In this article I utilise the editors' conceptual frame of sovereignty/intervention/transnational social forces to argue that the relationship that ensues between these phenomena has to be understood in colonial-modern – rather than modern – terms. I thereby argue that intervention is a distinctive technology of colonial-modern rule, specifically, one that erects and polices the difference between sovereign and quasi-sovereign entities via a standard of civilisation. Additionally, I argue that transnational social forces struggle – cognitively, socially, and politically – over the upholding or refuting of this standard; and in this struggle, some might even defend particular sovereign entities against colonial interventions. I demonstrate my argument by explicating the global colonial context of the Italy/Ethiopia conflict in 1935–6, the nadir of the interwar crisis. I ‘decolonise’ received interpretations of the conflict through the heuristic of two differing catechisms of Psalms 68:31 proffered at the time: one, invoking a civilising mission of Africans; the other, invoking a project of self-liberation by Africans.