19. When, if ever, should states intervene in the domestic affairs of other states to protect human rights? Are there certain rights that are more vital than others? What are the costs and benefits to the great powers for intervening on behalf of human rights?
These questions are difficult to answer. Nobody wants to see any human rights violations. However, defining what human rights are varies by country and even by individuals. What one nation believes to be a human right, another may not. Then there is the dilemma of a nation’s sovereignty. If another nation decides which human rights are being violated and decides that it needs to intervene, then will another nation determine that the intervening nation needs intervention because of their human rights violations? Finally, there is the question of the intervention itself. The levels of intervention may vary and depend on the human rights violations. Violations that are more serious require tougher interventions.
The first question to answer is should states ever intervene in the domestic affairs of other states. The simple answer is that they should. The United States is founded on principles, many of which can be attributed to John Locke. In defining human rights, the Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson wrote and who was inspired by Locke, states, “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness-that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” Locke used similar wording and added the simple answer to the question of intervention. The foremost responsibility, which each individual has, is self-preservation. After which Locke stated, “By like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind” (Locke 1690). As much as one state can assist other individuals within another state to preserve these same rights, ought to be done as much as possible.
The rights that ought to be preserved are the rights that Locke described. Life is the first priority. It is also the most serious violation of human rights known. Therefore, if a state chooses to intervene it must be the most severe form of intervention. However, as Locke stated, when one’s own preservation is in jeopardy, then it is not required. If the violation was one individual, it may not be prudent to start a war. Other means should be used. However, when genocide or any other form of mass murder is occurring, then there is little question that intervention ought to be chosen. For example, between February and September of 1988, Saddam Hussein murdered between 50,000 and 100,000 Kurds (Human Rights Watch 2006). This is one of many examples of a case of intervention.
The cost of American lives or a coalition of nations’ lives would be serious. However, the lives saved would likely have...