This thesis is about the norm of non-intervention in American use of military force. The focus is on legitimisation of the use of military force in the Clinton and Bush administrations. Through an empirical analysis of the two administrations’ argumentation in four cases of military intervention (Operation Desert Fox, Operation Allied Force, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom), I have tried to shed light on the US attitude to the norm of non-intervention.
Studying US attitude to the norm of non-intervention is important because of three factors in particular. Firstly, through its hegemonic position, the United States has the opportunity to shape and affect the development of international norms. Hence, we must expect the norm of non-intervention to be affected by the attitude of the hegemonic state. Secondly, as the unrivalled military hegemon, the United States has greater options to intervene unilaterally than any other state. Such a military superpower’s view on the use of armed force against another state is of great importance. Thirdly, it is often said today that there are great differences between the presidencies of Clinton and Bush – not least with respect to the US role in the international society. Stereotypically, Clinton is the multilateralist, while Bush is the unilateralist. My aim has been to find out whether the differences are that obvious in the field of military intervention.
This thesis suggest that the two administrations differ more in rhetoric than in substance regarding the use of military force. The arguments are presented differently, but the content is to a large extent the same. In the four cases analysed here, US national security was used as the first and foremost reason for US intervention. Arguments focusing on other factors, such as international security and humanitarian concerns, are to a large extent used to accompany the argument of national security. What seems to be more important to US intervention policy than person and political party, is the long American tradition of exceptionalism, which seems to affect both presidents strongly. US exceptionalism seems to result in a United States placing itself above international arrangements and norms, claiming a right to act unilaterally. The findings of this thesis indicate that as long as US conviction, resources and will of action are present, intervention will eventually happen.