Choosing to Intervene: US Domestic Politics and Moral Imperatives

Roberta Haar 1  and Lutz F. Krebs
  • 1 Maastricht University, University College Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • 2 United Nations University, Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology, Boschstraat 24, Maastricht 6211 AX, The Netherlands
  • 3 Maastricht University, Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Postbus 616, Maastricht 6200MD, The Netherlands
Roberta Haar and Lutz F. Krebs


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.

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