This Article argues that the ambiguous normative regime currently governing unilateral humanitarian intervention provides an adequate legal framework for such intervention. The Article reviews the arguments typically made in support of a codified, strict normative regime, finding that strict normativity is unlikely to deter human rights violators more effectively than the current framework. In addition, the Article points out that any effort to codify a norm of unilateral humanitarian intervention faces formidable obstacles. Such an effort must overcome the conflict between the traditional doctrine of state sovereignty and emerging principles of human rights, as well as practical difficulties in reaching international consensus on the content of a codified norm. A permissive legal regime, while imperfect, provides adequate safeguards against abuse, acknowledges the exceptional nature of unilateral intervention, benefits both intervening and target states, and protects human rights. Although the Article argues that normative ambiguity is the only viable legal regime at this time, it recognizes strict normativity as an ideal towards which the international community should strive.
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