Is The use of Violence in International Affairs Ethical?


Since the second world war, human rights issues have taken center stage in legal and moral discourse to justify and prevent international armed conflicts. Armed forces in resolving international disputes is a growing concern as loss of lives and violation of global ethics certainly is an outcome. It is almost impossible to justify violence in international affairs as its existence cannot be separated breach of human rights defined under international law’s universal declaration of human rights. According to global ethics, every human has the right to life and deserves to be treated fairly, irrespective of nationality, race, and color. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing and other structural violence probably resulted from routine economic and political institutions worldwide. Militarism and hegemonic unilateralism have not been sufficiently addressed by the pollical thinking associated with realism hence conducing philosophers to rethink in line with ethical issues to provide a solution to international violence.

Provisions of the international humanitarian law prohibit the use of violence when dealing with international affairs and classify it as unethical considering the impact of political use aggression. For example, the Russia-Ukraine war has caused millions of Ukrainians to flee, seeking asylum in neighboring countries, civilians dead, and military officers. There are global ethical standards that have been put in place following the two world wars to prevent international violent that could take the world back to its dark moments (de Lange & Claassens, 2018). All countries are expected to abide by the stipulated global ethical regulation to maintain world peace.

 Ethics of armed humanitarian intervention 

Armed humanitarian interventions are ethical because the primary motive of the invasions is to eliminate threats to global peace and eliminate the existence of highly oppressive authority to restore peace or stop largescale violations of fundamental human rights. For example, U.S and NATO collaborated to launch a war on terror following the September 2001 terror attack when George Bush was the sitting president of the United States of America. This implies that violence to solve international affairs such as terrorism can be justified as ethical, considering the further loss of life that would later follow if violence was not used to end the terror group responsible for the attacks. The humanitarian intervention saw the death of Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terror group, in 2011 under the leadership of President Obama. Since the terror group posed a global threat to peace, the acts of violence can be considered ethical despite the displacement of residents in Afghanistan.

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Global ethics under united nations regulations

United Nations aims to maintain dignity, peace, and equality on a healthy planet as a body. It covers most of the global ethical issues in the UN charter and helps countries resolve disputes without violence, as past aftermaths of wars have been devastating. Many countries that are member states of the United Nations abide by the regulations, and consequences of going against rules include sanctions to the country. The application of violence in solving international matters is against global ethics, as noticed in the UN charter under United Nation’s purpose; to ensure that international peace is maintained and take all the necessary precautions to eliminate possible threats to global peace while taking into consideration principles of justice and international law( Mégret, & Alston, 2020). This implies that the UN strictly prohibits violence in international affairs to maintain world peace.

UN also aims to ensure friendly relations among countries by maintaining people’s self-determination and equal rights. This also supports maintaining peace as opposed to the use of violence. The security council is mandated to identify threats to global peace or acts of aggression by countries and measures taken following articles 41 and 42 of the UN charter to restore the initial state of peace. The UN describes violence in resolving international affairs as a threat to peace and against global ethics.

The international court of justice handles war crimes, and heads of state involved in the use of violence are punished for their crimes following international law. This considers a common set of morals and ethical standards in different cultures and faiths to offer justice. For example, the UN ruled in favor of Palestine in the border conflict between Israel and Palestine. The conflict included gun violence that resulted in losing lives against global ethics. The right to life is a common value across all cultural and religious beliefs. This suggests that aggression in resolving international matters is unethical and must be shunned to maintain world peace. Acts of violence threaten the lives of citizens of the countries involved and must be kept at bay to prevent the occurrence of mass disasters such as world wars.

Unethical acts of violence by Russia in the Russia-Ukraine war

 The Russia-Ukraine war is a clear description of the use of aggression in international matters that is entirely unethical as it completely disregards the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Ukraine and the Russian military personnel working under the command of the Russian head of state, Putin. The rights to life of dead persons were not put into consideration and, territorial power was put first, humanity disregarded. Soldiers acting under command have also been denied the right to say no to killing, hence ultimately globally unethical. Alternative dispute resolution is necessary for solving such disputes to ensure that lives are prioritized for territorial dominance. Peace is very crucial for the survival of all nations globally. Therefore, jurisdictions must put international measures to maintain stability and global ethical standards when dealing with other countries. If using violence in any international dispute could lead to a single loss of life, it is not ethical to continue with the operation as it threatens life and peace. By joining NATO, Ukraine did pose any threat to world peace; hence the invasion by Russia cannot be justified, and the war was uncalled for. Ukraine acting in self-defense is morally acceptable and ethical.

 Unethical acts by law enforcers against immigrants in the United States

  Illegal immigrants moving into the United States at the Mexico border are usually assaulted and sometimes thrown into prison without being subjected to a fair trial. The police consider illegal immigrants criminals and are not treated with respect as a human being should. There have been instances where illegal immigrants are shot dead while escaping police custody. The killing of immigrants is entirely unethical as they have the right to life and be treated fairly as the rest of the people.

The Human Rights that are universal and applied by the united nations show how each individual should be treated despite their transgressions. It dictates that every individual has the right to life, security, and liberty, and none should be subjected to any form of slavery. Article five of the declaration also stresses the right not to be treated with cruelty, torture, and inhuman punishment. When dealing with immigrants, the use of violence goes against the universal declaration of human rights and hence defies global ethical standards. Illegal immigrants should be arrested and subjected to the due process of the law without discrimination or applying any form of violence, especially when they are unarmed at the time of the arrest.

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Unethical act of violence by police against foreigners

Police use of violence while arresting individuals of foreign races has been a major issue, especially in Europe. A global outcry resulted from the death of George Floyd in the United States as his death was a result of the use of extreme force as one of the officers placed his knee on his neck hence suffocating him to death. This video circulating across social media platforms was followed by similar videos of people of the African race being unnecessarily assaulted by police officers and treated unfairly. The worldwide protest with the slogan Black Lives matter indicates that the acts of violence against African Americans in the united states were globally considered unethical and against universal human rights.

The fact that Floyd died in the hands of an officer due to violence violated the human right to life. The first ArticleArticle of the universal declaration of human rights indicates that all humans have equal rights and dignity. It is their responsibility to act toward one another with the intent of brotherhood (Weissbrodt, 2021). The second ArticleArticle further explains that humans are entitled to freedoms irrespective of color, race, religion, language, national origin, political opinion, or another status. Officers adopting violence when arresting racially foreign persons are in breach of the universal human right; hence the actions are considered globally unethical. The best solution to such problems is subjecting the officers to proper training on human rights and global ethical standards when dealing with the citizens.  

Unethical torture of foreign terror suspects

Torture and abusive interrogation of suspected terrorists is against global ethics. Islamic foreign states are often associated with suicide bombings and other terrorist activities. Innocent individuals sometimes suffer for no apparent reason during the investigation of terror attacks as they may tell the truth, but the investigators continue torturing them, expecting new information. Torture and abusive interrogation are completely illegal under international and federal law(Evans, 2019). Foreign nationals being interrogated have rights to be followed when retrieving information. All jurisdictions prohibit the use of violence by law enforcers to gain knowledge from them.

The fifth ArticleArticle of the human rights declaration dictates that no person shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman treatment. Torture in interrogation is a form of violence against human rights and global ethical standards. Experienced interrogators understand that using torture in interrogation provides false information, and it provides no strategic advantage in any criminal investigation(Fink, 2018). Torture of foreigners makes a country more vulnerable and damages its country’s reputation. Torture reduces international partnership with other countries as the image of disregard for human rights, and global ethics is quite negative.

Unethical Anti-Japanese protests in China

China’s anti-Japanese protests of 2012 characterized by violence, with Chinese nationals boycotting Japanese products and demolishing shops belonging to Japanese citizens as a form of retaliation, which was against global ethics. This occurred after disputes over the islands of Senkaku, Diaoyu and Diaoyutai became tense when Tokyo’s governor announced that the municipality was to purchase the island from its private owner(Zhou, & Wang, 2018). The residents of china’s major cities took it upon themselves to fight for supremacy over the islands by demonstrating.

The demolitions of the property were against global ethics, and the acts of violence toward Japanese nationals cannot be justified. The actions of violence and vandalism violated Article twenty-three of the human rights declaration, which dictates that every working person and his family have the right to be treated with human dignity and other social protection. The violent approach directed at the Japanese national was completely uncalled for as the Japanese nationals were completely innocent. The protests led to poor economic relations between China and Japan. The Japanese nationals were also entitled to the right to social security under article 22; hence the violence violated human rights and global ethics. Discrimination based on nationality witnessed in the incident was also unethical.  


Drawing reference from the aforementioned instances and global ethics regulations, including the human rights declaration that is universal, it is evident that the use of violence in international affairs is completely unethical and immoral. Global ethics ensure peaceful relations and the coexistence of countries on the planet. Since each jurisdiction has its regulations governing its citizens, it is necessary to adopt global ethics to ensure governments do not take advantage of the differences in rules and regulations governing various jurisdictions.

The use of violence in international affairs puts the future of the human race at risk. For example, the use of weapons such as weapons in international wars have a lasting impact on the targeted population hence going against the global ethics. It also violates international law that considers life sacred considering the fact that use of violence sometimes leads to loss of lives in the process. Unpatriotic violent protests that occurred in China were unpatriotic and unethical as they violated universal human rights.


de Lange, F., & Claassens, L. J. (Eds.). (2018). Considering Compassion: Global Ethics, Human Dignity, and the Compassionate God. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Evans, R. (2019). The Ethics of Torture in the Context of the War on Terror. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies.

Fink, C. (2018). Dangerous speech, anti-Muslim violence, and Facebook in Myanmar. Journal of International Affairs, 71(1.5), 43-52.

Mégret, F., & Alston, P. (Eds.). (2020). The United Nations and human rights: a critical appraisal. OUP Oxford..

Weissbrodt, D. (2021). The Right to a Fair Trial Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Articles 8, 10, and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. BRILL.

Zhou, M., & Wang, H. (2018). The role of rationality in motivating participation in social movements: The case of anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. Rationality and Society, 30(1), 155-186.

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