In what situations is it right, do you think, do resort to armed conflict?Aggression
suddenly became a crime after WW2. Before then, it was at best "an offence against international morality" (an expression from the documents for the proposed trial of the Kaiser). Then after WW2 we learn that it is "essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" (from the Nuremburg trials).
Current international law is fairly definite on when a state can use armed force:
-in self defence
-when authorised by the UN Security Council
In all other situations, you have committed the crime of aggression
This means that the US mining of Nicaraguan harbours
was a crime, as was the North Korean bombardment of South Korean islands.
So. Where does this leave so-called Humanitarian Intervention?
If it's authorised by the UNSC then you're fine.
If you're like NATO and attack Serbia
then you're technically in breach of international law. The advantage of having a member of the permanent 5 members of the UNSC on your side (UK, France, Russia, USA, China) 'on-side' is that no measure critical of your conduct will ever get passed. So you're in the position that your intervention will probably never be post hoc authorised (as with Korea) but also never declared to be illegal.
That's the vague and brief legal summary. What I'm trying to work out is the moral question. This would, I suppose, go back to Just War theory
. When is it morally acceptable to start bombing another country?
What would you send soldiers to fight and kill for?
Personally, I wouldn't invade 'merely' to impose democracy. The death and suffering that modern warfare brings is too dear a price. Only when there's severe violations of the right to life (e.g. genocide, extermination) would I even think about it.
But this leads to another question - on what basis would you intervene? Is 'because they are suffering' sufficient justification?
I'm fully aware that in the above situation I am substituting being killed by one's own government for being killed by my forces.