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Is forcing a people to be free possible, and if so, is it ever morally permissible? The question in some form is very much on our minds, provoked by the war in Iraq and one of its stated justifications: freeing the Iraqi people from tyranny. An account of normative peoplehood is presented under which a people can fail to be a competent group agent, and so be a justified target of paternalism, even though the natural persons who make up the people are competent agents who are not justified targets of paternalism. Connections between a competent group agent, a free people, and a legitimate government are drawn. In response to the worry that this view permits limitless and never-ending regime change, an asymmetry between criteria for initiating intervention and criteria for ending intervention is shown to follow from the account of minimal legitimacy presented.


Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Forcing a People to Be Free." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP05-066, December 2005.