Interventionism is a term for a policy of non-defensive (proactive) activity undertaken by a nation-state, or other geo-political jurisdiction of a lesser or greater nature, to manipulate an economy or society. The most common applications of the term are for economic interventionism (a state's intervention in its own economy), and foreign interventionism (a state's intervention in the affairs of another nation as part of its foreign policy)[1].


The political government of a state decide actions of foreign intervention and foreign policy. Political interventionism can include methods such as sanctions on a foreign economy or international trade with similar results to protectionism, or other international sanctions through international cooperation decisions guarding international law or global justice. Political support or political capital, such as nationalism or ethnic conflict also decide foreign intervention actions such as occupation, nation-building and national security policies.


The objectives of a policy for foreign intervention can be philosophical, religious or scientific based on the different ideological foundations supporting the policy. Example of objectives are national security, support for world government, scientific systemic concern of systemic bias in international relations theory, policy of balancing as a goal for balance of power in international relations or balance of threat.


International relations are developed through international cooperation and international organizations giving rise to military alliance, cooperation through a trade pact or development of a trade bloc. These can set common policies of foreign intervention through bilateralism or multilateralism, and international agreement on a treaty.

The development of international law is also done through international cooperation and organizations with implications for foreign intervention actions.


There are varying methods on foreign intervention from participants including government, military, international, corporate, religious and public efforts reflecting their respective objectives, interests and ideologies.

Foreign intervention methods that are physically passive and do not use violence are non-aggressive.


Some methods that are used are various sanctions like economic sanctions, embargo, boycott, export restriction, trade sanctions, political sanctions, international sanctions. Promotion of efforts for media or information methods may be used; such as information warfare, propaganda, advertising, political symbolism, media democracy, freedom of information to gain political capital and support for political reform. Publicly organized efforts also appear; like the peace movement and nonviolence organizations, sometimes by religious organizations.

United States military strategy like military operations other than war and Civil-Military Co-operation are examples of how to deal with asymmetric warfare in the War on Terrorism, as well as winning hearts and minds (Iraq).


Militarism involves a state having a strong military capability and being prepared to use it aggressively for national interests, through military tactics such as military intelligence, military education and training, military aid, arms sales, military spending and other military interventions.

Some states perform or promote state terrorism or destabilization through clandestine operation, covert operation, proxy wars and death squads. They may also perform espionage and cyber-warfare. Some states like Israel, United States and others perform selective assassinations and sometimes a manhunt (military). Conservatives and neoconservatives in America generally advocate an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy.

A superpower can easily perform foreign intervention based on unilateralism, military capability and military power projection. During the Cold War the Soviet Union and United States were involved in a geopolitical and ideological struggle. United States used an overwhelming doctrine of shock and awe in the Iraq War to demoralise the enemy. An aggressive and surprising tactic used by Nazi Germany was their doctrine of Blitzkrieg.

Foreign interventionism


Ideologies for supporting or opposing varying degrees of foreign intervention in international relations can have philosophical, religious or scientific origins.

Within political philosophy there are variations giving ideological foundation and reasoning to different degrees of foreign interventionism. Political doctrines are often the expressed views for such belief systems, such as a foreign policy doctrine (usually of philosophical origin) or like the Doctrine for Just War (of religious origin). Military science through military doctrine and military strategy also include geopolitical strategy.

International relations theory is the scientific study of such policies, methods and paradigms resulting in scientific modelling through the interdisciplinary fields of systems philosophy and systems science.

Some central philosophical and systemic topics on foreign intervention and war studies include:

The non-aggression principle holds that aggression is inherently illegitimate, but does not preclude defence against aggression.

Marxist international relations theory and later World-systems approach are essentially opposing any policies of domination or hegemony such as world domination. The idea of complex interdependence argue that the decline of military force as a policy tool, the increase in economic and other forms of interdependence should increase the probability of cooperation among states.

Some theories that promote less aggressive foreign intervention are:

Theories openly supporting explicitly aggressive foreign intervention are:

Political realism states that the overriding 'national interest' of each state is its national security and survival; as well as that to ensure this security, states must be on constant preparation for conflict through economic and military build-up. Ruhollah Khomeini believed in Muslim unity and social solidarity, as well as the export of Islamic revolution throughout the world: "Establishing the Islamic state world-wide belong to the great goals of the revolution." [2][3]

Public opposition to aggressive foreign intervention along with public activism has also promoted nonviolence as an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression and armed struggle against it through actions like direct action and nonviolent intervention. An example of such internationally organized nonviolent intervention is the Peace Brigades International.

Policies in practice

Foreign policy doctrines examples are the Bush Doctrine, Monroe Doctrine, the Stimson Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, the Nixon Doctrine, the Brezhnev Doctrine, the Kirkpatrick doctrine.

Nazi Germany Geopolitik and United States Realpolitik are also examples of practical policies. Foreign intervention may result in a declaration of war or state of emergency.


Efforts in foreign intervention may include diplomacy to dispute resolution. The involved parties in a conflict may negotiate a peace treaty or other treaties. A state may operate as a protecting power on behalf of other states, offering foreign intervention capabilities. This is usually done by a neutral country.

International conventions may be reached by an international consensus. Ideas of equal power relationship and pacifism are sometimes used in diplomacy. Towards the end of the Cold War there was a public rationale and reasoning for a peace dividend with economic benefits of a decrease in defence spending.

Multilateral and international intervention

The most frequently used multilateral alternative is a policy through the United Nations Security Council, often for peacekeeping initiatives. There is also an International Police.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also participates, for example through combating terrorist financing. This is also the case for Interpol. Other organisations are the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and NATO.

Canada's International Policy Statement is an example of a multilateral policy.

Unilateral intervention

Throughout the last century there has been several unilateral and covert efforts by the United States like Operation Gladio, School of the Americas and other CIA activities in the Americas.

The Bush Doctrine and United States realpolitik are seen as promoting unilateral foreign intervention. There are also programs like the extraordinary rendition by the United States in the asymmetric warfare nature of the War on Terrorism. During the war in North-West Pakistan there are further Effects-Based Operations in a low intensity conflict, selective assassinations and a manhunt (military) for Osama bin Laden. The United States also defines a list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and an Axis of evil which are subject to various US foreign intervention policies like sanctions.

During the 2008 South Ossetia war there were privately hired military veterans from Israel giving military education and training; as well as other official military aid such as military advisors from the United States and Israel to the Georgian military.[4][5][6][7] Later Russia intervened in this conflict claiming to be protecting the ethnic minority group in South Ossetia, and later claimed NATO expansionism concerns.


There are controversies to foreign interventionism policies with accusations of hegemony and world domination through expansionism or imperialism.

Some social criticism is directed as anti-imperialism. Others warn that militarism and inflated military spending will result in a permanent war economy. Critics of appeasement say it can result in world war. Also, Finlandization is the process of turning into a neutral country which, although maintaining national sovereignty, in foreign politics resolves not to challenge a more powerful neighbour. Ethnic conflict can result in Balkanization.

Human rights

Military intervention can result in accusations of war crimes like ethnic cleansing or genocide. The International Court of Justice handles some cases of such abuse. There is also public criticism on collateral damage in conflicts such as public infrastructure and civilian casualties.

State terrorism

There are allegations of state terrorism by the United States from its history of foreign interventions and policies like low intensity conflict or covert operations.


United states intervened in Iraq in the 2003 invasion of Iraq citing concerns for national security and adhering to the evolving Bush Doctrine based on neoconservatism and the democratic peace theory. Disputes from ethnic conflict and the question of self-determination and independence can lead to insurgency or military occupation. Russia intervened in the 2008 South Ossetia war, but has also voiced support for any of its citizens in places like Ukraine and elsewhere.


The United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are examples of international organizations which can be used to both promote or oppose foreign intervention. Scientific criticism point to multi-level governance as a better alternative for public choice theory and decision theory.

Public peace movements like the anti-war groups promote non-interventionism.


Neoliberalism points to the complex interdependence of foreign relations on economy, but there is criticism of the world economy globalization from the anti-globalization movement. Promoters of global governance and democratic mundialization organize and participate in political activism.


Critics name concerns on media manipulation and censorship like political censorship or denialism. There are accusations that embedded journalism is military manipulation of the media. There are accusations of negationism in public education and education resources. Throughout history propaganda has been used for gaining political capital and political support, like Nazi propaganda or Communist propaganda. There are also criticisms of monuments and statues supporting various ideologies through political symbolism, such as Nazi architecture.

There is criticism of promotion of culture of fear and the appeal to fear like the tactic of creating "fear, uncertainty and doubt" such as the expressions "the terrorists have won" or "for the children (politics)" in an appeal to emotion.


1800 - 1900

1900 - 1990

1990 - 2000

2000 - present

See also


  1. ^ Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close, "Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism", 2007, ISBN 978-1-59813-015-7
  2. ^ (Resalat, 25.3.1988) (quoted on p.69, The Constitution of Iran by Asghar Schirazi, Tauris, 1997
  3. ^ Personal communications from Dr. Mansur Farhang, a biographer and supporter of Khomeini who was the former Iranian representative at the United Nations, with Ervand Abrahamian. Quoted in Abrahamian, Ervand, Khomeinism : Essays on the Islamic Republic University of California Press, (1993)
  4. ^ Ha'aretz: Georgia president denies Israel halted military aid due to war., September 14, 2008
  5. ^ Asia Times: Georgia's Israeli arms point Russia to Iran. (Inter Press Service), September 14, 2008
  6. ^ Ynetnews: War in Georgia, The Israeli connection., September 14, 2008
  7. ^ DEBKAfile: Israel backs Georgia in Caspian Oil Pipeline Battle with Russia., September 14, 2008
  8. ^ Giraldez, Arturo (2001) . "Book Review: The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present" Journal of World History vol12.2, 482-485 (online)
  9. ^ Hammond, Kenneth J. (2008) "From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History", The Teaching Company