Critical Perspectives on Intervention

29 Maryland J. Int’l Law 12 (2014)

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-32

40 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2015 Last revised: 8 Sep 2015

See all articles by Henry J. Richardson

Henry J. Richardson

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: 2014


The continuing question is, in today’s Global Village, regarding intervention, whether international law will simply bless existing intervention patterns of global power and practice, unilateral or collectively authorized. Or, whether as a legal system it will define norms to meet its responsibility to foster the progressive development of international law towards a better international community, based on greater sharing and protection of human rights values, minimization of conflict, and greater cooperation towards protecting human dignity. Has international law ceased to reflect and bless the raw patterns of power, domination, subordination and race that it did structure and uphold for some four centuries, prior to confirming the formal illegality of European and other colonialism in the mid-twentieth century? Colonial conquest represents the first pertinent global model of intervention, which in turn led to claims of authority to intervene as a global dynamic generally moving from North to South.

The necessary questions do not go to the obvious presence of formal international law, but rather to how authority, jurisprudence and process are to be globally allocated, controlled by whom, regarding decisions and influence about the formation of international law on intervention-related issues. Such questions are especially pertinent in UN Charter interpretations, including those allowing “humanitarian intervention” with unilateral use of force, and those claiming that the Caroline Case doctrine appropriately limits unilateral uses of force under the Charter. “Intervention” is a wide and ambiguous term. This article will discuss it regarding the power of human rights; American interventions against Southern democracies and the importance of the Nicaragua case; the critical importance of the decolonization movement and its insufficiency to prevent the march of colonial aims into post-colonial international law; counterterrorism, global policy, failed states, and intervention as claimed self defense; the UN Security Council as an international lawgiver, the need to interrogate its decision process as a bulwark of Northern racializing of law, and its authority over regional organizations; the Responsibility to Protect (R2P); and a final proposal addressing the issue of R2P, imminently catastrophic situations, and unilateral military intervention.

Keywords: Intervention, R2P, UN Security Council, unilateral humanitarian intervention, International Community, Constitutive Process, Regional organizations, Colonial Narrative, North/South racial narrative, Collective humanitarian intervention

JEL Classification: K14, K33, K42

Suggested Citation

Richardson, Henry J., Critical Perspectives on Intervention (2014). 29 Maryland J. Int’l Law 12 (2014), Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-32, Available at SSRN:

Henry J. Richardson (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215.204.8987 (Phone)
215.204.1185 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics