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9 - From Colonial Threat to ‘Humanitarian’ Example:

European Practices of Intervention and the United States of America

from Part III - Humanitarian Intervention and Its Solidification as an Imperial and Colonial Practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2021

Fabian Klose
Affiliation:
Universität zu Köln
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Summary

Chapter 9 looks at the United States, which serves as something of an extra-European mirror in which European practices of intervention are reflected. The first conclusion to draw is that the US government regarded interventions by the Concert of Europe in the internal affairs of sovereign states as a colonial threat to its own national security interests, which led to the formulation in 1823 of the Monroe Doctrine and its paradigm of non-intervention. A fundamental change, however, came when the United States embarked on its own course of colonial expansion and increasingly came to adapt the practice of intervention to its own purposes. The key role here was played by the Caribbean island of Cuba, where a war of independence precipitated a humanitarian crisis. In the context of that crisis, the US government began to invoke European interventions as precedents and examples by which its own military action against Spain might be justified both legally and morally. The United States can thus be seen to have claimed the same right to humanitarian intervention in international politics in order to assert its own role as arbiter of power in the western hemisphere and as such to uphold by force the principles of civilisation and humanity – even against a Christian European state. Set alongside European interventions, the American case vividly shows how closely the idea of humanitarianism was interwoven with colonialism and imperialism.

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In the Cause of Humanity
A History of Humanitarian Intervention in the Long Nineteenth Century
, pp. 208 - 236
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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