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Few new nations have endured a birth as traumatic as that endured by Asia's youngest

nation, East Timor. East Timor has suffered from Indonesian tyranny since the Indonesian

invaded the territory in 1975, yet despite this the international community did not demonstrate

a genuine effort to solve the problem until the late 90s. Australia took the lead and launched

the 1999 peacekeeping missions in order to put an end to the ethnic cleansing and to restore

peace and security in the territory. It intervened for the second time during the 2006 crisis, in

order to help East Timor function as a viable state.

An humanitarian intervention is ³the threat or use of force across state borders by a state (or

group of states) aimed at preventing or ending widespread and grave violations of the

fundamental human rights of individuals other than their own citizens, without the permission

of the state within whose territory force is applied´ (Holzgrefe, J.L. in Holzgrefe and

Keohane, R. 2003: 18). These interventions must adhere to certain conditions in order to be

authorized and legalised by the United Nations (UN): for the UN holds the responsibility of

enforcing the legal regulation of armed conflict according to the guidelines of the Charter of

the United Nations. The legitimacy of an intervention is, however, worth analysing as much

as its legality under international law. Indeed, justifying an intervention as being humanitarian

is an issue that is at the centre of many debates. Exploring this question will eventually lead

us to think about the relevance of calling something « humanitarian », especially its political


This paper is an attempt to critically assess Australia¶s armed interventions in East

Timor in 1999 and 2006. The issue tackled is to determine whether both missions can be

gaudged as legitimate, in terms of their legality under the law, as well as the accuracy of their

justification as humanitarian interventions.

This paper is divided into three parts. Firstly, we will lay out a general framework of

humanitarian intervention and contextualise both conflicts in order to assess the political and


legal legitimacy of the Australian peace building missions. Secondly, we will focus on the

new interventionist norm, acknowledge some of the key disagreements on the question of

humanitarian intervention, and eventually demonstrate that, because it did not act with

humanitarian motives, Australia¶s interventions were not humanitarian. Finally, we will

discuss Australia¶s humanitarian concerns for intervening in East Timor and question the

definitional significance of motives by starting to make a crucial distinction between motives

and intentions, and explore this debate between the two approaches. We will demonstrate that,

although it did not have altruistic motives to intervene, Australia acted out of a humanitarian

intent ± legitimising its interventions as humanitarian. We will terminate by discussing the

definitional significance of motives for those who hold an Utilitarian view, and eventually

think about the relevance of calling something « humanitarian ».

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the principle of human rights as

one of the foundations of contemporary societies. Hence, its protection is one of the main

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of the UN. In cases where populations are derogated their fundamental rights, it

is the duty of the UN to enact and watch over the restoration of these rights, so that these

deficiencies of government might be supplied. The issue of humanitarian intervention arises

in cases where the state is considered the perpetrator of mass killings of the population, or

where the state has collapsed into lawlessness (Wheeler, N. 2000). Such interventions are

always meant to be short-term palliative. Although humanitarian interventions are in

agreement with its purposes, the UN Charter is much more explicit on the prohibition of

armed intervention and the obligation to respect territorial integrity ± articles 2.4 and 2.7 ±

than on the duty to uphold and promote human rights. Sovereign authority, as « the right to

rule over a delimited territory and the population residing within it », induces, by the


community of states, external recognition of a state¶s internal control (Ayoob, M. 2002 :82).

Yet, one may wonder to what extent a state in violation of the principles of human rights may

shield itself from armed intervention with the Charter prohibiting intervention. The UN

recognises that the principle of sovereignty may be overriden in circumstances where

institutions of the state are disabled to provide a peaceful and secure environment to their

populations. For sovereignty is no longer absolute and should, by no means, be used as a tool

to breach the human rights of citizens. Therefore, according to the General Assembly

resolution taken in 1991   in the context of an international order in which the national

unity and sovereignty of states must be fully respected, ³humanitarian assistance should be

provided with the consent of the affected country´ (Taylor and Curtis 2008:322). Also,

forcible intervention within a country is legitimised in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN

Charter if ³international peace and security´ is being threatened. Qualified as peace

enforcement operations, these peacekeeping missions acknowledge the need to use force to

achieve humanitarian ends. A very paradoxical fact must be stressed then. Whilst the

violation of human rights is strongly condemned by the United Nations, if situations do not

reach a point to where it is recognised that a threat to the peace and security of other states is

present, the Security Council delivers no right for intervention.

We shall now focus on the historical context in which the 1999 and the 2006 East

Timorese conflicts arose, in order to assess the legality and legitimacy of Australia¶s


Portugal, the colonial power, committed itself to decolonization in 1974 and withdrew from

East Timor on the following year. The politically unstable island declared its independence

and the establishment of its Democratic Republic in November 1975 (Barbedo de Lagalhaes,

A. in Retboll, T. 1998). A few weeks later, Indonesia claimed control over it and began what

would become one of the longest and most restless ethnic cleansing of the twentieth century.


The then Indonesian President Suharto, who launched the invasion, opposed any change to

East Timor¶s status despite 10 UN Resolutions demanding its withdrawal (Gunn, G. 1997).

His actions were tacitly supported by Australia who had challenged resolutions in order to

maintain good relations with the Indonesian state. Indeed, Australia first acknowledged the 

 recognition of East Timor¶s annexation to Indonesia, but as soon as the talks on

delineating the sea boundaries began in 1978, it announced that it would grant the 

recognition. It was only in 1999 that the Australian government withdrew its support of the

Indonesian regime due to extensive pressure to act from the international community as well

as Australian public opinion, as images of the Santa Cruz massacre began to appear on

television (Cox, S. in Retboll, T. 1998).

With Suharto¶s successor Habibie, Indonesian policy regarding the East Timorese state

slightly changed. The island still remained under the control of Indonesia, yet importantly, it

had been granted a ³special status´ ± a form of provincial autonomy (White, H. 2008).

Moreover, Habibie agreed on a referendum allowing the Timorese to vote for autonomy

inside Indonesia (subsequently an important step towards full independence). The breaking

out of violence immediately after the ballot results, however, prompted the international

community to take firm action, launching the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET)

led by Australian General Cosgrove, in September 1999 (Zaum, D. 2007).

Despite the special status granted to East Timor, operation INTERFET could not have been

implemented without President Habibie¶s acceptance of international assistance to resolve the

security crisis. For even if one state¶s government falls into lawlessness, no modification can

be done about the resolution holding that ³UN peacekeeping operations are always conducted

with the consent of the government exercising control over the area of deployment, and if the

government has lost control over some of the territory, also with the consent of the effective

authorities´ (Griffiths, Levine & Weller 1995:44). In fact, no state in the international


community was willing to confront the Indonesian army within the East Timorese territory,

even if they had the military capacity to do so. Economic interests were at stake and not worth

risking according to the Western powers. Also, as Jennifer Welsh expresses it: ³No country

suggested following the Kosovo precedent for unauthorized intervention » h2003: 152 . That

is why the Security Council¶s delivrance of UN Resolution 1264 was of paramount

importance. Australia¶s 1999 intervention consequently was politically and legally legitimate.

However, I find the decision by most countries to seek Indonesian approval very

controversial, for the UN had never recognized Indonesia¶s control over East Timor as being

legitimate. Requiring Indonesian consent for intervention was therefore another way of

establishing its illegal political legitimacy over East Timor.

INTERFET was a temporary mission, but certainly played an effective role in restoring peace

and security in the country. Unfortunately, in 2006 the power imbalance between East

Timor¶s major political party, Fretilin, and its opponents led the country to the unavoidable

collapse of state authority. The institutional lack of stability disabled the state¶s capacity to

cope with its internal dilemmas. After independence in 1999, the UN mission was mandated

annually, but it was progressively scaled down. And because the UN mandate was due to

expire on 20 May 2006, to maintain its own security, East Timor was forced to resort to the

use of its own police force and military ± both of which had been formed by the UN

administration ± until the Australian peacekeeping force landed on the territory upon official

request for international military support by the East Timorese government (Department of

Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2001). Although Australia did not benefit from a UN mandate in

2006, the fact that it acted upon the Timorese government¶s request legally legitimized its

intervention. In this regard, critics may argue that the two interventions in the island are not

humanitarian interventions, for Michael Smith defines a humanitarian intervention as being

³enforced action in the internal affairs of a state without the consent of all major parties, and


particularly that of the governing power´ (2008:17). I do not agree with the fact that the

interventions cannot be called humanitarian, inasmuch as Smith¶s statement does not imply

that Australia did not have humanitarian motives or did not act out of a humanitarian intent ±

something that we shall determine later on.

The 1999 intervention in East Timor came in the context of a change in the

international norm on intervention, or at least in the context of a dispute about it.

The principle of sovereignty has fundamentally ruled the international system since the war of

Westphalia, yet it has been redefined in the last twenty years. Although sovereignty remains a

powerful legitimating principle, it is no longer conceived as an inherent right of the state. This

era of new interventionism has seen some form of internationalization of the human

conscience arise ± which East Timor has benefited from. Interventions in the post-Cold War

era aim at universality and humanitarianism, whereas before the 1990s they generally were

undertaken by powerful states for specific political and strategic ends. This notion of new

interventionism was accompanied by a change in the conceptualisation of sovereignty.

According to the 2001 International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

(ICISS), states have a ³responsibility to protect´ the security of their citizens. As a result, if

they fail their duty, the international community is entitled to interfere in the internal affairs of

the affected state (Welsh, J. 2003). Solidarists advocate a very similar view, as they believe in

the internationalisation of moral standards in world society and assert that it is states¶ duty to

give assistance and enforce international law principles. In cases of humanitarian

emergencies, the Solidarist perspective asserts that the principle of sovereignty cannot remain

valid and that any intervention may be legitimised (without being legally approved by the

Security Council). They indeed believe that our morality legitimates the use of force ±

regardless of the political and legal legitimacy one may find in intervening. On the contrary,


Pluralists argue that the non-intervention norm reinforces the concept of a mutually respected

international order. Indeed, if states were allowed to act following their will, international

disasters would be soon expected and cooperation and agreements between states could

hardly be outlined. Additionally, we must say that the promotion of human rights is only

seriously attainable within a stable international order.

One may easily agree with the Pluralist view, for history has shown that states tend to be

biased and that there is always a risk that force may be used for one¶s own interest (Waltz, K.


In this era of new interventionism, states who undertake interventions act on behalf of

the international community and are expected to achieve « humanitarian » goals. However,

one must note that decisions to intervene are not taken at the international, as the appellation

international community suggests, but at the national level. One may therefore question

states¶ incentives for intervention as we cannot prevent national interest considerations from

influencing the resolutions countries take at the international level. For that matter, Realists

widely agree on the fact that states offer a selective response depending on how an

intervention could benefit them (Ayoob, M. 2002). In this respect, Thomas G. Weiss also

argues that states are more likely to act out of a humanitarian impulse when humanitarian and

strategic interests coincide; whereas very few are the cases in which the international

community has acted out of humanitarian imperative, in the sense that states would have

acted with a certain degree of disinterest (2004). And even though they altruistically commit

themselves to intervene, states will not implement an intervention given its high cost at the

national level (both human and financial) ± unless they have something to gain from it. For

states have no duty to save the lives of strangers. They are fundamentally entitled to protect

their citizens and provide them with a secure environment in which their human rights are

secured. It is therefore understandable that states have self-interested motives for intervening


in another country. Australia¶s interventions in East Timor are no exception. Indeed, as we are

about to see, it is hard to find humanitarian motives in the 1999 and the 2006 Australian


The events of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 were the first images of ethnic cleansing

to be shown on television screens worldwide. Against all expectations, these images did not

trigger concrete action at the international level (Steve, C. in Retboll. 1998). Many times the

East Timorese have been let down by the international community, whose members had for

years ignored and denied the continuing reports of Indonesian brutalities by several non-

governmental organisations, western intelligentsia and worldwide reporters who managed to

come back from the island with photographic and filmed evidence. It is evident that the fact

that the community of states agrees it is morally unacceptable to allow a massacre happen

without intervening does not mean that when such a situation does happen, states do react.

Why did Australia not intervene before? If it had truthfully wanted to stop the genocide, it

would not have waited until the last-minute: in other words, until the last massacre that could

possibly happen± post-referendum ± did happen. Both Indonesia and Australia knew that the

majority of the Timorese would vote in favour of independence and the Australian

intelligentsia before the ballot had foreseen a high risk of ultimate violence (Department of

Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2001. Therefore, why did the Howard government not prone a

policy of anticipation instead of resolution? The answer is not surprising and will certainly

please the Realists; for it merely is that the Howard government¶s economic interests in

Indonesia far outweighed the humanitarian concerns for the rights of the East Timorese.

Integration, therefore, was not going to be challenged since doing so would turn at the

advantage of neither party. I find quite delusional and naive the argument that Australia

waited until 1999 to intervene in order to be sure that that was what the East Timorese

wanted. For no one can deny that the East Timor case was, since the early 90s, as well known


to worldwide public opinion as it was to Western intelligentsia. Also, what kind of nation

would accept to be destroyed?

Australian complicity in Indonesia¶s crimes up to the year of 1999 is a fact. Not only did the

Howard government tacitly approve the Indonesian annexation of the island (as Howard¶s

letter to President Habibie shows in December 1998), but it had also regularly supplied

Indonesia with the arms that served to murder the East Timorese population for years

(Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2001). The only reason why the Australian

government, all of a sudden, radically changed its foreign policy towards East Timor was

because it was suffering from extensive pressure from the international community and

international public opinion. Australian public opinion was particularly strong and

considerably influenced the decision of the Howard government to ³do the right thing´.

Indeed, in 1999, Australian citizens were willing to pay a new tax imposed by the government

in order for the latter to collect the necessary funds to equip the military that would rescue the

people of East Timor.

Finally, one may remark how convenient the intervention in East Timor was regarding

Australia¶s imperialist aspirations. Firstly, in 1999 it allowed its forces to be deployed more

extensively in the Asia-Pacific region ± thereby increasing the Australian military budget.

Likewise, the deployment of troops in 2006 permitted the bolstering of military spending and

the justification of an Australian military presence elsewhere in the region. Secondly, it

prevented East Timor from being under any influence other than Australia¶s. Considered as

the power hegemon of the Pacific, it looks like Australia thinks it detains the right to change

another country¶s government; or at least that is what the 2006 intervention tends to show

(Gunnar Simonsen, S. 2006). From 2006 onwards, I believe it is currently achieving a peace

building more than a peacekeeping operation ± with the risk that its cultural imperialism is of

great influence in the country. Its neo-colonial policy regarding East Timor is, as a matter of


fact, viewed by many as a political strategy designed to pressure Timorese Prime Minister

Xanana Gusmao to sign away rights to the country¶s oil and gas resources. For under

international boundary law, East Timor possesses 80% of these resources. Australia has

always tried to influence East Timor to its advantage during talks about the delineation of the

Timor Sea boundaries, and nowadays requests a 50-50% split of the island¶s resources

(Lowry, B. 2007). I, as a result, find that the term ³humanitarian´ has been misused and too

much employed to the advantage of the promotion of states¶ interests. Also, I will conclude

that because in 1999 and 2006 Australia did not have altruistic motives to intervene in East

Timor, the interventions are not humanitarian. However, I believe such statement to be true

only if one shares the view that motives are the sole legitimating factor of a humanitarian


Along with this discussion on humanitarian intervention and the national interest, I

would like to remark that the failure of the UN to act on its own resolutions is quite

perplexing. Also, its handling of the events in East Timor raises doubts about the

effectiveness of the Security Council to decide when to intervene. Remarkably, even the

official report on the Responsibility to Protect acknowledges the Security Council¶s failure to

act in the past, as it states : « In view of the Council¶s past inability or unwillingness to fulfill

the role expected of it, if the Security Council expressly rejects a proposal for intervention

where humanitarian or human rights issues are significantly at stake, or the Council fails to

deal with such a proposal within a reasonable time, it is difficult to argue that alternative

means of discharging the responsibility to protect can be entirely discounted » (ICSS. 2001:

53). One may, as a result, wonder whether forcible interventions are always launched for the

mere interest of the Permanent Five (P5), since they are at the heart of the decision-making

process. Can humanitarian interventions genuinely be impartial and neutral, as they should


be ? I will not elaborate much more on these points for it is not the purpose of this paper, but I

find it important to highlight them.

In their denunciation of states¶ self-interested motives for intervention, Realists, and

other theorists who share a similar view, however omit the fact that, with the establishment of

a ³responsibility to protect´ in 2001, there has been a substantial change in the perception and

interpretation of sovereignty, which entails states to include humanitarian responsibilities in

their sovereign status (Ayoob, M. 2002). This does not, however, change anything to the fact

that states are, and always will be, driven by a mixture of non-humanitarian motives. For

states seem logically more preoccupied about advancing their interests at the international

level, than with saving strangers at the cost of their own citizens¶ lives, as previously noted.

Moreover, it is not because states claim they are acting for humanitarian reasons that one

should not question their real motives. I find naive to believe in every word politicians say,

especially when it comes to justifying their actions by claiming a solely humanitarian

motivation. Therefore, it seems to me too restrictive to gauge the degree of humanitarianism

of an action based on motives, as the sole or primary legitimating factor. Since in most cases

states are unlikely to have altruistic motives, according to ³motives matter´ theorists such as

Wil Verwey, no intervention will ever be humanitarian (Bellamy, Alex J. 2004). This is why

it is crucial to differentiate motives from intentions. As Fernando Teson states: ³Intention

covers the contemplated act, what the agents will do´, whereas ³a motive is a further goal that

one wishes to accomplish with the intended act´ (2005: 5). Consequently, one can have good

intentions, but still act for non-humanitarian reasons. The fact that someone is driven by self-

interested motives does not alter the moral status of the action either ± which is its legality

under the law. Indeed, for example, I may be preventing this person from drowning in the sea

because I do not wish this person to die (which means that I am acting out of a humanitarian


intent) and, at the same time, saving this person¶s life will make others see me as a hero ±

which is what I was truthfully aiming at. Saving that person¶s life is a very admirable action,

but it does not mean that I am a very admirable person since I did it for a non-humanitarian

reason. As a result, I find that the intention is more important than the motive in evaluating an

action. It allows us to characterize the act and associate it with a moral category of acts, which

in this case are acts of rescue. To be humanitarian, an intervention¶s primary purpose must

therefore be to prevent or halt large-scale atrocities and human suffering ± whatever the

underlying reasons to do so. On the contrary, motives are particularly relevant in evaluating

people (Teson, F. 2005). I, as a matter of fact, do not believe that the evaluation of the agent is

relevant for the moral evaluation of the action. „ V V, I also disagree with the view that if

an agent does not have altruistic motives to act, the intervention is not humanitarian.

In the case of East Timor, I am quite convinced that Australia intervened out of

humanitarian concerns in 2006 as much as in 1999. For in 2006 the Timorese state was

viewed as a failed state (Cotton, J. 2007), part of an ³arc of instability´ ± which is ³a semi-

permanent situation to which any number of regional problems can be connected´ (Ayson

2007:224). The characteristics of a state failure applying to East Timor are the following:

atrophy of the state, decline of its revenues, and diminution of its capacities ± which requires

substitute handling by international forces/agencies (Cotton, J. 2007). And indeed, the

government¶s conflict with oppositional political parties, the parliament¶s incapacity to enact

a viable constitution, and the dilemmas surrounding the police and the military were the

crisis¶ main political causes, but the weak economy of the country only intensified it.

Prompted by the desire to rescue the East Timorese population, and by the fear that the

situation in the island would substantially affect Australia and the rest of the Asian-Pacific

region, the Howard government deployed its troops, upon the East Timorese government¶s

official request. Australia acted on security grounds: in other words, to protect both the East


Timorese and Australian citizens, as well as to secure stability in the entire region. In this

regard, Australia¶s grand plan of enhancing security in the region can also be seen as part of

its motivation and, therefore, constitutes a humanitarian motive that further legitimates its

intervention in East Timor. Also, according to J.L. Holzgrefe, we can make here a distinction

between humanitarian and forcible interventions, for he describes a forcible intervention as

being ³aimed at protecting or rescuing the intervening state¶s own nationals´ (in Holzgrefe

and Keohane, R. 2003: 18). The term ³forcible´, therefore, can apply to the 2006 intervention.

Australia¶s humanitarian intent for intervention in 1999 is crystal-clear. Since 1975, the East

Timorese population had been suffering from Indonesian Presidents¶ tyranny. Australia, with

the UN authorization and Indonesian approval, decided to put an end to the atrocities,

employed an adequate strategy to get the desired outcome and did in fact manage to liberate

the East Timorese. As a result, I believe that both interventions are morally justified as being

humanitarian, although it has been demonstrated that Australia did not have sufficient

altruistic motives to act.

Should intentions be given that much credit? Some may challenge the ³intentions

matter´ approach by arguing that the outcome of an intervention outweighs the humanitarian

intent of the agent. For if a state claims that it wishes to rescue a population from tyranny, but

adopts an inadequate strategy to do so and eventually fails to give a successful outcome to its

operation, does the good intention of the agent still matter? The fact that people have not been

saved undermines the agent¶s morally good intention. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to

acknowledge the humanitarian intent of an agent, despite the sometimes-unfortunate outcome.

For if an agent acts out of an abominable intent, the intervention can ever be considered as

humanitarian. The outcome, in all cases, will result in tyranny (Wheeler, N. 2000). However,

if an agent acts for non-altruistic motives, the outcome may result successfully ± thereby

justifying the intervention as humanitarian. The belief that outcomes matter more than


motives or intentions is widely shared among Utilitarians, such as John Stuart Mill (Teson, F.

2005). For them, an action¶s consequence is everything. In fact, Utilitarians acknowledge the

paramount importance of outcomes, but as Teson states: ³they also seek to extend the

legitimating function of humanitarianism to include operations that produce positive

humanitarian outcomes´(in Bellamy, Alex J. 2004:223). In the case of East Timor,

Utilitarians would therefore claim that Australia¶s interventions are justified as humanitarian.

Although the ³outcomes matter´ approach is an VV valid way to justify the legitimacy of

a humanitarian intervention, two main objections can be made to it. First of all, I do not think

that the Utilitarian perspective is one you can rely on, for it is impossible to know the

outcomes of an action beforehand. Therefore, states and politicians can only predict an

outcome that they deem likely to happen, without being able to genuinely say that their

actions are legitimate until they know how they eventually resulted. Secondly, it is incoherent

to give legitimacy to an act that is morally wrong, for the sole reason that it resulted in a

fortunate outcome (out of luck). Consequently, I sustain the view that humanitarian

purposes/intentions are the key legitimising fact when it comes to gauging an intervention¶s

legitimacy. As previously said, I reiterate the thought that a state does not need to be

motivated by humanitarian concerns to have a humanitarian purpose when it intervenes. For

that matter, I believe the 1999 and 2006 Australian interventions in East Timor can be

justified and legitimised as humanitarian interventions.

Last but not least, I would like to briefly discuss the relevance of calling something

³humanitarian´. Calling something ³humanitarian´ certainly carries political significance, for

it legitimates leaders¶ actions and draws an admirable light upon them. Nevertheless, it does

not impact on the moral status of an action ± which is its legality under the law.

Although issues of legality did not arise in the case of the East Timor conflicts, states often

seem to be divided over the legality of morally influenced interventions. The ex-Yugoslav


conflict is a perfect example. Indeed, NATO launched an air campaign without the legal

consent of the Security Council, for Russia¶s veto was deeply expected. Since the beginning

of the intervention in 1999, NATO states claimed the highly humanitarian purpose of their

action as they were sensitively trying to put an end to ethnic cleansing and crimes against

humanity in Kosovo (Smith, M. and Latawski, P. 2003). This dilemma raises, once again, the

issue of power of veto hold by the five permanent members of the UN¶ Security Council.

Should states obey the Security Council if it forbids an intervention that is yet highly

humanitarian? Should NATO¶s intervention in Kosovo be legitimised? I strongly believe so.

It seems to me that there are some inconsistencies in the way the UN deals with humanitarian

disasters and, as previously said, the ICISS itself acknowledges in the Report on the

Responsibility to Protect the Security Council¶s failure to act (when to intervene, and to

intervene successfully). Therefore, I believe that, as complex as the dilemma over the legality

of morally influenced actions can be, when it comes to legitimating an intervention, the UN

should accept the primacy of both humanitarian purposes and outcomes over legality under

international law.

Australia has played a key role in East Timor. It has restored peace and security, as well

as facilitated its transition into an independent state. However, as previously noted, the

question of whether states may use force to protect the human rights of individuals other than

their own remains controversial.

The 1999 and 2006 peacekeeping operations would not have been launched if Australia had

not fulfilled certain political and legal requirements ± which were the acquiescence of the

affected state (or the authority who controls the territory) and the deliverance of a UN

mandate. As previously noted, both of these conditions had certainly been met in 1999 and


2006. The East Timor conflicts were part of an era of new interventionism during which some

form of internationalisation of human conscience arise. In the post-Cold War era, the

community of states is represented as a ³coalition of the willing´, whose duty is to provide a

secure environment to their populations and prevent atrocities being made.

Although Australia¶s interventions were politically and legally legitimate under

international law, one could question the legitimacy of its moral incentives. According to

³motives matter´ theorists, the 1999 and 2006 interventions cannot possibly be qualified as

humanitarian, for the mere reason that, as demonstrated earlier, Australia did not have

altruistic motives to intervene in East Timor. However, Australia¶s self-interested motivation

is not surprising, and simply reflects the way states function in a global world. Each state tries

to advance its own interests by, at the same time, showing preoccupation for the welfare of

other populations. Since no state will ever act for solely altruistic reasons, I do not think that

the Howard government should be blamed for obeying to such reality. I therefore also do not

believe that one can gauge whether an intervention is humanitarian merely based on the

agent¶s motives for intervening. Intentions are of paramount importance; hence why making a

distinction between motives and intentions is crucial. Indeed, I am quite convinced that a state

can act with a humanitarian intent without having humanitarian motives. And I believe that

was the case for Australia. I find motives irrelevant to gauge the morality of an action.

Motives tells us about the morality of the agent who undertakes the action, nevertheless,

whether or not the agent acts for humanitarian reasons, does not affect the moral status of the

action. Therefore, if an agent undertakes an action that is good in itself, but does it for non-

altruistic reasons, the action will be seen as humanitarian, although the agent will not be

thought of as an admirable person. I believe that illustrates Australia¶s interventions in the

case of East Timor ± which is why I sustain the view that both peacekeeping and peace-

building operations were humanitarian interventions. In this respect, I must add that the


successful outcomes of the interventions give an even higher legitimacy to Australia¶s

actions, according to the Utilitarian view. Nevertheless, I would not preach a wholly

Utilitarian account on what legitimises a humanitarian intervention, as we have noticed that

there were some flaws in their theory.

Finally, in discussing the relevance of calling something ³humanitarian´, I must

acknowledge that an intervention¶s legality under international law is not a negligible

criterion, however I find also important to take into account the nature of the agent¶s intent.

Indeed, there are cases, such as Kosovo, which have raised many doubts as to the will of

states to overtly and forcibly intervene, as well as to the UN¶s ability to decide when to

intervene. One¶s opinion on the question whether states should religiously obey to the

Security Council¶s decisions is, therefore, fairly intertwined with one¶s view on what

legitimises a humanitarian intervention. For if one believes that states should not derogate

from the UN¶s will, then any illegal intervention will ever be legitimised as humanitarian. On

the contrary, and thus is how I believe it should be, if states intervene for humanitarian

reasons, but without the Security Council¶s permission, the intervention still is a humanitarian

intervention. In this respect, I would like to highlight that, at all cases, Australia¶s

interventions in East Timor were humanitarian interventions. Australia had a legal right and a

moral duty to intervene, and that is what it successfully did.