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  • Writer's pictureTWL Desk


Author : Pratyush Satapathy

The pages of history are dotted with plenty of references where the destructive forces have created opportunities for positive consequences. Historians agree that the Black Death made Europeans more daring, while the Spanish flue encouraged them to take more risks. An interesting case would be of Napoleon forces who went to Haiti. Napoleon's troops went to Haiti at the beginning of the 18th century to suppress a slave revolt at the outbreak of yellow fever. They lost the war because the slaves were African and resilient to yellow fever, but the soldiers became ill and died. This not only prevented the spread of slavery but was instrumental in preventing Napoleon’s entry to the new world. The ensuing Napoleon’s offer of 4-cents an acre Louisiana concession(Westward Expansion, n.d.), which shifted the United States' control to the western part of the continent, is not to be dismissed as a result of chance. It would be myopic to afford entire credit to accidental pandemic or coincidental availability of key

persons in key-places; for it is the effective undeterred efforts, riding on the back of long standing interventions by the then President Jefferson and political stalwarts like Monroe, that allowed its facilitation. In times of volatility, it is through active intervention can only a horizon of beaming positivity be ensured.

Though not all interventions are yielding. The shoal of Chinese fishing ships patrolling in Whitsun reef near Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone despite China losing the territory case in 2016 tops the playlist. There are cases where interventions have backfired as well. The unsettling chaos in western Asia which stems its roots to confluence in Syria is one example. The trails can be traced to the removal of Saddam Hussain who served as a buffer to the Arab world. This allowed the natural expansion of Iran and connected the arc of “Shia” crescent. When the decision to depose Mubarak was made, it accelerated the process. The emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the aftermath opened the way for militant Islamism from Afghanistan to the west and the Arab Spring from Tunisia to the east to converge in a civil war that is now ongoing. Even though the heart was in the right place, backed by speech in Cairo 2009, that winning hearts is more essential than firing bullets. This brings us to the quintessential question, how interventions work in international diplomacy? What are the guiding principles governing them?

Intervention is described as a state interfering in the affairs of another state in order to preserve or change the current state of affairs. Pleasant advice and general political power do not specifically fall into this category because they lack the necessary requisite of action, namely the use of force or the threat of force. So, what can be the grounds for intervention? Professor Oppenheim(Tandon, n.d.) observes that, while interference is generally prohibited by the Law of Nations, there are situations under which it is permissible, and there are also cases in which, notwithstanding the infringement of the respective States' personalities, it is permitted by the Law of Nations. Oppenheim mentions seven reasons(Tandon, n.d.) when a State may have a right of intervention against another State, viz :

(1) A State which holds a protectorate has a right to intervene in all the affairs of the protected State.

(2) If an external affair of a State is at the same time by right of an affair of another State, the latter has a right to intervene, in case the former deals with that affair unliterally.

(3) If a State which is restricted by an international treaty in its external independence or its territorial or personal supremacy does not comply with the restrictions concerned, the other party or parties have a right to intervene.

(4) If a State in time of peace or war violates such rules of the Law of Nations as are universally recognized by custom or are laid down in law-making treaties, other States have a right to intervene and to make the delinquent submit to the rules concerned.

(5) A State that has guaranteed the form of government of another State or the reign of a certain dynasty over it by a treaty has the right to interfere, if the form of government or reign of the dynasty is changed, given that the treaty of guarantee was signed between the respective States and not between their monarchs directly.

(6) The right of protection over citizens abroad, which a State holds may cause an intervention by right to which the other party is legally bound to submit.

(7) Finally, the Covenant of the League of Nations, like the Charter of the United Nations, provided for mutual action of member states to restrain states that disrupt world peace by resorting to war or force in general, or threats of force in violation of the Covenant's provisions.

In contradistinction to intervention by right, Professor Oppenheim observes, there are other interventions which cannot be considered illegal, although they violate the independence or the territorial or personal supremacy of the State concerned, and although such State has by no means a legal duty to submit patiently and suffer the intervention. They are of two kinds, viz., intervention in self-preservation and intervention which is necessary in the interest of the balance of power.

In addition to these, we must be certain of the legitimate grounds for interference. Prof. Brierly (Tandon, n.d.)divides the purely legitimate reasons for action into three categories: self defense, reprisals, and the exercise of a treaty right. There are few interventions that can be explained by law and therefore are not breaches of another's independence by the intervening State. Self-preservation, treaty compliance, including invitational action, humanitarian grounds, and intervention to deter illegal intervention are among the grounds.

With so many plays being performed at the same time, the universe is a theatre. One side, there is vaccine diplomacy on the other side there is debt diplomacy; at times there is newfound hope in Drago doctrine and in other times its remorseful memories of the first world war (Germany violated the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg on the pretext of the doctrine of self defence). There always will be the need for intuitional brakes. It is high time the leadersrealised the power of interventions to boost its impact and guide the global community toward growth.

References :

[1] Tandon, M. P. (n.d.). Human Rights and International Law (23rd ed.). Allahabad Law Agency.

[2] Westward Expansion: The Louisiana Purchase []. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

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