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The good internationalist: U.S. responses to trade-offs in internationalized security policy in the 1995 Bosnia debate


  • Emschermann, Katharina


When representatives of the U.S. government and Congress debated military intervention in the conflict in Bosnia in 1995, they were not just talking about an American troop contribution. The dispute became a focal point for issues such as relations with the U.N. and NATO and the general desirability of multilateral peacekeeping. What elicited the strong responses were trade-offs inherent to the internationalization of security policy: security gains were measured against concerns about the national interest, democratic legitimacy, and effects on the rule of law. However, despite their role in shaping future policy these types of responses lack systematic analysis. Following a qualitative content analysis, this paper offers a response overview. I distinguish three phases in the debate and illustrate that turning points were brought on by the momentum of events in the Balkans rather than D.C. Yet, arguments seem to have developed a 'symbolic power' independent of their direct effect on the course of events. While the U.N. was strongly contested NATO proved to be a 'common denominator' with some disciplining power over internationalization's critics. In defense of the intervention, the Clinton administration portrayed multilateralism as a useful tool. This strategy helped sell internationalization to Congress. But it also required a non-committal rhetoric which would serve opponents of international security organizations beyond 1995.

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  • Emschermann, Katharina, 2013. "The good internationalist: U.S. responses to trade-offs in internationalized security policy in the 1995 Bosnia debate," TranState Working Papers 176, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:176

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    1. Barnett, Michael N. & Finnemore, Martha, 1999. "The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(04), pages 699-732, September.
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