The last decade has been marked by a revival of interest in the contemporary applicability of traditional international law doctrines of humanitarian intervention. During the period between the two world wars, a significant number of state elites adhered to a strict construction of the theory that under international law each nation is completely "sovereign" and "independent". Hence, since international law deals solely with external relations between states, and since what occurs within the state between the "sovereign" and his "subjects" has, by definition, no effect on external inter-state relations, intervention for humanitarian purposes by another state on behalf of the "subjects" of a foreign :'sovereign" lay outside the scope of international law. Under this theory it was lawful for a foreign state to criticize Hitler's treatment of Polish Jews, but Hitler's persecution of German Jews was entirely his affair. Writing in 1956, summarizing the experience of the thirties, the Thomases were able to conclude that
Not even the most revolting violations of the common laws of decency and humanity committed by a government against its own subjects was sufficient grounds for other states to criticize officially the political organization which made such outrages possible. Humanitarian intervention in the twentieth century, therefore, retains but little vigor.
Robert M. Chilstrom,
Humanitarian Intervention Under Contemporary International Law: A Policy-Oriented Approach,
Yale J. Int'l L.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol1/iss1/5