Self-Determination, Wellbeing, and Threats of Harm


Antony Lamb, University of Bristol, Department of Philosophy, 9 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1TB, UK.


David Rodin argues that the right of national-defence as conceived in international law cannot be grounded in the end of defending the lives of individuals. Firstly, having this end is not necessary because there is a right of defence against an invasion that threatens no lives. However, in this context we are to understand that ‘defending lives’ includes defending against certain non-lethal threats. I will argue that threats to national-self determination and self-government are significant non-lethal threats to the wellbeing of individuals that can justify lethal defensive force. Therefore the end of defending individuals can ground a right of national-defence against a ‘bloodless invasion’. Secondly, Rodin argues that defending lives is not a sufficient condition for military action to be national self-defence, because humanitarian intervention is military action to defend individuals, and such action is in deep tension with national self-defence. I will argue that a reductive account, grounded in claims of need and threats of harm, can justify principles of both intervention and non-intervention on the same grounds; that is, protecting the wellbeing of individuals.