The religious dimension of the liberal case for humanitarian intervention

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    Abstract

    Political theorizing about armed humanitarian intervention has been dominated by liberalism. Contemporary liberal political theorists broadly agree about the right, if not the duty, of intervention in at least grave cases of human rights violation. This essay argues that the liberal case for humanitarian intervention, despite its secular outlook, features a religious dimension: it tacitly relies on a particular Christian understanding of politics. The argument of this essay is twofold. First, the liberal argument for humanitarian intervention is “actively Christian”: it implicitly assumes that political leaders perform normative “Christian prudence” instead of “secular prudence” - more specifically, “higher prudence” rather than “lower prudence”. Second, the liberal interventionist ideal is “Roman”: it entails a further secularized continuation of the “Roman” tradition as opposed to the “Protestant” one within Christian intellectual thought. The religious dimension of the liberal case for humanitarian intervention may be aptly characterized as “progressivistically Roman”.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27 - 55
    Number of pages29
    JournalCrossroads
    Volume10
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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