International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 2, Fall 2022

Jordy Rocheleau
Pages 213-229

In Defense of Insurrection/Intervention Asymmetry
Why Democratization is a Just Cause for Revolution but not Intervention

Just war theory has traditionally accepted revolutionary overthrow of an undemocratic government as a just cause but not foreign intervention for the same purpose. For many contemporary cosmopolitan theorists this asymmetry involves an indefensible inconsistency. For example, Ned Dobos argues that it is only a potential foreign intervener’s duty to its own citizens and soldiers, not any additional duty of non-intervention, that places additional restrictions upon the use of force across borders. I defend insurrection/intervention asymmetry, arguing that due to several intersecting practical difficulties, intervention has a higher threshold of just cause. I argue that interven­tion’s high costs and low likelihood of success, intervener’s limited ability to evaluate the validity of democratic intervention, and the effects of intervention on the international system, lead to a stronger presumption against intervention than revolution. In particular, democratization is a just cause for revolution but not humanitarian intervention.