Don’t get this wrong: missiles and bombs are effective to increase death rates; air strikes will never promote institutional reforms so needed to failed states as Syria and Iraq. However, in order to understand why the non-use of violent force is not only a matter of human morale – which I consider sufficient to delegitimize war “with terror” (see Wolfe article on the soft aspects of war), we may start addressing the question in terms of the International Law and then relativize the international security doctrine on humanitarian intervention.

The United Nations Charter (1945) is clear when stipulates the cases in which intervention is desirable (art 39-42) and it is equally emphatic in the preservation of sovereignty principles (art 2). International Law, in this manner, only agree with state intervention, and more specifically, violent intervention as last recourse, when a state sovereignty is objectively threatened by the actions of an external actor or when other state urge for help to the international community. Finally, it is only The Security Council (UNSC) who “shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace” (art 39), which, in other words, reinforces the notion that one state, or a “coalition against terrorism”, is not authorized or legitimized to define, unilaterally, terrorist threats and decide whether to intervene or not.

Legally speaking, the air strike campaign on Iraq and Syria is controversial. The UNSC resolution 2178, approved by unanimity, does not authorize the use of force to “maintain or restore international peace and security” (art 42), but the opposite: struggle against terrorism demands the treat in adjacent factors – which I highlight below. Why, then, are we witnessing the formation of an international coalition to fight over the Islamic State? It might be partially explained by the tradition of humanitarian intervention based on the principle of “responsibility to protect” and the construction of a discourse to frame the Islamic State as international threat to world audience. However, the humanitarian intervention tradition has proven inefficient in cases where force is used with no proportions or corrections (see Foley article, from the Guardian).

Therefore, if we conceive the air strike campaign not only controversial in the parameters of international law, but also ineffective in terms of outcomes to states involved in the conflict and the international society as a whole, how different could be a “solidarist” approach based on a politics of non-violent action? Wheeler (2003) identifies four basic criteria to a solidarist theory of humanitarian intervention: “supreme humanitarian emergency, necessity or last resort, proportionality, and a positive humanitarian outcome” (p. 52). I believe that the “positive humanitarian outcome” criteria is closely related to what Syria and Iraq are most demanding now and, more importantly, it is the criteria which can determine whether the future of those countries will be doomed to failure or inclined to restoration and prosperity.

What Syria and Iraq really require, and the UNSC resolution 2178 does authorize and encourage international community to engage with, is institutional strengthening, permanent cooperation for good governance, new mechanisms to impulse state-building, protection and infra-structure to their citizens. Missiles and bombs, obviously, cannot deliver these goods. Only a politics of non-violent action, based on an assumption of “responsibility while protecting” as developed by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, lures the mechanisms to change the current scenario. To pursue peace and stability, international society should invest in institutional advancements both to amplify its potentiality to intervene without the use of force and to ensure the intervened state can prosper. It is imperative that this “war rationale” the air strikes are solely based on is overcame by a broad concept of solidarist and non-violent action.


WHEELER, Nicholas J. (2003). Saving Strangers: Humanitarian International Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-52.

United Nations. United Nations Charter (1945). Available at:

United Nations Security Council (2014). Resolution 2178. Available at:

WOLFE, Lauren (2014). Re-conceiving war: Stopping a cycle of violence depends on how we prioritize it. Available at:

FIGUEIREDO, Luiz Alberto (2014). “O uso da força nas relações internacionais”. Available at:

FOLEY, Conor (2012). Welcome to Brazil’s version of ‘responsibility to protect’. Available at:

Daniel Vasconcelos é bacharel em Ciência Política pela Universidade de Brasília – UnB (

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