Legality Versus Legitimacy: Humanitarian Intervention, the Security Council, and the Rule of Law

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Chesterman, Simon (2002) Legality Versus Legitimacy: Humanitarian Intervention, the Security Council, and the Rule of Law , Security Dialogue 33(3): .

Abstract

This article sketches out the nature of legal responses to humanitarian intervention in general and the Kosovo intervention in particular, with particular attention given to arguments that were not made. Though some possible arguments appear to have been omitted through oversight, the nature of the discussion suggests a view of international law as one policy justification among others. These debates are then situated in a broader historical context by drawing parallels between the current international framework and earlier historical periods in which no body comparable to the Security Council existed. It is argued that developments since the end of the Cold War, and in the past few years in particular, suggest a reversion to pre-Charter paradigms, where the council exists merely to advise member-states and international order is contingent, once more, on the goodwill of the powerful. The reluctance of the Great Powers to submit themselves to law may yet have a more lasting effect on the international order than NATO’s decision to wage war on behalf of the Kosovo Albanians.