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John Stuart Mill on Syria

Tuesday, 30 April, 2013

“When the contest is only with native rulers, and with such native strength as those rulers can enlist in their defence, the answer I should give to the question of the legitimacy of intervention is, as a general rule, No. The reason is that there can seldom be anything approaching to assurance that intervention, even if successful, would be for the good of the people themselves… The liberty which is bestowed on them by hands other than their own will have nothing real, nothing permanent.”

John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 — 8 May 1873)

The essay, A Few Words On Non-Intervention, was published in 1859 and was written in the context of the construction of the Suez Canal and the recent Crimean War. It addresses the question of under what circumstances states should be allowed to intervene in the sovereign affairs of another country.


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