Volume 36, Issue 2, Fall 2022
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.