Humanitarian intervention is a nineteenth century concept. Its fathers are Wheaton, Woolsey, Phillimore, Arntz and Bluntschli. A 100 publicists were identified from the 1830s until the 1930s, 62 supportive of humanitarian intervention and 38 opposed. Those supportive accept it if (a) there massacres and atrocities of such a scale as ‘to shock the moral consciousness of mankind’, (b) there is collective or quasi-collective intervention so as to acquire legitimacy and limit the abuse factor; and (c) if there was disinterestedness or humanitarian concern is one of the main motives for intervening. Most advocates of humanitarian intervention avoid any distinction as to its application between ‘civilized’ and ‘barbarous’ states, which implies that they considered intervention for reasons of humanity applicable to all, irrespective of degree of 'civilization'. Those opposed to such interventions based their case on the principles of sovereignty, independence and non-intervention as well as practical grounds that is abuse by powerful states. Our conclusion is that it is debatable whether armed humanitarian intervention was then part of customary international law, but it was part of it in its wider conceptualization, which included non-use of violence for humanitarian reasons.
The second intervention in the nineteenth century on humanitarian grounds is regarded the five great power intervention in Lebanon and Syria headed by France, which was basically a peace-keeping operation. The intervention was triggered by appalling massacres in Lebanon and Syria on the part of the Druzes against the Maronites (though the the latter had started the clash). The role of the Ottoman local authorities is a matter of controversy until today, but the central authorities head by the Sultan and the foreign minister participated in the pacification of the region (and did so before the arrival of the French troops) and great power intervention. Humanitarian concern on the part of the French government was not insincere but there were also French instrumental reasons involved and this also applies to the involvement of the other great powers, not least Britain and Russia. The judgment of publicists from those days until today is positive pointing to its essential humanitarian and disinterested character.
In this chapter the focus is wider, including other aspects of humanitarian intervention and not only diplomatic exchanges and the views of major protagonists. The elements of a rising Russian and European sense of identification and empathy with the suffering is traced and the links and vehicles through which the suffering of ‘strangers’ in the unknown Balkans (the ‘Christian East’ of the Asian Department of the Russian foreign ministry) were brought to the attention of the wider Russian public and not only to elite circles. The chapter concludes with the contemporary critique of Russia’s policy and the questioning of its pure humanitarian motives. More specifically this chapter examines the Russian foreign policy and the Eastern Question; the so-called initial ‘peaceful intervention’ of Russia during the Balkan crisis and the plight of the Bulgarians; the Russo-Ottoman war seen in Russia as ‘a generous crusade’; the role of Russian Panslavism; public opinion in Russia and the Russian-British-American entanglements; the human sympathy of Russian society towards the Slavs; and rethinking the ‘noble cause’.