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POLI 362 - Mill: A Few Words on Non-Intervention

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 362
Catherine Lu

“To go to war for an idea, if the war is aggressive, not defensive, is as criminal as to go to war for territory or revenue: for it is as little justifiable to force our ideas on other people, as to compel them to submit to our will in any other respect. But there are assuredly cases in which it is allowable to go to war, without having been ourselves attacked, or threatened with attack.” “There is a great difference (for example) between the case in which the nations concerned are of the same, or something like the same, degree of civilization, and that in which one of the parties to the situation of a high, and the other of a very low, grade of social improvement.” First: “the rules of ordinary international morality imply reciprocity. But barbarians will not reciprocate.” Second: “nations which are still barbarous have not got beyond the period during which it is likely to be for their benefit that they should be conquered and held in subjection by foreigners.” “The only moral laws for the relation between a civilized and a barbarous government, are the universal rules of morality between man and man.” “A civilized government cannot help with a defensive position, one of mere resistance to aggression. After a longer or shorter interval of forbearance, it either finds itself obliged to conquer them, or to assert so much authority over them, and so break their spirit, that they gradually sink into a state of dependence upon itself, and when that time arrives, they are indeed no longer formidable to it, but it has had so much to do with setting up and pulling down their governments, and they have grown so accustomed to lean on it, that it has become morally responsible for all evil it allows them to do” (emphasis added). By this, Mill seems to grant that colonizers assume some moral responsibility over despotic states which are set up by their assistance. Among “civilized” peoples Can one country interfere in the regulation of another, in civil war, in their st
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