The President of the United States assumes significant responsibilities upon taking office. With these duties come difficult decision making. A president must evaluate situations and determine whether a passive action or armed intervention is necessary. When armed intervention is a must, a criteria is need and must be followed. To determine that criteria that is appropriate for a conflict, one must first define the three criteria’s set by the United Nations Charter under which force may be legally used: unilaterally, multilaterally when authorized by the United Nations Security Council and multilaterally by regional collective defense action (Viotti, 183).
Unilaterally is defined as self defense. In the event that one state is attacked by another they are authorized to retaliate. Multilaterally when authorized by the United Nations Security Council is used to “maintain or restore international peace and security” (Viotti, 183). This simply means that multiple countries work in concert to uphold and reestablish international peace and security on a given issue. The final criterion multilaterally by regional collective defense action is performed by alliances that combine their power and capabilities to balance the power of other states. The works of these countries work defensively and aggressively on a common goal. Although the United Nations Charter specifies these conditions, they unfortunately conflict with each other.
There are five competing factors for decisions on the three armed intervention criterions. These factors include sovereignty, national interest, human rights, expected net effect on the human condition, and degree of multilaterism. When considering these factors, confliction may occur between the criterions. A prime example is armed intervention against national interest. There are some who say that armed intervention should be engaged only if there is a vital national interest but national interest is subject to much interpretation (Lynn, 2005). Another instance is unilaterally for self defense conflicting with the sovereignty factor. According to this criterion if a state is attacked by another then they may retaliate with force but when considering the sovereignty factor a state can attack another state by only feeling threatened by another (Alexandrov, 1995). Human right conflicts with the criterion to maintain international peace and security. When human rights are violated it is said by some to endanger international peace and security which is legal grounds for humanitarian defiance. The expected net effect on the human condition factor conflicts with armed intervention. The problem occurs when the need for armed intervention interferes with whether it will enhance or deteriorate human condition of armed forces (Haass, 2003). The degree of multilateralism conflicts with the unilateral armed intervention due to policymakers looking for multilateral support and cooperation.
When considering the three criterion and five factors it is important to recognize that they compete with each other. They all weigh on each other to come to an informed decision on armed intervention. It is important that the President and other officials put into thought these criteria and factor when trying to initiate armed intervention. The difficult part of the decision making process for the President is to set a certain standard and being consistent to follow it since there are so many different views. If I was President this is how I would attack initiating armed intervention.
There must be a framework in order to make informed decision as well as dealing with unique situations that occur pertaining to armed intervention. The framework should be followed but also should allow for different circumstances to occur. By no means is it an easy task to come up with this skeleton due to all of the different factor involved. Well-versed and experienced individuals should be combined to for a team that aids the President in this difficult endeavor. Laying down a foundation and adhering to it is the key to being successful in armed intervention.
Alexandrov, S. (1995). Self-Defense against the Use of Force in International Law.
Haass, R. (2003). Armed Intervention: When nations forfeit their sovereign
privileges. International Herald Tribune. Retrieved July, 13 2009 from
Lynn, M. & Reiff, D. (2005). Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs: Democracy
and Armed Intervention Retrieved July 13, 2009 from
Viotti, P. & Kauppi, M. (2007). International Relations and World Politics. New Jersey: Pearson