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Humanitarian intervention as a normative overlay on the use of force

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:21 authored by David McIlwain
This thesis explores humanitarian intervention as a normative overlay on the use of force. Advocates of humanitarian intervention prefer to frame the idea as an emerging norm of state behaviour in international politics. However, in reframing the idea as a ‘normative overlay’, many of the shortcomings of the ‘norm’ approach become clear. This normative overlay has its own historical sources and must be examined in conjunction with the events it would normatively legitimate. Accordingly, I challenge the teleology of the view that humanitarian intervention is the culmination of moral progress and demonstrate its sources in contingent historical and intellectual developments from the 1960s onwards. I then apply this understanding of humanitarian intervention to the decade of the 1990s to reveal the dissonance between the normative overlay and historical instances of intervention in that decade. I argue that these incongruities reflect a number of stresses that have developed from the clash of a range of international norms with this normative overlay on intervention. I conclude that the while the normative overlay lacks the power to constrain and direct state behaviour in significant ways, the impulses of global justice and human rights enforcement which it represents have destabilising and antidemocratic implications for international politics.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Methods -- Sources -- Stages -- Stresses -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 47-51

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Aleksandar Pavkovic


Copyright David McIlwain 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (51 pages)

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