The Case for Decoupled Armed Interventions

Global Policy, Vol. 3, Issue 1, February 2012

9 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Date Written: February 1, 2012


This article suggests that if the humanitarian goals of armed interventions are decoupled from coerced regime change and nation building, they can be carried out effectively and at rather low costs. In addition, the standard for justifying a humanitarian intervention must be set at a high level (to be specified below). We shall see that this high level is justified by strong normative reasons and not merely prudential ones. The thesis for narrowly crafted armed humanitarian interventions is supported in the following pages by showing that a mixture of idealism and hubris drives the West to assume that it can achieve much more, and that its repeated failure to accomplish these expansive goals is leading to calls to avoid armed humanitarian interventions — including those missions whose normative standing is strong and which can be carried out effectively. The observation that nations can employ non lethal (normative and economic) means to promote human rights and democracy further supports the thesis that the use of force should be reserved to large scale saving of life and not to be allowed to morph into coerced regime change, not to mention futile attempts at nation building.

Suggested Citation

Etzioni, Amitai, The Case for Decoupled Armed Interventions (February 1, 2012). Global Policy, Vol. 3, Issue 1, February 2012. Available at SSRN:

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 4058
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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