Lately there has been a discussion going on between our editors whether one can make a libertarian case for military intervention. Some arguments were given in reference to the civil war in Syria HERE, and there is also a brilliant guide in regard to the Crimea crisis HERE.
All libertarians agree that the starting point is a non-intervention principle. The principle that is fundamental to the international legal order and as such embodied in the UN Charter. A state should not interfere with the domestic matters of another state. Is that, however, an unqualified rule? It seems that there are several possible scenarios which would satisfy military intervention.
Firstly, the UN Security Council authorises use of force. According to the established principles of international law, it is only the Council that has power to allow the use of force between states. This, however, happens extremely rarely due to the right of veto that the major powers enjoy. Russian and China on the one hand and the US, UK and France on the other hand are very unlikely to reach any agreement. Nevertheless, when it actually occurs, this indicates a serious international crisis. For instance, the First Gulf War (1990-1) when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Such intervention is accepted by the international community and, depending on the circumstances, probably very desired in order either to prevent bloodshed or restore peace.
Secondly, when the UN Security Council is not able to authorise use of force but the situation is dire. This could be illustrated by the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The Council failed to exercise its power, thereby no state dared to stop the killing. As a result, half a million people lost their lives. There is no need to convince anyone as to the righteousness of military intervention in such circumstances. It seems uncontested that there is and there will be a ‘duty to protect’ when the gravest human rights violations occur.
Thirdly, one could argue that military intervention might prevent an outbreak of real war. Such intervention would have to aim to deter infamous ‘appeasement’. Some states behave like regular bullies and will not stop pick on weaker neighbours until someone stops them. Many libertarians close their minds when it comes to discussion on international politics by saying that what happens outside the boarders of their state does not matter. They could not be more wrong. In the modern world everything is linked with each other. Everyone agrees that peace is essential for prosperity. Unfortunately, peace is not a constant – it must be built, maintained, cared for, and if necessary, restored. Preventing wars might require using force. This is prone to abuse and open to criticism, however, the last century showed that ‘appeasement’ is never the answer. Recent developments in Crimea merely prove this point.
Or maybe the principle of non-intervention is not negotiable?