A Battle of Gunboats and Books: ‘Full Protection and Security’ and the Minimum Standard of Treatment in Historical Perspective
Between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, naval powers used military force to compel weaker states to compensate foreigners for damages originating in acts of private individuals, particularly in the context of revolutionary wars. The gunboat diplomacy would set the stage for the emergence of the idea of an absolute minimum standard for the treatment of aliens. The reaction of intellectuals from other regions of the world crystalized in the doctrine of equality, which posited that no state is obliged to offer foreigners a better treatment than it gives to its own nationals. The debate continued for decades. The customary obligation to exercise diligence in the protection of aliens was at the core of the dispute.