Undertaking Critical Legal Theory to Examine Just War Intervention: A Smokescreen for Political Ambitions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The chapter initially covers just war theory. This involves military, theological,
and political ethics when engaging in war and the conduct in war and
account of civilian casualties for military advantage (proportionality). The
next section covers critical legal theory, which addresses the need for criticism
of laws that discriminate against certain groups. The example of the
1982 Citizenship Law in Myanmar, which denies Rohingyas in the Rakhine
state of basic citizenship rights, has caused international pressure but remains
unrevoked. Next, two international relations theories, realism and institutional
liberalism (the latter includes the Responsibility to Protect [R2P] doctrine),
are discussed. This allows an examination of the weak interventions in Bosnia
and Rwanda and nonintervention in Darfur. I go on to argue that there
was a good argument made by the UN Secretary-General and the Commander
of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) to intervene
under just war theory once hate messages from Hutu radio had been
reported. However, major troop-contributing countries (TCCs) did not commit
human and financial capital to avert the genocide because there were no
resources or material gain to attain from such intervention. The international
relations theory of realism supports this explanation of selfish state interests
and an international anarchic system of self-help. I then provide a critique on
the rule of “proportionality” when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) decided to attack a Belgrade media center in 1999, killing civilians but justifying the bombing because the broadcasting also served Serbian
military intel.
The penultimate section analyzes the cases of both post-9/11 interventions
in Afghanistan and Iraq. I go on to critically argue that the interveners
utilized their just reasons as a political umbrella for realist ambitions, more
specifically, relative gain and power, for oil and counterterrorist strategy. US
foreign policy also manipulated the UN to back the United States and its
coalition of willing states in both contexts.
The examples and cases presented in this chapter are based on humanitarian
intervention, the War on Terror, and internationalism. Such intervention
(and nonintervention, if lack of geopolitical interests) is part of the liberal
analytical approach of just war, which has caused a threat to the traditional
principles of just war theory. To counter contemporary criticism of the liberal
analytical doctrine of just war interventions (and noninterventions), I conclude
that institutional liberalism can place the UN and NATO in a stronger
position to pressure their member states to intervene in the name of just war
ethics via the normative dimensions of the R2P doctrine. This can reduce
international skepticism of intervention as a political umbrella/smokescreen
to extract resources and destroy military communication and other political
gain. Adopting such an approach can morally justify (1) the legality to wage
war (jus ad bellum), (2) the methods of conduct during war (jus in bello), and
(3) the democratization and/or reconstruction process in the aftermath of
intervention (jus post bellum).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComparative Just War Theory
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction to International Perspectives
EditorsLuís Cordeiro-Rodrigues, Danny Singh
Place of PublicationLanham, MD
PublisherRowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781538125151
ISBN (Print)9781538125137, 9781538125144
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019

Publication series

NameExplorations in Contemporary Social-Political Philosophy
PublisherRowman & Littlefield


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