This Article first argues for recognizing not just the legal and political right to engage in humanitarian intervention, but also a legal obligation or duty on the part of the international community to respond with armed force when necessary to ameliorate massive human tragedies or threats of such calamities even where the acquiescence of national governments or those in effective control of the area may be lacking. The argument for a duty adopts a more prescriptive sense of responsibility than the international consensus that is emerging with the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. Secondly, the Article argues that the legal and political legitimacy of humanitarian intervention—or its current iteration, the responsibility to protect—should be predicated upon the international community’s acceptance of a broader collective responsibility, better stated as a duty, to assist those who are imperiled under less spectacular conditions of misery. The analysis is informed by critical concerns such as the indeterminacy and incoherence of legal principles and policies.
humanitarian intervention, international obligation, responsibility to protect, critical theory, indeterminacy, incoherence