Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Samantha Brennan


This thesis investigates ethical debates that surround the definition, the conduct, and the occasions for humanitarian military intervention. I argue that properly-called humanitarian interventions must be directed by partly-altruistic intentions, and just war theorists should resist the emerging trend that discards right intention as a central requirement in favour of a more consequentialist analysis. I argue that interventions must be conducted in a manner that is consistent with the humanitarian purpose and would be accepted by the innocent non-combatants who are themselves risked by the rescue effort. This morally requires that interveners weigh harm to non-combatants particularly heavily in their proportionality assessments, even if that harm is merely an unintended side-effect of otherwise permissible acts, or even if that harm is primarily attributable to an aggressor’s anticipated unjust reprisal to intervention. The extraordinary justice of an intervener’s cause cannot license mass killing, and defenders of intervention should resist the urge to privilege abstract principles above policies that might better protect the most basic interests of innocent persons. In the end, I contend that the justified occasions for full-scale intervention will tend to be restricted to cases of mass-atrocities.