Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Melissa Willard-Foster


humanitarian intervention, realism, constructivism, global givil society, costs, security


In explaining the causes of humanitarian interventions,constructivism, an emerging international relations theory, emphasizes the power of humanitarian norms in prompting states to respond to humanitarian crises. Realism, in contrast, contends that norms have little influence; security and material interests drive foreign policy. These schools of thought are at an impasse. While it is clear that states have undertaken interventions to protect human rights and end crimes against humanity, it is also clear that states often forego humanitarian intervention when wide-scale atrocities are being committed. The purpose of this project is to examine when norms matter by identifying the conditions under which states are likely to intervene for humanitarian reasons. I will do this by looking at US decision-making during crises in Somalia, Darfur, and Libya. By doing this, I will attempt to bridge the gap between constructivism and realism by specifying precisely when norms matter enough to compel state action and when their influence is insufficient.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.