Constructing Norms of Humanitarian Intervention

TitleConstructing Norms of Humanitarian Intervention
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsFinnemore, Martha
EditorKatzenstein, Peter J.
Book TitleThe Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics
PublisherColumbia University Press
CityNew York

Since the end of the Cold War, states have increasingly come under pressure to intervene militarily and, in fact, have intervened militarily to protect citizens other than their own from humanitarian disasters. Recent efforts to enforce protected areas for Kurds and no-fly zones over Shiites in Iraq, efforts to alleviate starvation and establish some kind of political order in Somalia, the huge UN military effort to disarm parties and rebuild a state in Cambodia, and to some extent even the military actions to bring humanitarian relief in Bosnia are all instances of military action whose primary goal is not territorial or strategic but humanitarian. This essay examines the role of humanitarian norms in shaping patterns of humanitarian military intervention over the past 150 years.

Volume abstract: The political transformations of the 1980s and 1990s have dramatically affected models of national and international security. Particularly since the end of the Cold War, scholars have been uncertain about how to interpret the effects of major shifts in the balance of power. Are we living today in a unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar world? Are we moving toward an international order? Contributors ask whether it is more useful to conceive of the world as arrayed in regional, cultural, institutional complexes or organized along the conventional dimensions of power, alliance, and geography. They argue that perspectives that neglect the roles of culture and identity are no longer adequate to explain the complexities of a world undergoing rapid change.

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