Volume 23, Issue 2, Fall 2009
From Revolution to Regime Change
Consequentialist Barriers to the Transfer of Rights
The fact that armed revolution would be justified under certain circumstances does not guarantee the legitimacy of foreign intervention in aid of, or in place that revolution, even where the means employed and the ends sought are similar. One commonly given reason for this is that foreign intervention might fall short of the prudential constraints on war—proportionality, last resort, likelihood of success—where rebellion would live up to them. But those who make this argument often seem to assume that the prudential constraints on war apply asymmetrically, or demand more of humanitarian interveners than they do of rebels. I suggest that this double-standard is inconsistent with a basic principle of moral reasoning, and may need to be revised or abandoned. If we reject the asymmetry, however, can we still maintain that consequentialist considerations block the right of revolution from transferring across national boundaries and becoming a right of military intervention and regime change?