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Abstract

This Article argues that the ambiguous normative regime currently

governing unilateral humanitarian intervention provides an adequate

legal framework for such intervention. The Article reviews the

arguments typically made in support of a codified, strict normative

regime, finding that strict normativity is unlikely to deter human rights

violators more effectively than the current framework. In addition, the

Article points out that any effort to codify a norm of unilateral

humanitarian intervention faces formidable obstacles. Such an effort

must overcome the conflict between the traditional doctrine of state

sovereignty and emerging principles of human rights, as well as

practical difficulties in reaching international consensus on the content

of a codified norm. A permissive legal regime, while imperfect, provides

adequate safeguards against abuse, acknowledges the exceptional nature

of unilateral intervention, benefits both intervening and target states,

and protects human rights. Although the Article argues that normative

ambiguity is the only viable legal regime at this time, it recognizes strict

normativity as an ideal towards which the international community

should strive.

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