Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 8, 2015

Choosing to Intervene: US Domestic Politics and Moral Imperatives

  • Roberta Haar and Lutz F. Krebs EMAIL logo


The end of the Cold War meant fewer constraints on humanitarian intervention, and the third pillar of the nascent R2P norm suggests at least a moral imperative to intervene when another country’s population is threatened. Yet US leaders continue to shy away from protecting innocents outside of the United States from harm — despite the fact that presidential candidates often campaign on restoring America’s moral lead in the world and, in particular, on US responsibilities to avert mass atrocities. This paper investigates the extent to which US military intervention abroad is driven by domestic considerations. Using logistic regression analysis, we aim to explain decisions by Presidents Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. to send troops into harms way.

Corresponding author: Lutz F. Krebs, United Nations University, Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology, Boschstraat 24, Maastricht 6211 AX, The Netherlands, E-mail: ; and Maastricht University, Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Postbus 616, Maastricht 6200MD, The Netherlands


Barbieri, K., Keshk, O.M.G., (2012), Correlates of War Project Trade Data Set Codebook, Version 3.0, retrieved from in Google Scholar

Barbieri, K., Keshk, O.M.G., Pollins, B., (2009), Trading Data: Evaluating Our Assumptions and Coding Rules, Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 471–491.Search in Google Scholar

Baum, M., (2004), How Public Opinion Constrains the Use of Force: The Case of Operation Restore Hope, Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 187–226.Search in Google Scholar

Bueno De Mesquita, B., Smith, A., Siverson, R.M., Morrow, J.D., (2003), The Logic of Political Survival, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.10.7551/mitpress/4292.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Carey, H.F., (2001), U.S. Domestic Politics and the Emerging Humanitarian Intervention Policy: Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, World Affairs, vol. 164, no. 2, pp. 72–82.Search in Google Scholar

Cederman, L.E., Hug, S., Krebs, L.F., (2010), Democratization and Civil War: Empirical Evidence, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 377–394.Search in Google Scholar

Choi, S.W., James, P., (2014), Why Does the United States Intervene Abroad? Democracy, Human Rights Violations, and Terrorism, Journal of Conflict Resolution, advance online publication, doi: 10.1177/0022002714560350.10.1177/0022002714560350Search in Google Scholar

Gleditsch, N.P., Wallensteen, P., Eriksson, M., Sollenberg, M., Strand, H., (2002), Armed Conflict 1946–2001: A New Dataset, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 615–637.Search in Google Scholar

Haar, R., (2015), When Does the United States Intervene Militarily for Humanitarian Reasons? Politics & Policy, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 287–314.Search in Google Scholar

Hagan, J., (1995), Domestic Political Explanations in the Analysis of Foreign Policy, in Neack, L., Hey, J.A.K., Haney, P.J., (eds.), Foreign Policy Analysis: Continuity and Change in Its Second Generation, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, pp. 117–143.Search in Google Scholar

Heston, A., Summers, R., Aten, B., (2012), Penn World Table Version 7.1 [data set], retrieved from in Google Scholar

Hildebrandt, T., Hillebrecht, C., Holm, P.M., Pevehouse, J., (2013), The Domestic Politics of Humanitarian Intervention: Public Opinion, Partisanship, and Ideology, Foreign Policy Analysis, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 243–266.Search in Google Scholar

Larson, E.V., Savych, B., (2005), American Public Support for U.S. Military Operations from Mogadishu to Baghdad, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA.10.7249/MG231Search in Google Scholar

Lyon, A.J., Dolan, C., (2007), American Humanitarian Intervention: Toward a Theory of Coevolution, Foreign Policy Analysis, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 46–78.Search in Google Scholar

Ostrom, C.W., Job, B.L., (1986), The President and the Political Use of Force, American Political Science Review, vol. 80, no. 2, 541–566.Search in Google Scholar

Pearson, F.S., Baumann, R.A., (1993), International Military Intervention, 1946–1988 [data set], Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Data Collection 6035, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.10.3886/ICPSR06035Search in Google Scholar

Pickering, J., Kisangani, E.F., (2009), The International Military Intervention Dataset: An Updated Resource for Conflict Scholars, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 589–599.Search in Google Scholar

Risse-Kappen, T., (1991), Public Opinion, Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy in Liberal Democracies, World Politics, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 479–512.Search in Google Scholar

Themnér, L., Wallensteen, P., (2014), Armed Conflict: 1946–2013, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 541–554.Search in Google Scholar

Woolley, J.T., Peters, G., (2015), The American Presidency Project: Presidential Job Approval [data set], retrieved from in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2015-12-8
Published in Print: 2015-12-1

©2015 by De Gruyter

Downloaded on 3.3.2024 from
Scroll to top button