Outside intervention: should we allow it?

by kingjayroche on September 18, 2014 - 10:08pm

In the past week, a radical terrorist group - named Islamic State (or “IS”) - has sent shockwaves around the world. The reason for this, to summarize very briefly, is because the IS - partaking in frequent abductions, ransom negotiations, beheadings, city takeovers, etc. – have threatened Iraq’s socio-political stability, economic security and created a major humanitarian crisis. For obvious reasons, this crisis has sparked an uproar within the International community, which is asking for an imminent intervention from outside countries. With that said, an ethical issue remains: should an outside country (ever?) intervene in a foreign matter? If so, when?

                This issue seems, at least to me, rather clear-cut and unambiguous: in cases of extreme terrorist wrongdoings, outside intervention is necessary, and in most cases indispensable. Without a doubt, acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity (as well as providing jihadists to further commit humanitarian atrocities in Iraq) does entail atrocious consequences. To add to this, the nature of these acts is far from being classified as intrinsically good. Therefore, the intrinsic value and generated negative repercussions make theses criminal offenses undoubtedly immoral. From this basis, reliant on utilitarianism and consequentialism, I believe an outside country should intervene in a foreign matter only if one of these four factors are at play:

1)      When a given (terrorist) group and their wrongdoings pose a serious threat to the well-being of the masses.

2)      When the criminal offenses generate significant negative consequences (to such an extent as incapacitating regional authorities).

3)      When the situation escalades into a humanitarian crisis.

4)      When a conflict indirectly or directly affects outside countries.  

                That being said, does the IS match any of the four criteria? Evidently enough, they do, as the IS has grown from a regional threat to an international one – matching all four of the above requirements. More precisely, these ragtag insurgents have, as of yet, savagely taken over the entire cities in Iraq (Fallujah, Mosul and Ramadi), robbed no less than 256 million Euros from the Mosul central bank, executed innocent civilians and trapped up to 40,000 members of Iraq’s minority communities (known as the Yazidis). More precisely, a small portion of the Yazidis escaped from the dangerous grasp of the IS and have sought refuge on a neighboring mountain - relying on humanitarian aid for survival. Not to mention that these ragtag insurgents have also kidnapped, and then executed – on a live video feed no less - US journalist James Foley, therefore directly impacting an outside country: the United States of America. In that same vein, two other journalists of British nationality have been captured for ransom (John Cantlie and Alan Johnston), as well as four French journalists. Hence, the abductions affect many outside countries, as the IS now is “more than a regional threat, it poses a clear and certain threat to the United States of America, our interests, and our allies and partners across the globe (Britain and France)”[1], according to United States Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

                Adding to this, we should always intervene – or at least help – when morality is at stake, regardless of the whereabouts of a given event or series of circumstances. For example, would you ignore an ongoing robbery or murder (or any criminal offense for that matter) happening close by because it is not on your property? Let that question sink in. After all, morality and positive intervention shouldn’t have boundaries.

                Nonetheless, there is a counter-argument and it comes from a cultural relativist standpoint: all religious, ethical, aesthetic, and political beliefs are completely relative to the individual within a cultural identity. The logic concerning this particular issue would be as follows: since the IS bases its motives and fuels its actions through the pillars of the Islamic religion, who are we to interrupt their proceedings? According to the relativist position, one can have his own version of the truth. However, I would vehemently argue that that position is invalid. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but not all cultural views are equal, especially when a disillusioned view causes multiple casualties and negative consequences. In other words, cultural relativism is, in cases like this one, self-defeating. If my cultural view was to routinely kidnap, execute, slay ethnic minorities, rob banks and so forth – recent practices the IS has been perfecting - would the entire concept of immorality be worthless on the basis that my actions are simply my version of the truth? Would immorality, in this fictitious example, be dismissed due to my equal interpretation of culture? Of course not, the logic is flawed. 

                In conclusion, outside intervention for the IS crisis is more than warranted. The reasons for this are:

1)      A clear dependence on humanitarian aid.

2)      Evidence of diminishing well-being.

3)      Acts intrinsically wrongand they directly affect other countries.

4)      A slew of engendered negative consequences (which the Iraq army are incapable of dealing with).

As a result, no further justification is required.


United States. Congressional Documents and Publications. FACT SHEET: 5 Elements Of A Successful Strategy To Destroy ISIL. Lanham. Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc., September 10, 2014.Print.

Joel Gunter. “Iraq crisis: what is the Islamic state?” The Telegraph. The Telegraph, 20 August 2014. Web. 15 September 2014.

[1] United States. Congressional Documents and Publications. FACT SHEET: 5 Elements Of A Successful Strategy To Destroy ISIL. Lanham. Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc., September 10, 2014.Print.



your principles and laws in order to control outside interventions by countries into foreign crisis well-thought. Although, I do have two points in disagreement with you I would like you to consider. First, in your first factor that justify an outside intervention, you mention that foreign interventions should be allowed " when a given (terrorist) group and their wrongdoings pose a serious threat to the well-being of the masses". I would like you to question yourself to conclude if foreign interventions are only justifiable in the instance of a terrorist act. What about if a government was a threat to its own people? Would an outside intervention be justifiable? Secondly, I believe your question, "when is an outside intervention allowed?", should be changed to "When is an outside intervention needed?". To prove my point, I will give you the example of the terrorist group Boko Haram au Cameroun. This group does fulfill your requirements but no occidental countries proposed military help. Would this imply that the decision of allowing military intervention is arbitrary or does it depends on other factors and values than humanistic ones? Perhaps, like economic factors? Finally, personally, I think your question would be more interesting if it was oriented more about the how it is ethical to intervene in foreign crisis than the when. This aspect of the issue is well explored in this article by the New Statesman : http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/leader-summer-blood. The author raises the idea that social interventions more than military ones have more long terms benefits.There is an history of backfire in cases of outside interventions. Maybe, it is time to see if there is not a change to be made in the occidental way of handling things...
Have a great day!

First of all, I liked that you talked about an issue that is been very present during these past few weeks because of the sadly violent deaths of 2 reporters by an extremist Islamic group. But, what I would have like to see in your paper was more details on the negative effects of the involvement of a country into foreign conflicts have been deal with in the past and what were the outcomes at the end. For example, if the U.S sends its military troops they might end up increasing the Islamic State to be stronger. A reason for that would be that they might give weapons to terrorists. This is why I think that involvement of another country should not be unethical. By adding these facts, I think that the issue you were writing would be complete. Below is an article of the negative effects on the involvement of a country in foreign affairs.

First off, I'd like to commend you on taking such a systematic approach to the issue of foreign intervention. While it's often difficult to frame moral dilemmas in an objective manner, I think you did a fantastic job of creating your four criteria for intervention. I would, however, like to expand on the underpinning of your utilitarian argument – the harm principle. The criteria that you established are really founded on the all-encompassing idea that an immoral action is one that causes harm (and subsequently, we should all be able to live free from harm). The harm principle provides a fascinating intersection between deontological ethics and the teleological ethics that you applied. While the harm principle could be considered a universal moral maxim, it also focuses on the outcome of actions. In examining the information that you present, it is evident that IS violates the harm principle – and that is what necessitates intervention. However, the situation truly becomes complex when Western liberal democracies choose how to intervene, because they are also subject to the harm principle. And now for the burning question: is intervention possible without doing harm? I would say that the answer is a resounding no. As such, is intervention inherently hypocritical?