We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Assisting rebels abroad: the ethics of violence at the limits of the defensive paradigm

Finlay, Christopher J. (2022) 'Assisting rebels abroad: the ethics of violence at the limits of the defensive paradigm.', Journal of applied philosophy., 39 (1). pp. 38-55.


In this article, I analyse the theory and practice of interventions in foreign civil wars to assist rebels fighting against violently oppressive government. I argue that the indirect nature of this kind of intervention gives rise to political complications that are either absent from or less obvious in humanitarian interventions aimed chiefly at defending human rights from imminent threats. An adequate theory must therefore accommodate three additional components. First, it requires a theory of indirect warfare accounting for how the ends of the interveners’ added violence relate to those of the rebels’ violence. Second, it requires a theory of indirect political leadership, paying careful attention both to the political status of the rebel leaders vis‐à‐vis the people on whose behalf they fight and to the relationship between those leaders and the interveners. Third, the peculiarities of indirect military intervention mean that the violence it introduces isn’t easily explained purely in terms of defensive goals. An adequate account needs additionally to pay attention to the role of violence in shaping new political movements and institutions. The value of such goals is less easily quantified than those of humanitarian intervention, making it harder to set upper limits on permissible ‘proportionate’ harm.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
Download PDF (Advance online version)
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Applied Philosophy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for Applied Philosophy. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:22 June 2020
Date deposited:02 July 2020
Date of first online publication:17 November 2020
Date first made open access:19 November 2020

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar