(Redirected from Non-interventionist)

Non-interventionism or non-intervention is a foreign policy that holds that political rulers should avoid interfering in the affairs of foreign nations relations but still retain diplomacy and trade, while avoiding wars unless related to direct self-defense. A 1915 definition is that non-interventionism is a policy characterized by the absence of "interference by a state or states in the external affairs of another state without its consent, or in its internal affairs with or without its consent".[1]

This is based on the grounds that a state should not interfere in the internal politics of another state as well as the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination. A similar phrase is "strategic independence".[2]

Historical examples of supporters of non-interventionism are US Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who both favored non-intervention in European wars. Other proponents include former United States Senator Robert A. Taft and United States Representative Ron Paul.

Isolationism includes and goes beyond simple non-interventionism through its advocacy of economic nationalism (or tariff protectionism) and immigration reduction. Non-interventionism is a policy in government only and thus does not exclude non-governmental intervention by organizations.


The norm of non-intervention has dominated the majority of international relations and can be seen to have been one of the principal motivations for the US's initial non-intervention into World Wars I and II, and the non-intervention of the liberal powers in the Spanish Civil War, despite the intervention of Germany and Italy. The norm was then firmly established into international law as one of central tenets of the United Nations Charter, which established non-intervention as one of the key principles which would underpin the emergent post-World War II peace.

However, this was soon affected by the advent of the Cold War, which increased the number and intensity of interventions in the domestic politics of a vast number of developing countries under pretexts such as instigating a "global socialist revolution" or ensuring "containment" of such a revolution. The adoption of such pretexts and the idea that such interventions were to prevent a threat to "international peace and security" allowed intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Additionally, the UN's power to regulate such interventions was hampered during the Cold War due to both the US and USSR holding veto power in the United Nations Security Council.

By countryEdit


Mutual non-interference has been one of China's principles on foreign policy in 1954. After Chinese economic reform, China begins to focus on industrial development and so actively avoided military conflict over the last three decades.[3] As of December 2018, China has used its veto eleven times in UN Security Council.[4]

New ZealandEdit

In recent years, New Zealand has become largely non-interventionist. No military support, apart from medical support, was given for the First Gulf War although SAS troops were provided for the war in Afghanistan. Engineers were provided in Iraq after conventional hostilities in the 2003 war had ceased. In the Pacific Islands, New Zealand has been involved in humanitarian interventions in the Solomon Islands and East Timor. In 2015, New Zealand deployed forces to Iraq to operate a training mission for Iraqi security forces. In 2019, it was announced that this deployment would slowly be drawn down. However, the interventions were non-coercive interventions at the request of the nation being intervened upon. The activities are known as "peace keeping".


Sweden has remained non-interventionist since the backlash against the king following Swedish losses in the Napoleonic Wars; the coup d'etat that followed in 1812 caused Jean Baptiste Bernadotte to establish a policy of non-intervention, which has remained since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.


Switzerland has long been known for its policy of defensively armed neutrality.

United StatesEdit

In December 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that their newest poll, "American's Place in the World 2013," had revealed that 52 percent of respondents in the national poll said that the United States "should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own."[5] That was the most people to answer that question this way in the history of the question, which pollsters began asking in 1964.[6] Only about a third of respondents felt that way a decade ago.[6]

Al Gore states in The Assault on Reason, "Hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious."[7]


Since the end of the Cold War, new emergent norms of humanitarian intervention are challenging the norm of non-intervention, based upon the argument that while sovereignty gives rights to states, there is also a responsibility to protect its citizens. The ideal, an argument based upon social contract theory, has states being justified in intervening within other states if the latter fail to protect (or are actively involved in harming) their citizens.[8]

That idea has been used to justify the UN-sanctioned intervention Operation Provide Comfort in Northern Iraq in 1991 to protect the Kurds and in Somalia, UNOSOM I and UNOSOM II from 1992 to 1995 in the absence of state power. However, after the US "Black Hawk Down" event in 1993 in Mogadishu, the US refused to intervene in Rwanda or Haiti. However, despite strong opposition from Russia and China, the idea of the responsibility to protect was again used to justify NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the 2011 military intervention in Libya.

The new norm of humanitarian intervention is not universally accepted and is often seen as still developing.[8] In all of the UN-sanctioned cases, the arguments were further couched in Chapter VII threats to international peace and security. It has been suggested[by whom?] that this newly emerging norm is used to justify the action of states only if they want to act, rather than creating a moral duty of states to intervene.[9]

In his paper "Non-Interventionism - The Forgotten Doctrine," John Laughland mentions, "ICC will be able to prosecute the old Yanukovich regime for war crimes but not the new government, even though the new regime has fighting a war since April whereas Yanukovich never fought one at all."

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hodges, Henry G. (1915). The Doctrine of Intervention. Princeton, The Banner press. p. 1.
  2. ^ Carpenter, Ted Galen (1997). The Libertarian Reader. pp. 336–344. ISBN 0-684-83200-3. Non-intervention is usually defined either as the determination by a nation to refrain from interfering in the affairs of other nations or those of its own political subdivisions or as the refusal or failure to intervene in the same. Non-interventionism is not to be confused with isolationism, a political policy which sometimes carries with it laws that mandate a breaking of ties between the inhabitants of one political subdivision and another.
  3. ^ Brown, Kerry (17 September 2013). "Is China's non-interference policy sustainable?". BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  4. ^ Security Council - Veto List. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  5. ^ Healy, Gene (10 December 2013). "It's not isolationist for America to mind its own business". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b Lindsay, James M.; Kauss, Rachael (3 December 2013). "The Public's Mixed Message on America's Role in the World". Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Book Excerpt: The Assault on Reason". 16 May 2007.
  8. ^ a b Evans, Gareth (2004). "When is it Right to Fight?". Survival. 46 (3): 59–82. doi:10.1080/00396330412331343733.
  9. ^ Laughland, John. "Non-interventionism: The Forgotten Doctrine". Missing or empty |url= (help)


  • Wheeler, N.J. (2003) "The Humanitarian Responsibilities of Sovereignty: Explaining the Development of a New Norm of Military Intervention for Humanitarian Purposes in International Society" in Welsh, J.M. Humanitarian Intervention and International Relations Oxford: Oxford Scholarship Online, pp. 29–50.
  • Walzer, M.J. (2000) Just and Unjust Wars New York: Basic Books, pp. 86–108.

Further readingEdit