Seminar: Professor Cécile Fabre, 'Humanitarian Intervention: the costs of a duty'

Past Event

09 February 2011, 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Professor Cécile Fabre (Lincoln College, University of Oxford)

Respondent: Janina Dill

Abstract: There now is a broad consensus, amongst war ethicists, that military intervention into the internal affairs of a sovereign state is sometimes morally permissible, in particular as a means to stop and prevent crimes which, in the now standard phrase, shock ‘the conscience of mankind’. By contrast, the claim that there is a duty to intervene is deemed far more controversial, not least because intervention is costly (materially, financially, and in human terms) and because potential interveners (it is alleged)cannot be held under a moral duty to incur those costs. In this paper, I mount an argument in favour of the moral duty to intervene. I begin by rejecting existing defences on the grounds that they fail fully to take into account the fact (for it is a fact) that a duty to intervene militarily in the affairs of another country is, at least in part, tantamount to a duty to kill in defence of that country’s civilian population. I then offer my own defence of the duty - a defence to which the notion of mandatory rescue killing is central. I end with some remarks about the relevance of the costs borne by intervening soldiers to the justification for the duty and, more generally, to rules of conduct in wars of intervention.

Bio: Cécile Fabre took up the Tutorial Fellowship in Philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford, in 2010, having previously held posts at the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh. She has published extensively on rights, distributive justice, democracy and, more recently, on the ethics of war. She is currently writing a research monograph for Oxford University Press on a cosmopolitan theory of the just war. Articles related to that project have recently appeared in The British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Political Philosophy, International Affairs, and Ethics.