges on the citizens and not necessarily the government as seen the above scenario. Hence the supposed action to pressure the government of the host country may be disillusioned as the innocent citizens are seen to suffer more of the consequences. This implies that humanitarian intervention by use of military force and sanctions only cause disastrous situations and make things worse for the citizens of the host country.


In the midst of the growing tyrannical or dictatorial rule by governments of some states which results in the abuse of the fundamental human rights, humanitarian intervention remains the only option to help curb the odd. It has been established that humanitarian interventions seek to protect and respect the rights of all persons, topple unjust governments and increase the awareness of the human rights and freedoms in addition to establishing the rule of law. These components are relevant for smooth running of a country which safeguards the liberties of citizens. But how and when the intervention is carried out and the intention or interest of the intervener coupled with the outcome of the action make the entire operation inessential. This means that humanitarian intervention causes more harm than good. Millions of lives have been lost, several other millions of innocent lives have experienced life threatening injuries, people have lost their families and friends leading to their displacements into foreign lands as refugees and properties have been destroyed through humanitarian interventions. This comes on the back of the military forces of the intervener being drawn into conflict with the troupes of the host country. In this case the intervener is not a mediator but a participant of the conflict leading to destruction of property and loss of more lives. The good intention of humanitarian intervention is mostly overridden by grave and horrendous outcome and thereby making the entire action unwelcomed. On this score it is concluded that humanitarian intervention cause more harm than good.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Kuperman, A., & Crawford, T. (2014). Gambling on humanitarian intervention. Routledge.
  2. Pieterse, J. N. (2016). World orders in the making: humanitarian intervention and beyond. Springer.
  3. Paris, R. (2014). The ‘Responsibility to Protect’and the structural problems of preventive humanitarian intervention. International Peacekeeping, 21(5), 569-603.
  4. Evans, G., Thakur, R., & Pape, R. A. (2013). Correspondence: Humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect. International security, 37(4), 199-214.
  5. Bajoria, J., & McMahon, R. (2013). The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 154-178.
  6. Hehir, A., & Murray, R. (2013). Libya, the responsibility to protect and the future of humanitarian intervention. Springer.
  7. Averre, D., & Davies, L. (2015). Russia, humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect: the case of Syria. International Affairs, 91(4), 813-834.
  8. Hildebrandt, T., Hillebrecht, C., Holm, P. M., & Pevehouse, J. (2013). The domestic politics of humanitarian intervention: Public opinion, partisanship, and ideology. Foreign Policy Analysis, 9(3), 243-266.
  9. Binder, M. (2015). Paths to intervention: What explains the UN’s selective response to humanitarian crises?. Journal of Peace Research, 52(6), 712-726.
  10. Stahn, C. (2014). Between Law-breaking and Law-making: Syria, Humanitarian Intervention and ‘What the Law Ought to Be’. Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 19(1), 25-48.
  11. Koh, H. H. (2017). Humanitarian Intervention: Time for Better Law. AJIL Unbound, 111, 287-291.
  12. Nelson, K. (2016). The doctrine of humanitarian intervention: lessons from the Chilcot Report. LSE Human Rights Blog. 4(3),
Related topics
More samples
Related Essays