What Does Principle of Intervention Mean in World History?

The principle of intervention has been a recurring theme in world history. It refers to the idea that powerful nations have the right to intervene in the affairs of weaker nations to promote their own interests or to protect certain values. This principle has been used to justify military interventions, economic sanctions, and other forms of interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

Historical Context

The principle of intervention can be traced back to the early modern period when European powers began colonizing and exploiting other parts of the world. During this time, European powers justified their actions by claiming that they were bringing civilization and enlightenment to backward peoples. They argued that they were intervening in these societies for humanitarian reasons.

However, as European powers became more powerful and industrialized, they began using the principle of intervention as a tool for expanding their empires and protecting their economic interests. They would use military force or economic sanctions to coerce weaker nations into accepting their demands.

The Doctrine of Manifest Destiny

In the United States, the principle of intervention took on a different form with the doctrine of manifest destiny. This was the belief that it was America’s destiny to expand its territory and spread its values across North America. The doctrine was used to justify American expansionism and imperialism in the 19th century.

During this time, the US government undertook several military interventions in Latin America under the guise of protecting American interests or promoting democracy. These interventions often had disastrous consequences for local populations and led to resentment towards American imperialism.

International Law

In modern times, international law has sought to limit the principle of intervention by establishing rules governing state behavior. The United Nations Charter prohibits states from using force against other states except in self-defense or with UN authorization.

However, some argue that powerful nations still use various means such as economic sanctions or covert operations to interfere in weaker nations’ internal affairs.

Criticism of the Principle of Intervention

The principle of intervention has been criticized by many for being a tool for powerful nations to exploit weaker nations. Critics argue that it violates the principles of sovereignty and self-determination, which are fundamental principles of international law.

Furthermore, interventions often exacerbate conflicts and lead to instability, rather than promoting peace and stability.


In conclusion, the principle of intervention has been a recurring theme in world history. It has been used by powerful nations to justify their actions in weaker nations for various reasons.

However, it has also been criticized for violating international law and leading to instability. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is important to strike a balance between promoting global interests and respecting the sovereignty of individual nations.