Moral Interventions

  • K. M. Fierke

Abstract

Social science has assumed a distinction between empirical statements about reality as it is and normative statements about how the world ought to be. Realists who claim to work with the world as it is, also make this distinction. In this view, the empirical reality is one of power politics; thus neither moral principle, ethical action nor legal codification is ultimately important at the international level. In the absence of any overarching authority, states are guided by their national interest rather than moral principle. War is a brute reality and the attempt to introduce norms is a mere add on, growing out of a desire to alter the unalterable. However, if war is viewed as a social artifact, then its practice is no less permeated with moral and normative restrictions than more explicit moral or humanitarian efforts to limit it.1

Keywords

Europe Explosive Assure Defend Stake 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    For the latter argument, see: Michael N. Barnett, “The UN and Global Security: The Norm is Mightier than the Sword,” Ethics and International Affairs 9 (1995), 50; John Keegan, A History of Warfare (London: Hutchinson, 1993); Martin van Creveld, “The Persian Gulf Crisis of 1990–1991 and the Future of Morally Constrained War,” Parameters, 22, 2 (1992), 37–8; Neta Crawford, Argument and Change in World Politics: Ethics, Decolonization and Humanitarian Intervention (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). See: Jutta Weldes, Constructing the National Interest (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), for an argument that the national interest is itself a social construct.Google Scholar
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    Rights of due process, under the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, deal with prisoners of war and civilians respectively. The defendant has the right to be told—early on and in a language he understands—what he is accused of; to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; to be tried without undue delay; to be heard before an impartial decision-maker; to be tried in a “regularly constituted court” (if the accused is a PoW, it may be a military court); to prepare and present a defense; to present witnesses; not to be required to testify against himself or to confess guilt; to be tried in his presence; to be convicted only of a crime that he himself committed; not to be punished more than once for the same act; to be convicted only for what was a crime at the time of the act in question; to have a sentence no more severe than the law allowed at the time of the act in question; to be told of his rights of appeal and what time limits there are; to appeal and ask for pardon or reprieve; and to have any death sentence stayed until six months after notification of the protecting power. For a more detailed discussion, see: Gideon Levy, “Due Process,” in Roy Gutman and David Rieff, eds, Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (London: W. W. Norton, 1999), pp. 127–30.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© K. M. Fierke 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. M. Fierke
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Politics and International StudiesQueen’s UniversityBelfastIreland

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