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Nonintervention or non-interventionism is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy, and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense. An original more formal definition is that Non-intervention is a policy characterized by the absence of interference by a state or states in the external affairs of another state without its consent, or in it internal affairs with or without its consent.1
This is based on the grounds that a state should not interfere in the internal politics of another state, based upon the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination. A similar phrase is "strategic independence".2 Historical examples of supporters of non-interventionism are US Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who both favored nonintervention in European Wars while maintaining free trade. Other proponents include United States Senator Robert Taft and United States Congressman Ron Paul.3
Nonintervention is distinct from, and often confused with isolationism, the latter featuring economic nationalism (protectionism) and restrictive immigration. Proponents of non-interventionism distinguish their policies from isolationism through their advocacy of more open national relations, to include diplomacy and free trade. Non-interventionism is a policy in government only and thus does not exclude non-governmental intervention by organizations such as Amnesty International.
The norm of non-intervention has dominated the majority of international relations, and can be seen to have been one of the principal motivations for the U.S.'s initial non-intervention into World Wars I and II, and the non-intervention of the 'liberal' powers in the Spanish Civil War (see Non-Intervention Committee), despite the intervention of Germany and Italy. The norm was then firmly established into international law as one of central tenets of the UN Charter, which established non-intervention as one of the key principles which would underpin the emergent post-WWII peace. This however was somewhat optimistic as the advent of the Cold War led to massive interventions in the domestic politics of a vast number of developing countries among varying pretexts of 'global socialist revolution' and 'containment' policies in response to it. Through the adoption of such pretexts and the establishment that such interventions were to prevent a threat to 'international peace and security' allowed intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (not to mention the impotence of the UN during the Cold War due to both the U.S. and USSR holding veto power in the United Nations Security Council).
In recent years New Zealand has become largely non-interventionist. No military support, apart from medical, was given for the first Gulf war although SAS troops were provided for the war in Afghanistan. Engineers were provided in Iraq after conventional hostilities in the war had ceased. In the Pacific Islands, New Zealand has been involved in humanitarian interventions in the Solomon Islands and East Timor. However, those interventions were non-coercive interventions at the request of the nation being intervened upon. These activities are known as 'peace keeping'.
Switzerland has long been known for its policy of defensively armed neutrality.
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In the post-cold war era, it can however be seen that new emergent norms of humanitarian intervention are superseding the norm of non-intervention. This is based upon the argument that while sovereignty gives rights to states, it also comes with a responsibility to protect its citizens, an argument based upon social contract theory. Under this ideal, states can be justified in intervening within other states if that state is failing to protect (or if it is actively involved in harming) its citizens. This has justified UN sanctioned interventions in Northern Iraq in 1991 to protect the Kurds, and in Somalia from 1992 to 1995 in the absence of state power. However, after the US "Black Hawk Down" event in 1993 the US refused to intervene in Rwanda or Haiti. This argument was also used (with strong opposition from Russia and China) to justify NATO intervention in Kosovo and more recently in Libya.
This new norm of humanitarian intervention is far from fully formed, as in all of the UN sanctioned cases the arguments were further couched in Chapter VII threats to international peace and security. This new emergent norm appears to only justify the action of states if they want to act, and does not create a duty of states to intervene.
- A Few Words on Non-Intervention by John Stuart Mill
- International relations theory
- Positive non-interventionism
- Prime Directive
- Westphalian sovereignty
- List of anti-war organizations
- List of peace activists
- The doctrine of intervention (1915) by Henry G. Hodges.
- Carpenter, Ted Galen. The Libertarian Reader. pp. 336–344. ISBN 0-684-83200-3. Nonintervention is usually defined as either the determination by a nation to refrain from interfering in the affairs of other nations or those of its own political subdivisions; or as the refusal or failure to intervene in same. Non-interventionism is not to be confused with isolationism, a political policy which sometimes carries with it laws that mandate a breaking of ties between the inhabitants of one political subdivision and another.
- Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. Great Britain: George Weidenfeld & Nicholson Limited, 1991. Page 122.
- Wheeler, N.J. (2003) "The Humanitarian Responsibilities of Sovereignty: Explaining the Development of a New Norm of Military Intervention for Humanitarian Purposes in International Society" in Welsh, J.M. Humanitarian Intervention and International Relations Oxford: Oxford Scholarship Online, pp. 29–50.
- Walzer, M.J. (2000) Just and Unjust Wars New York: Basic Books, pp. 86–108.
- America's Tradition Of Non-Interventionism, Chris Leithner
- Non-Interventionism, OnPower.org
- "A Noninterventionist Revival", by Michael R. Allen, Editor, Spin Magazine December 24, 1998: http://www.antiwar.com/nonint.html