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Day 38 – Q 5.Countries that intervene militarily rarely do so out of pure altruism. Comment.

5. Countries that intervene militarily rarely do so out of pure altruism. Comment. 

जो देश सैन्य रूप से हस्तक्षेप करते हैं, वे शायद ही कभी शुद्ध परोपकारिता निकलते हैं। टिप्पणी करें।


Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. It is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves. Altruistic military interventions in the modern era are questionable due to the increasingly underlying geopolitical and strategic aims associated.


Characteristics of Altruism:

  • Altruism must entail action. Good intentions or well-meaning thoughts do not constitute altruism. 
  • The goal must be to further the welfare of another. If another’s welfare is merely an unintended or secondary consequence of behaviour designed primarily to further the one’s own welfare, the act is not altruistic. 
  • Intentions count more than consequences. Motivation and intent are critical, even though motives and intent are difficult to establish, observe, and measure objectively. 
  • Altruism carries some possibility of diminution in one’s own welfare. An act that improves both the altruist’s own welfare and that of others would be considered collective welfare, not altruism.
  • Altruism sets no conditions; its purpose is to further the welfare of another person or group, without anticipation of reward.

Absence of altruism:

  • It has been observed in historic times that military interventions were rarely altruistic. For example: The French deployed forces to Syria partly because of disgust over the massacres of Maronites, but also because doing so might solidify Napoleon III’s influence in the region and win over Catholic voters at home.
  • States that intervene militarily to stop massacres almost always do so in response to popular outrage. Governments are guided primarily by national security and economic concerns and take up the intervention after political pressure. For ex:  In the case of the former Yugoslavia, humanitarian action was brought about by embarrassment rather than genuine concern and by the will not to get involved rather than by the wish to help.
  • Many countries intervene in the pursuit of commercial or strategic interests in the region, justifying it on concern for the ongoing chaos. Example: Various members of the US and UK administrations have provided evidence that Iraq’s rich oil reserves were a major Anglo-American military interest in the Middle East, and control of Iraq’s reserves was always going to be a huge gain for US and British oil corporations.

However, there have been instances where altruism has played a major role:

  • When UN moves military troops to other nations for philanthropic purposes like stop oppression of a defenceless group, humanitarian relief efforts, help refugees escape from or return to their motherland, or support a fledgling democratic government.
  • Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union, the United Nations, the Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States) and the international community at large, are assisting South Sudan to end the conflict, genocide and ethnic cleansing and protect its citizens.
  • The British campaign in Sierra Leone between 2000 and 2002 ensured peace was held for well over a decade and seen the passage of political power through fair elections. The British troops who stopped the country’s dreadful civil war also showed that altruistic military interventions can sometimes work.


When states intervene militarily, they often justify their actions on humanitarian principles and purposes. Ethics of humanitarian intervention cannot be readily subsumed by the ethics of just war without due attention to matters of political and moral motivation.

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