Tag Archives: international relations

Thomas Pogge

[D]eveloped states have been more willing to appeal to moral values and to use such appeals in justification of initiatives—such as the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia—that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War. But these appeals only heighten the puzzle. If it makes sense to spend billions to endanger thousands of lives in order to rescue a million people from Serb oppression, would it not make more sense to spend similar sums, without endangering any lives, on leading many millions out of life-threatening poverty?

Thomas Pogge, ‘Priorities of Global Justice’, in Thomas Pogge (ed.), Global Justice, Oxford, 2001, pp. 6-7

Thomas Pogge

As could be shown at much greater length, there is no truth in the notion of our governments and their foreign ministers, diplomats, and negotiators being motivated by humanitarian concerns that international law as it stands obliges them to suppress. […]

There are no humanitarian heroes among those who exercise power in our names. This is why we are treated to a purely hypothetical example. This hypothetical appeals irresistibly to the good sense of any person whose humanity has not been thoroughly corrupted. Yes of course, we exclaim, the law (and much else) may and must be set aside to save 800,000 people from being hacked to death merely because they are Tutsis or want to live in peace with them. But when the lesson will be accepted and the plain meaning of the Charter will be viewed as unworthy of defense, then it is not the good sense of Thomas Franck and us citizens that will fill the vacuum. Rather, outcomes will then be determined by the “good sense” of those whose humanity has been corrupted through their ascent to national office, through their power, and through the adversarial character of their role: by the good sense of people like Clinton, Albright, and Kofi Annan, who enabled the genocide in Rwanda, by the good sense of people like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, who are more interested in liberating oil fields abroad than human beings. To be sure, the overt or covert violence unleashed by such politicians—regularly rationalized as humanitarian—sometimes happens to prevent more harm than it produces. But the overall record over the last 60 years is not encouraging.

Thomas Pogge, ‘Power v. Truth: Realism and Responsibility’, in Terry Nardin and Melissa S. Williams (eds.), Humanitarian Intervention, New York, 2006, p. 166