The debate over humanitarian intervention has tended to focus on the conditions under which the resort to armed intervention is permissible while paying less attention to which actors are best suited to engage in such a complicated and demanding undertaking. The purpose of this paper is to explore characteristics that affect the ability of potential agents of humanitarian intervention to effectively undertake this operationally and politically demanding task. While the military wherewithal of the intervener is fundamental, I argue that a potential intervener’s legitimacy as an agent or enforcer of humanitarian norms is also crucial in determining whether and the extent to which it is a suitable agent. In other words, the efficacy of a potential intervener depends not only on its military wherewithal, but also on certain non-material factors than can affect its ability to effectively exercise this power. Using a consequentialist ethical framework, this paper examines the various material and non-material factors that can militate either for or against the suitability of certain actors undertaking humanitarian intervention in various parts of the world. I ultimately use this framework to examine the suitability of various possible agents of a potential humanitarian intervention in Darfur, Sudan.

© Eric A. Heinze. All rights reserved.

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