Setting the precedent

This book is an attempt at a comprehensive presentation of the history of humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century, the heyday of this controversial doctrine. It starts with a brief presentation of the present situation and debate. The theoretical first part of the book starts with the genealogy of the idea, namely the quest for the progenitors of the idea in the sixteenth and seventeenth century which is a matter of controversy. Next the nineteenth century ‘civilization-barbarity’ dichotomy is covered and its bearing on humanitarian intervention, with its concomitant Eurocentric/Orientalist gaze towards the Ottomans and other states, concluding with the reaction of the Ottomans (as well as the Chinese and Japanese). Then the pivotal international law dimension is scrutinized, with the arguments of advocates and opponents of humanitarian intervention from the 1830s until the 1930s. The theoretical part of the book concludes with nineteenth century international political theory and intervention (Kant, Hegel, Cobden, Mazzini and especially J.S. Mill). In the practical second part of the book four cases studies of humanitarian intervention are examined in considerable detail: the Greek case (1821-1831), the Lebanon/Syria case (1860-61), the Balkan crisis and Bulgarian case (1875-78) in two chapters, and the U.S. intervention in Cuba (1895-98). Each cases study concludes with its bearing on the evolution of international norms and rules of conduct in instances of humanitarian plights. The concluding chapter identifies the main characteristics of intervention on humanitarian grounds during this period and today’s criticism and counter-criticism.

Open Access (free)
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla
in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Open Access (free)
A bird’s eye view of intervention with emphasis on Britain, 1875–78
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

The great power involvement triggered by the Bulgarian atrocities of 1876 was part of a wider international reaction to uprisings in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary and Germany were supportive of mild measures intended to ameliorate the fate of the Bulgarians and other Christians of the Balkans, Russia supported more intrusive measures, while Britain under Disraeli was opposed to all initiatives. In Britain there was a strong wave of support even wider than in the Greek case of the 1820s and it was headed by Gladstone. Members of the Disraeli cabinet were also out of step with their prime minister. Following the abortive Constantinople Conference, the Russians resorted to war against the Ottomans with the benign neutrality of the other powers save Britain. Special emphasis is put in this chapter on Gladstone and British public opinion, which led to a major internal clash in Britain. A basic characteristic of this case was the unprecedented role played by public opinion, especially in the case of Russia and Britain. The 1877 war was at the time not regarded as humanitarian by European contemporary policy-makers but the mood has changed since then and it is included in most lists of humanitarian intervention.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

Among the handful of humanitarian interventions of the nineteenth century, the intervention in Cuba is the most controversial in view of the U.S. reluctance to leave Cuba and the huge advantages accrued, including acquiring even the faraway Philippines. This chapter presents the arguments for or against regarding the U.S. intervention as humanitarian, that are equally balanced and the views of the three sides in this troubled triangle: Cuban independence fighters, Spain and the U.S. (President McKinley, the Senate, key figures, press, public opinion). Then the events leading to the showdown are presented which indicate that the U.S. was until the eve of the war reluctant to intervene militarily if it could be avoided and Cuba pacified. Following the intervention, whose justification was officially mainly humanitarian, the gradual tendency to also ‘grab’ the Philippines is examined in detail and the arguments of the anti-imperialists for this not to happen. The chapter concludes by reassessing the situation, especially as regards the U.S. and concludes with the views of publicists and other commentators then and today which on the whole have failed to agree as to the humanitarian character or not of this case.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

In the course of nineteenth century countries were distinguished into ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ (‘barbarians’) with Europe the basis of comparison, within the construction known as ‘standard of civilization’. The views of major publicists of the time are discussed regarding admission to the 'family of nations', divided into five groups, ranging from permanent exclusion to criticism of the ‘standard’. Until the last decades of the century non-European states and not of European extraction were not part of the ‘family of nations’, with the exception of the Ottoman Empire (whose formal 1856 admission was in fact partial) and Japan in the mid-1890s. Brief reference is made to the contrasting reaction of China and Japan to their treatment by the West. The case of the Ottoman Empire as the negative European ‘Other’ is examined in detail. In practical terms no less than five options were then entertained: (1) upholding Ottoman territorial integrity; (2) dismemberment and division of the spoils; (3) expulsion from Europe; (4) Russian conquest of part of the Empire; and (5) major reforms that would make the Ottoman state like the other modern ‘civilized’ European states. This chapter concluded with the Ottoman reaction.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

The intervention of Britain, Russia and France in the Greek War of Independence is regarded as the first armed intervention on humanitarian grounds. This chapter examines its diplomatic history with emphasis on the role of Britain (Canning) and Russia. The massacres of Christians and the ‘barbarization rumour’ (the eviction of all the Greeks from Europe) and the strong wave of philhellenism across Europe and North America, which identified itself with the Greeks, made Britain, Russia and France intervene though initially they were unwilling to so for no tangible interest were at stake. Key events were the Treaty of London (the first of humanitarian reasons in a treaty) and the naval battle of Navarino. The assessment of publicists from the 1830s until the 1930s is that that this was a humanitarian intervention even though humanitarian motives were not the only motives. Even several jurists opposed to the notion of humanitarian intervention condoned this one case on humanitarian or moral grounds. The Greek case provided the springboard for the emergence of the concept of humanitarian intervention and had a bearing on the evolution of international norms and rules of conduct in instances of humanitarian plights in at least six ways.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

Contrary to international law, international political theory had paid scant attention to the ethics of intervention and as for humanitarian intervention per se there is almost nothing. Kant is a strong advocate of non-intervention as a maxim for peace and condoned intervention only in a situation of anarchy when a state was split into two parts. Yet several authors have tried to show that Kant was not adverse to humanitarian intervention. Hegel is adamantly opposed to intervention for that would damage the autonomy of states but brings intervention in by not condemning aggressive wars. Cobden, a pacifist, is consistently anti-interventionist rejecting intervention even for noble causes. Mazzini is also against intervention provided this is done by all states and if all states are ‘nation-states’ (nationality principle) which was hardly the case. He thus accepts intervention to offset a previous intervention in support of despots and to stop massacres. Mill makes a strong case for non-intervention and an equally convincing case for intervention. There are at least five arguments for non-intervention and five for intervening: relations with ‘barbarians’, offsetting support for despots, struggles against a foreign yoke (counter-intervention), protracted civil wars and stopping ‘severities repugnant to humanity’.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

This chapter examines the main issues at stake in the present-day heated debate regarding intervention between those adamantly opposed to any such notion, which they regard as an oxymoron; and those supportive of saving lives with the use of external armed force in exceptional cases, even without UN authorization, when extended massacres take place with no end in sight. The chapter also presents the situation on the ground during the Cold War and from 1989 onwards and refers to the recent notion of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) adopted at UN level in 2005. It concludes with the main nine questions discussed among supporters of humanitarian intervention, including legitimacy, the threshold of suffering (ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc.), the timing of intervention, the motives and the question of abuse by large powers.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Open Access (free)
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla
in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century
Just war and against tyranny
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla

This chapter starts with the 'just war' doctrine and its proponents from antiquity until the Renaissance, which was the framework, together with natural law, of the idea of waging war (a 'just war') in order to save people from tyranny and maltreatment. On the Renaissance roots of humanitarian intervention there is disagreement as to the progenitors and as to whether such roots exist in the first place, given the absence of the vital non-intervention principle and the danger of condoning imperialism via saving people from maltreatment in faraway lands. The possible progenitors and their views are divided into two groups: the lesser-known cases, which include the monarchomachs and Bodin; and the mainstream that is the four main father of international law that is Vitoria, Gentili, Suarez and Grotius. Another proponent is Vattel. We downgraded the role of Vitoria and Suarez as progenitors.

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century