THE HUMANITARIAN DISCOURSE OF FORCE: EXPLAINING U.S. PRESIDENTS' JUSTIFICATIONS FOR MILITARY INTERVENTION
Conventional wisdom assumes that national security justifications are the most effective way to bolster support for military action and uniformly persuade the domestic audience. Using an original dataset of justifications for all potential U.S. interventions, 1990-2013, I show that contrary to these expectations U.S. presidents employed humanitarian justifications in every military intervention of the past 25 years. Why are humanitarian justifications prevalent, even in popular, security-driven interventions? To what extent do these justifications facilitate the use of military force? Combining content analysis, survey experiments, and archival research, I focus on the domestic audience to argue that humanitarian justifications are necessary to build a coalition of support from a public with diverse foreign policy beliefs. In particular, humanitarian claims resonate with individuals who are unconvinced by security justifications and are otherwise active opponents of intervention. As a result of their broad appeal, presidents have an incentive to emphasize humanitarian claims as often as possible; however, the same constituents that make humanitarian justifications necessary also constrain their use. Specifically, individuals with cooperative internationalist values are uniquely influenced by humanitarian claims, but punish leaders who misuse humanitarian explanations. The findings have implications for whose support matters most in the build-up to military interventions and the conditions under which presidents can use moral appeals to obtain this support.
International relations; public opinion; domestic politics; foreign policy; humanitarian; military intervention
Evangelista, Matthew Anthony
Kreps, Sarah E.; Enns, Peter; Way, Christopher Robert
Ph. D., Government
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis