Published: August 30, 2013
In 1898, President McKinley called for war with Spain to liberate Cuba from the “barbarities, bloodshed, starvation, and horrible miseries now existing there.” Since then, that rhetoric has recurred again and again, justifying interventions around the world — from Haiti in 1915 to Libya in 2011. With the US now mulling military action against Syria, we’re taking on the history of humanitarian intervention.
What are the origins of the idea of a humanitarian obligation? When and why has the US felt justified to intervene in other nations’ affairs? How have these interventions shaped Americans’ attitudes toward the world — and the world’s attitudes toward us? And what’s the history of humanitarian intervention pre-20th century?
Help us shape this show! Military folks — did you serve in Bosnia or Somalia? Were you involved in the campaign for Biafra in the late 60s? Under what circumstances do you think intervention is justified? Share your questions, stories, and ideas below — or email them to backstory [at] virginia [dot] edu.