Ending Tyranny in Iraq

38 Pages Posted: 11 May 2005

See all articles by Fernando R. Tesón

Fernando R. Tesón

Florida State University College of Law


The paper argues that the war in Iraq can be morally justified as humanitarian intervention. It replies to three arguments that have been used to deny this: that the intervention was not really humanitarian because it lacked humanitarian intent; that it was not justified under the humanitarian intervention doctrine because the Iraqi regime was not perpetrating atrocities at the time of the invasion; and that the intervention was not justified because it was not properly authorized. The central part of the paper distinguishes, following John Stuart Mill, between intention and motives, suggests that intention, but not motive, is relevant to characterize and evaluate behavior, and argues that even if the Coalition had dubious motives to intervene, their intention was to liberate Iraq. The intervention was, therefore, humanitarian. A distinction is then drawn between the narrow humanitarian rationale (deposing the regime) and the grand humanitarian rationale (promoting liberal reforms in the Middle East and elsewhere). The paper then rejects the suggestion (made by Human Rights Watch) that only ongoing atrocities justify humanitarian interventions and claims that Saddam Hussein was a proper target. Finally, the paper questions the view that only interventions authorized by the UN Security Council are morally justified.

Suggested Citation

Tesón, Fernando R., Ending Tyranny in Iraq. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=721585

Fernando R. Tesón (Contact Author)

Florida State University College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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