Human rights and the use of force : assertive liberalism and just war
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European journal of political theory, Vol. 11, no. 2, 2011, p. 172-190
This paper critically explores the growing assertiveness with which liberalism has approached questions of the just use of force since 9/11. The liberal position rests upon broad claims about the centrality of human rights concerns to considerations of the justice of war. The claim is that a liberal-cosmopolitan respect for human rights forces us to reconsider the conservative, generally prohibitive, position on the use of force defended by traditional just war theory and enshrined in international law. This argument has been most fully developed by Allen Buchanan in several important books and papers and it is Buchanan's position that forms the basis for the critique of the assertive cosmopolitan attitude to the use of force that is offered in this article. The paper shows that both the just war tradition and those who theorize the ethics of the law of armed conflict have taken the moral and political reality of human rights seriously (in a manner that directly addresses Buchanan's core argument) but that there remain compelling reasons to defend a conservative approach to the use of force.