The main objective of this thesis is to examine the conditions under which the decision to use force can be reckoned as legitimate in international relations (IR). To this end, the study argues that existing legal and moral theories of legitimacy fail to effectively address the tension between the level of observation and the level of action proper, which define how legitimacy is assessed and exercised respectively. This tension arises from the fact that a theory of legitimacy informed by a sharp distinction between values and facts risks downgrading the concept of legitimacy to the level of blind compliance. On the other hand, a normative model of legitimacy revolving around universalistic and abstract standards can deprive the concept of any practical value. In short, a clear understanding of the legitimacy of a military intervention requires a conceptual tool that addresses not only the textual basis of legal and moral provisions, but also the deliberative framework within which interpretations of these principles are articulated, contested and eventually adjudicated.
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