Debate: Humanitarian Intervention Does More Harm Than Good

This debate is presented in partnership with The German Marshall Fund's Brussels Forum, broadcast live from Brussels, Belgium.

The international community currently faces a global refugee crisis and mass atrocities in Iraq, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, and beyond. How should the West respond?

Proponents of humanitarian intervention – the use of force to halt human rights abuses – argue that the world’s most powerful militaries have a responsibility to protect innocent civilians around the world. Beyond saving lives, they argue, intervention deters would-be abusers and ensures global stability, thereby strengthening the liberal world order. But opponents argue that military intervention is thinly veiled Western imperialism, and subsequently, an assault on state sovereignty. And, it’s ineffective: the West, with its military might, increases the death toll and worsens the conflicts it sets out to solve. Further, given recent waves of populism in the U.S., France, and U.K., they suggest that Western nations should spend their time looking inward rather than policing activity around the world.


For the motion

  • Frank Ledwidge' Senior Fellow, Royal Air Force College & Former British Intelligence Officer
  • Rajan Menon, Author, The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention

Against the motion

  • Bernard Kouchner, Co-Founder, Doctors Without Borders
  • Kori Schake, Deputy Director-General, International Institute for Strategic Studies