The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention

In This Review

The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention

By Stanley Hoffmann
University of Notre Dame Press, 1996
116 pp. $25.00
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This short book is built around two of Hoffmann's lectures, one on the ethics of intervention and the other on the international community's failure in the former Yugoslavia. In the first, the author provides a well-reasoned account of why traditional norms of sovereignty have been eroded and why the case for humanitarian intervention is more compelling now than previously. His rules for ethical intervention, however, constrain the international community's actions to those approved by the United Nations or its subsidiary organizations. Not only did this rule in effect block timely intervention in Yugoslavia (as pointed out by one of the commentators), but its normative basis needs further scrutiny given the purely formal sovereignty criterion for U.N. membership in an age when mere sovereignty does not convey moral legitimacy to a state's actions.