Massimo Renzo has recently argued in this journal that Allen Buchanan’s account of the ethics of intervention is too permissive. Renzo claims that a proper understanding of political self-determination shows that it is often impermissible to intervene in order to establish a regime that leads to more self-determination for a group of people if that group was or would be opposed to the intervention. Renzo’s argument rests on an analogy between individual self-determination and group self-determination, and once we see that there are differences between the two kinds of self-determination, his argument against Buchanan fails, and thus there are more cases of permissible intervention than Renzo countenances. However, understanding these differences also reveals that Buchanan’s account is also not permissive enough. There are cases of justified intervention beyond even what Buchanan compasses.
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