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Human Rights: Moral or Political?$
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Adam Etinson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198713258

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198713258.001.0001

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The Hazards of Rescue

The Hazards of Rescue

(p.409) 12 The Hazards of Rescue
Human Rights: Moral or Political?

C. A. J. Coady

Oxford University Press

After briefly exploring the background to and nature of human rights, and endorsing their importance and significant universality, this chapter examines the problems that can afflict the humanitarian impulse to rescue people from human rights violations worldwide. These problems concern principally the implementation of programmes of rescue in complex circumstances involving nuanced political, cultural, and moral judgements. A besetting difficulty is that created by various forms of what the author calls “moralism” which is a distortion of morality, though political realists in genuine recognition of the difficulty often mistake moralism for morality itself. The chapter first discusses the problems of implementation for non-violent humanitarian aid and rescue operations, noting the criticisms and responses made by some aid practitioners themselves, and then examines, largely through the lens of moralism, the relevance of these difficulties to the more dramatic rescue efforts of violent military humanitarian intervention.

Keywords:   humanitarianism, political realism, humanitarian aid, military intervention, just war, morality vs moralism, neutrality, moral ambiguity, co-option

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