IQ2 debate: Humanitarian intervention does more harm than good

President Obama Delivers Statement On Humanitarian
Then-President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the State Dining Room of the White House on August 7, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Pool | Getty Images 2014

Proponents of humanitarian intervention say the international community has a responsibility to protect innocent civilians around the world. Opponents say some humanitarian aid and accompanying military intervention worsens the conflicts it sets out to solve.

A new debate from the Intelligence Squared series. The debate motion is: "Humanitarian Intervention Does More Harm than Good."


Frank Ledwidge, senior fellow, Royal Air Force College. Former British Intelligence Officer.

Rajan Menon, author "The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention."

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Bernard Kouchner, co-founder, Doctors Without Borders.

Kori Schake, deputy director-general, International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Frank Ledwidge argued, "No matter how you dress it up, when you conduct this kind of intervention you are fighting a war. And there's one thing the last 20 years have taught us. It's that you don't control war; it controls you."

Rajan Menon argued, "If you want even a modicum of stability post-intervention, you have to keep tens of thousands of troops on the ground, spend billions of dollars to do it right. There isn't the political support to do it."

Barnard Kouchner argued, "In humanitarian intervention, you have to understand that somebody was calling, some victim, some group of victims, or a nation. We are not just, let's say, choosing our victims and choosing our nation. Not at all."

Kori Schake argued, "It's not true that doing nothing should leave us with a clear conscience. It's also not true that doing nothing has no strategic consequences. Russia's return to a power broker role in the Middle East, for example, is a direct consequence of us not intervening in the terrible humanitarian crisis in the Middle East."

To listen to the debate, click the audio player above.