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Norms of Intervention, R2P and Libya

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Suggestions from Generational Analysis

It has been widely suggested that the March 2011 NATO intervention in Libya is evidence of a new international norm that has emerged as a consequence of advocacy of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle. Before this assessment solidifies into conventional wisdom, we propose an alternative reading: that the policies that led to the Libya intervention, particularly in the United States, were also driven by a generation of foreign policy elites who used the failures of the 1990s as a set of ‘formative experiences’ that provided shortcut comparisons to springboard the Libya intervention in 2011. Yet the substantive normative basis for these elites’ claims are based on norms and practices that have been around for some time, suggesting that humanitarian intervention is something states may choose to do under certain circumstances, but are under no obligation to do. In short, it is a permissive norm invoked at the discretion of foreign policy elites as a way to justify or enable policies that they see to be in their states’ interests.

Affiliations: 1: University of Utah,; 2: University of Oklahoma,


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