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The Failure to Protect

The Path to and Consequences of Humanitarian Interventionism

Timo Kivimäki

Timo Kivimaki investigates the reasons behind, and consequences of, military operations by Western powers. It focuses on those interventions aimed at protecting civilians from terror, dictators and criminals in fragile states. In doing so it contributes to the cosmopolitan, feminist and post-colonial literature on humanitarian interventions.
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Chapter 1: Introduction

Timo Kivimäki


There are three paradoxes in current warfare. The most immediate of the paradoxes is related to the rise of fatalities in many of the conflicts that explicit effort at protecting civilians has escalated. The declaratory objective of 12 of the latest Western war participations in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Mali, Mauritania, Libya and Syria, has been to protect civilians from terror, conflict criminals, dictators or weapons that are exceptionally dangerous for global civilians – weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Yet, many of these wars have only been escalated after and by these Western protective interventions (see Chapter 4). Many of the civilians that the United States, United Kingdom, France and others tried to protect were against these Western interventions to start with (Brown, 2014; Hussain, 2016; Rayment, 2005). Eventually, many of these civilians were killed due to the escalation of the conflict by the Western intervention. Fatal protection is, indeed, a paradox and it is the failure to protect that this book focuses on. The record of military action that has claimed its legitimacy from cosmopolitan thinking on protection (but which was not necessarily an accurate reflection of the theory) will be reviewed in Chapter 4 of this book.

The second paradox is in the incompatibility of the perceived reality of cosmopolitan protection and the expectations of it as a less power-centric, more feminized approach to world politics. While it could be assumed that protection of civilians is focused on caring and nurturing ordinary people – global civilians – and to be the opposite of the Cold War logic of geopolitics (Hooper, 1998), it seems that operations with a protective declaratory motive have never been far from state-centric power politics (Chapter 8). The rationale of protection has offered ways to play down global institutions in favour of states. It has offered justifications for nationalist direct military action that tend to ignore the voice of the civilians, just as the logic of Cold War does. The preference for measures that require the use of power to change someone else’s behaviour by means of deterrence, pressure, or destruction instead of engaging in direct protective and nurturing action (by accepting refugees or offering development aid, for example), and the effect of this power-centricity on conflict fatalities, will be investigated in Chapter 8.

The third paradox is related to the fact that the consequences of cosmopolitan protection in the protective operations of the past two decades have gone against a global historical pattern. Usually, when zones of order expand at the expense of zones of anarchy, a lot of violence disappears (Elias, 1982; Fukuyama, 2011; Giddens, 1985; Pinker, 2011; Tilly, 1990). According to Pinker, for example, the move of humanity from hunting and gathering groups to larger agricultural, sedentary communities 5000 years ago reduced violent death by 80 per cent. The transition from feudal city states to kingdoms was associated with the decline of homicidal violence by 90–98 per cent (Pinker, 2011, Chapters 27).1

The association between expansion of security communities and decline in violence is understandable as more interaction takes place within, rather than between, communities, and thus more dyads of interaction take place in order than in anarchy. In the realist and neorealist theories of international politics and international relations, the lack of community and order, the existence of anarchy, is often a permissive cause of conflict (Waltz, 1979). In interaction within an existing order, say a nation-state, we cannot even imagine warfare. A war between Birmingham and London in the UK would be unimaginable, and today a war between Germany and France would be almost as unimaginable, given the developing European security community. In addition to the realist theories of anarchy and order, all this has been explained in the theories of communities, common identities and common norms in the constructivist and English schools (Adler and Barnett, 1998; Burke, 2013; Buzan and Wæver, 2003; Deutsch, 1955; Kratochwil, 1989; Linklater, 2011; Taylor, 1982; Wæver, 1996).

Cosmopolitan protection has therefore been seen as a sign of gradual transformation of national security thinking and the national security communities into global security thinking and a global security community (Burke, 2013; Gholiagha, 2015; Kaldor, 2003, 2012, 2013; Linklater, 2002; Mello, 2010; Münkler, 2002; Seybolt, 2007; Shaw, 2003). Yet, this expansion of security communities has not brought about peace. This is the third paradox of current warfare.

This book will explain and make sense of these three apparent paradoxes. It will explain why protection leads to escalation, why it leads to power-centric national selfishness, and why it does not lead to a global security community. This is the focus of this book.


To answer the question of why protection fails, we need to follow the path to failure backwards – from the end to the beginning. The first instrumental question we need to answer, for example, is why efforts to protect global civilians are resisted. The answer to this question may make sense of the reasons for the escalation of conflict. Second, we need to answer how the practice of military protection fuels resistance and offers perceived justification for the enemy’s violence. Before we can answer these questions, however, we must answer the question of how much, and in what ways, the practice of military protection of civilians has been a failure. This book assumes that the number of fatalities is the main criterion of success and failure of a military operation to protect. An operation has been a failure if it has failed to reduce the number of fatalities. Of course, civilians also need protection against brutal treatment, not just against killings, but if we make sense of the scale of fatalities, it is likely that brutality is in proportion to the number of fatalities too.

Since the situation in fragile states before protective interventions was one of a lack of norms, structures, institutions and enforcement of order, then, to discover whether military protection has failed or succeeded, the question we must also pose is whether and in what ways have international protective interventions affected these structures and state fragility. In other words, before trying to explain why cosmopolitan protection fails or succeeds, we must investigate how the consequences of these protective operations are associated with conflict fatalities and state fragility.

These two questions – has protection failed, and why – will be approached in this book, first in Chapters 2 and 3, by identifying the conditions under which current warfare takes place. Here, this book first drills down to the concept of state fragility, the condition that allows opportunistic violence against civilians in the first place. I will first examine the analysis of the so-called new wars and then I will link the analytical definitions with operations on existing data on state fragility and identify stable and fragile states. Next, I will create a definition and operationalization of and a distinction between new wars and protection wars. I will start with the empirical discovery that almost all contemporary conflict fatalities are produced in intrastate conflicts of fragile states. Then I will show how these wars can be distinguished between those that are intervened in by well-intentioned great powers, and those that are not. The first category of wars will be termed ‘protection wars’, and the latter ‘new wars’.

In Chapter 4, I will then use the identification of fragile states and protection wars and new wars to analyse the consequences of protective interventionism on conflict fatalities and state fragility. This analysis will consider all intrastate conflicts since 1995 until 20162 and study the effect of interventionism on:

●  overall global numbers of fatalities and overall global development of state fragility;
●  state fragility and number of fatalities in countries where interventions took place and in countries where they did not take place;
●  the number of fatalities in specific conflicts.

The main conclusion of Chapter 4 is that most conflicts that were intervened in by great powers with good intentions, escalated and contributed to the increase of global as well as conflict-specific numbers of fatalities, at the same time as increasing state fragility and fatalities in the countries concerned. The chapter will then conclude that, compared to similar conflicts where great powers did not intervene, so far, protective interventions have, indeed, been failures. However, the chapter will also show that failure has been uneven, with some cases, most clearly the UK’s intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, more successful than others. In general, it seems that the first humanitarian interventions, Kosovo, 1999, Sierra Leone, 2000, and the first years of the intervention in Afghanistan, were particularly more successful than the interventions that took place after the beginning of the war in Iraq, and after the transformation of interventions into a pattern of air operations rather than boots on the ground.

After Chapter 4, the book then aims to make sense of the developments that have led to the failure of protection. In Chapter 5, it will review the sources of escalation of protection wars by looking at how enemies of protection justify their violence once there is international intervention. This chapter will look at the interaction between the hostile discourses of the Slobodan Milošević, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad administrations and the terrorist discourse of ISIS and Al Qaeda on the one hand, and the US presidential discourse on the other, and trace the mutual constitution of legitimate violence in world politics. The chapter demonstrates which elements of US practices and rhetoric were successfully used by dictators and terrorists in the construction of the legitimacy (within their own communities) of violence against intervening forces and the original civilian targets. This analysis reveals that the main sources of perceived legitimacy of violence against civilians were related to the perceived selfishness, unilateralism and militarism of Western approaches to protection. Here the exceptions, and the case of Sierra Leone in particular, will be studied too. The chapter will investigate why the UK intervention did not give rise to motivations and justifications for increased rebel (and rebel soldier) violence in this exceptional case.

In Chapters 6, 7 and 8, the analysis moves an additional step backwards on the path to the failure of protection. These chapters will look at why Western protection has taken forms that can be viewed as selfish, unilateralist and militaristic, by tracing the roots of selfishness, unilateralism and militarism in the process of interaction between material and social structures and presidential agency in US foreign policy. US presidential papers from 1989 have been analysed for their method, agency and referent object of protection to reveal the trends and to identify the main texts that have then been subjected to further qualitative analysis. The sources of legitimacy of selfishness, unilateralism and militarism in US protection are then revealed and analysed, and at the end of each of these chapters, trends in methods, agents and referent objects of protection are related to the practices of protection (new and ongoing protective military operations), to prove that these discursive changes had an impact on the types of practices of protection the US had adopted. Also, these chapters will pay attention to the exceptions and try to explain the variation in the degree of success or failure of protective operations.

Chapter 9 concludes with the recipes for failure in Western protection of global civilians and suggests that global democratization and inclusiveness on the one hand, and feminization of protection on the other, could be recipes for better practices of protection. This chapter returns to the theories, one that rejects the whole idea of failure in protection and the other that tries to make sense of it. Before that, though, below we introduce the existing theories and their claims for and approaches to the protection of civilians.


Anarchy is the fundamental underlying concept in the theory of international relations. It is the condition that distinguishes this field from the rest of political science. For Kenneth Waltz, the underlying cause permitting war to arise is anarchy – the lack of a regulatory system on the international level. While this general, enabling cause alone does not explain wars, it does pave the way for other particular causes, which for Waltz are often accidental and trivial, but are the more immediate causes of war (Waltz, 1968, p.231; see also Suganami’s analysis of Waltz’s permissive or logical causality in Suganami, 1996, pp.35–48).

Empirical work on conflicts has already shown that the dominant type of conflict after World War II has been intrastate warfare (Holsti, 2006; Lacina and Gleditsch, 2005; Sarkees and Wayman, 2010). Already in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, scholars of post-colonial security (Ayoob, 1991; Azar and Moon, 1988c) and theorists on new wars (Duffield, 2001; Kaldor, 1999; Mello, 2010; Shaw, 2003) as well as some rationalist scholars (Fearon, 1995; Fearon and Laitin, 2014; Posen, 1993; Van Evera, 1994) pointed to the fact that, while in the West (and the Global North), states had grown out of intrastate anarchy, the Global South states still lived under conditions of disorder. There, the regulatory system of states did not exercise a monopoly on legitimate violence. Therefore, according to theorists on post-colonial security and the theorists on new wars, conflict studies ought to focus on intrastate anarchy rather than interstate anarchy. Despite the fact that the study of international relations is often seen as the ‘political science of the context of anarchy’ we should be alert to the fact that much of international relations is, in fact, orderly. Meanwhile, a significant amount of intrastate politics is not. Between states, order does exist – for example, within the EU; and intrastate anarchy is also prevalent – for example, in Somalia.

The claim that post-Cold War conflicts have generally been fought in fragile developing countries gets support from empirical studies of civil wars. These studies posit that the nature of current conflicts is largely ethno-nationalist. As Snyder argues, ethnic nationalism ‘predominates when institutions collapse, when existing institutions are not fulfilling people’s basic needs and when satisfactory alternative structures are not readily available’ (Snyder, 1993, p.86; see also Brown, 1996, p.17). Rationalist theorists of intrastate conflict, such as Posen, Fearon, Laitin and Van Evera (Fearon and Laitin, 2014, p.3; Posen, 1993; see also Tilly, 1975; Van Evera, 1994), have explicitly applied models from international relations theory to the analysis of security dilemmas between ethnic groups within developing states with a weak regulating authority. According to this analysis, the lack of a monopoly on legitimate violence because of state security fragility means that even without any interest in violence, intrastate groups need to resort to their own capacity to defend themselves. Because of internal anarchy, ethnic and religious groups may see each other as potential threats, and this common sentiment fuels mutual antagonism (Fearon, 1995; Posen, 1993).

Those who study the specific problems of Third World security (Ayoob, 2004; Azar and Moon, 1988c) have specified the internal sources of this insecurity typical of conflicts of today. Post-colonial scholars argue that the main conflict threat in fragile developing countries is related to the intrastate political software problems (rather than military hardware problems) of the state (Azar and Moon, 1988a). Such problems are first the lack of government performance and the lack of capacity to produce intended policy outcomes (security, welfare, etc.); second, the lack of national unity or common interests and mutual identity inside the nation; and finally, the lack of legitimacy of the state and its leaders (Azar and Moon, 1988c, p.8).

Nevertheless, while the existing analysis of the conditions of current warfare tends to emphasize the failing states as the main condition of warfare in the post-Cold War era, scholarship has major disagreements on the following questions that are crucial for the justification of protective intervention. The existing literature on ethical and empirical dimensions of protection will be used as clarification of the alternative ethical and factual knowledge behind the practice of protection, while the empirical generalizations of existing literature related to the rationales of protection will also be used for the creation of hypotheses for this investigation on the path to the failure of protection. The following questions are essential for our investigation:

●  Ethics:
–  Is it permissible to intervene in another country to protect its citizens?
–  Who has permission to protect?
●  Diagnosis:
–  Does state fragility cause opportunistic and greed-motivated violence by perpetrators and innocent civilians, or does it (also) cause grievance-based violence without a clear-cut distinction between the justified and the unjustified parties?
–  Are states failing and thus is there an emergency that requires urgent international action?
–  Is military protection a feasible and useful strategy?

On Ethics of Cosmopolitan Protection

Cosmopolitanism is an ethical theory and thus should not be confused with theories that make empirical generalizations on the consequences of acting on cosmopolitan prescriptions. Yet, there are commonalities in the thinking of cosmopolitan scholars with regard to the diagnosis of the world, some of which are almost necessary for cosmopolitan ethics to be relevant in the realm of global military governance. Therefore, this book has a loose definition of cosmopolitanism and includes the empirical generalizations of those scholars who define themselves as cosmopolitan theorists of international relations (Kaldor, Duffield, Ralph, Hayden) in the term cosmopolitanism.

From the point of view of a study on interventions, there are at least two relevant ethical principles. The first is related to the claim that:

[…]all persons stand in certain moral relations with one another by virtue of the fact that they are all members of a universal community. All persons possess equal moral worth deserving of our respect, and certain obligations of justice with regards to other persons place constraints on our conduct. (Hayden, 2005, p.2)

The principle that state borders have no moral relevance to the obligations and rights of people, and that thus, human rights and obligations are universal and general, and the same regardless of borders, is common to all cosmopolitan theories of interventions and theorists of new wars. This cosmopolitan ethical position is also clearly stated in the UN documents related to the doctrine on the Responsibility to Protect as codified in the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 16 September 2005 (United Nations General Assembly, 2005). While some view cosmopolitan morality from the point of view of common utility (Singer, 1972), rights (Vincent, 1986) or obligations (O’Neill, 2000) this is not important for our study of interventions, but since the analysis in this book will continue along a consequentialist path, it will itself commit to some kind of utilitarianism, in which the virtue of protection is based on its utility in the prevention of fatalities of war and fragility of structures that should prevent such fatalities from occurring.

An important normative distinction between cosmopolitan theories is in the question of who can intervene when conflict entrepreneurs, terrorists or dictators threaten the lives of citizens in a country that is too fragile to be able or too distorted to even want to protect these people from such violence. The main difference in the theories that focus on the global protection of civilians is not so much whether a theory allows unilateral actors to act to protect civilians in another country, but rather whether the theory pays serious attention to the very question of agency of protection. While the Kantian tradition is clearly contractarian and assumes that norms of protection should somehow be owned by all those in the global community (Kant, 1999), Hayden (2005) represents a most elaborate ethical analysis that largely ignores the question in the exploration of the real world, while international relations specialists in the cosmopolitan school often simply skip the question of agency (Duffield, 2001; Kaldor, 2012).3 Yet, as will be further analysed in Chapters 5 and 7, this question has tremendous consequences for the success of protection of civilians from conflict violence.

Both in scholarly and in political literature, the moral question of who has the right and responsibility to protect depends partly on the nature of conflicts and thus on the diagnosis. As will be shown in Chapter 7, a diagnosis that sees conflicts as criminal violence makes a moral judgement of protection by anybody easier than a diagnosis that claims that conflicts are more complicated, and that it is not possible to simply identify the bad guy from the good guy.

The political discourses that will be focused on in this book mostly subscribe to the moral position that either ignores the question of agency in protection, or use rhetorical strategies (criminalization of the opponent, hegemonic logic of global agency, the end of history discourse, etc.) to make the question of who protects irrelevant or confusing, as also will be shown in Chapter 7. However, the UN doctrine on the Responsibility to Protect is rather explicit about the question of agency. Already in 1999, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan raised the question and warned that humanitarian interventions that were not authorized by the UN Security Council could be ‘setting dangerous precedents for future interventions without a clear criterion’ (Annan 1999). Annan and the UN resolutions on the Responsibility to Protect emphasize the agency of the UN Security Council in cosmopolitan protection, even if soliciting cooperation and help from regional organizations in their own areas (United Nations General Assembly, 2005). Neither the Secretary-General’s Annual Report of 1999 to the UNGA, that initially introduced some cosmopolitan principles involving resisting violence within member states, nor the UNGA resolution of 2005 on the Responsibility to Protect mention NATO as an agent or even as a collaborator in protection.

Diagnosis: Greed and Opportunities or Grievances – Protective Intervention as a Cure or a Curse?

Does state fragility simply offer opportunities for conflict entrepreneurs? Does it create asymmetrical wars in which opportunistic perpetrators threaten innocent civilians (Bellamy, 2016; Buchanan and Keohane, 2015; Duffield, 2001; Kaldor, 2012; Mello, 2010; Münkler, 2002; Thakur, 2016), or does it also create grievances that cause conflicts between equally justified or unjustified conflicting parties (Ayoob, 1991; Azar and Moon, 1988c; Gurr, 2000; Nafziger, Steward and Väyrynen, 2000)? While the latter type of diagnosis would prescribe conflict resolution, the former can lend support to an interventionist prescription, assuming that interventionist protection is morally right and strategically feasible. This study will show that the former diagnosis of conflicts underlies the cosmopolitan interventionism that this book focuses on.

There is a wealth of empirical analyses of conflicts that agree that the prevalent type of violence in conflicts is opportunistic rather than ideological or political. Heupel and Zangl have shown convincingly that war economies based on criminal activities are important contexts of warfare of today. The fragmentation of warring parties and the economization of their war motives facilitate the application of brutal violence against civilians (Heupel and Zangl, 2010). According to most theories that support the interventionist approach to new wars, conflicts are motivated by greed rather than grievances: potential wealth is a much more important context of wars than desperation and grievances and poverty (see, for example, Duffield, 2001; Kaldor, 2012, p.2; Münkler, 2002, p.7).

Yet, the transformation of war from grievance motivations to opportunistic greed motivations is not necessarily anything new. It may have been highlighted by the decline in the ideological interstate competition between the communist and anti-communist great powers, yet this decline did not necessarily change the situation in conflicts of fragile states. In fragile states, the motives for war may have been diverse and also related to opportunities and greed. Despite the fact that Kaldor and Münkler seem to suggest that some of the changes after the end of the Cold War contributed to the emergence of opportunistic violence that targets innocent civilians, Kalyvas has suggested that the criminal, rather than the political, nature of warfare is not something new (Kalyvas, 2001, p.99).

Yet, despite the existence of criminal, opportunistic motives of violence, wars can still be mainly motivated by grievances. Gurr, Lichbach and Nafziger et al. have argued that grievances still dominate as predictors of conflicts (Gurr, 1970, 1993; Lichbach and Gurr, 1981; Nafziger et al., 2000), and that only this can explain why compromises, rather than enforcement of norms, have been associated with the decline of conflict fatalities, especially in the 1990s (Gurr, 2000). Regardless of whether conflicts in fragile states are driven by opportunities and greed, or by grievances, it seems clear that the diagnosis based on greedy, opportunistic and criminal conflict motives drives the reality of political interventions. When conflicts were not considered as political and as being motivated by political disputes on the terms of order, who was controlling the ‘local thugs’ or ‘mad mortar-men’ did not make such a difference (Clinton, 2000d, p.2146). According to Bush Jr:

[t]hese are people that you just cannot reason with. You can’t negotiate with them. Therapy is not going to work with them. [Laughter] They’re coldblooded people. That’s the way they are. And we have a solemn responsibility to the American people to bring them to justice. We must deal with them in foreign lands so we do not have to face them here at home. That’s our job. (G.W. Bush, 2005c, p.1317)

While it seems clear that the scholarly ideas of criminal conflicts interact with the dominant interventionist political discourse and help identify the logic of justification of interventionism, the claim that conflicts are opportunistic and therefore can be ended simply by taking away the opportunities for violence can, and will be, tested in this study.

The urgency of new war theories to protect civilians has been partly based on the diagnosis that state fragility is increasing and that this is why the international community has to develop robust mechanisms of intervention urgently. According to new war theory, after the end of the Cold War, the lack of interest by the international community in the suffering of people in the anarchic zones of the Third World created a new situation that was providing opportunities for violence and new wars. This allowed brutal, senseless violence to continue unchecked:

[T]he end of the Cold War has been accompanied by an apparently reduced willingness and ability to control internal violence… Governments and potential insurgents no longer have ideological patrons who provide them with the wherewithal to commit violence and then expect some influence over how that violence is carried out. (Snow, 1996, p.46; see also Daalder, 1996, p.462; Kaldor, 1999, p.3)

Thus, the policies of relative non-intervention that the US and its allies implemented during the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda represented exceptions in which great powers did not interfere in opportunistic chaos in these anarchic states, even though violence and human suffering was evident.

Even though rationalist theory focuses mostly on where state institutions have failed, Fearon and Laitin suggest that anarchical states are developing to become functioning states, rather than intrastate order being in the process of degeneration. Fearon and Laitin posit that, in Europe and Latin America, the violence in the earlier period was ‘integral to a state building process that actually caused a lower risk of armed conflict later on’ (Fearon and Laitin, 2014, p.3; see also Tilly, 1975). Thus, according to this theory, there is no increased urgency for international military actions – and, in addition to the positive rather than negative trend in state strength, nor are conflicts getting any deadlier for civilians. Melander and others have shown that the change in war trends, from interstate to intrastate and the greater suffering of civilians, started a long time before the end of the Cold War (Harbom, Melander and Wallensteen, 2008; Melander, Öberg and Hall, 2009). While Melander and others have examined conflict trends in all countries, Chapter 4 will examine them specifically in fragile states.

If conflicts are opportunistic and there is an urgency to react to them, and if reacting to them is morally acceptable, the remaining empirical question is whether the consequences of international intervention in conflicts in fragile states produce positive consequences. The answer of many scholars of new wars tends towards the positive. Political and scholarly justifications for interventionism often cite the cases of Bosnia and Rwanda as examples of how non-intervention results in tragedies (Kaldor, 1999, p.3; Daalder, 1996; Clinton, 2000h, p.974; Obama, 2011e). While moral cosmopolitanism does not make generalizations with regard to whether or not intervention can help the situation of civilians, but simply gives a moral justification to it in cases it does (Brick, 2009; Buchanan, 2004; Caney, 2005; Jones, 1999; Kant, 1999), and while some cosmopolitan scholars tend to emphasize the norm of non-interference despite their cosmopolitan commitment (Vincent, 1974), many cosmopolitan scholars of international relations who theorize about new wars are optimistic about the opportunities the international community may have in enforcing humanitarian norms (Buchanan and Keohane, 2015; Kaldor, 2012; Münkler, 2002). This book will mainly focus on the work of the latter category of cosmopolitan scholars as their ideas seem to interact with the political discourses of protection. These cosmopolitan scholars will be termed theorists of new wars.

Yet, this study will also focus on the theoretical perspectives where incomplete cosmopolitan commitment or incomplete understanding of the nature of new wars lead to outcomes that are worse than non-cosmopolitan outcomes. Chapter 6 of this book focuses on the phenomenon where a military operation is justified for international audiences by references to cosmopolitan justification, but which in domestic bureaucracy and for domestic audiences is justified by national priorities. The former justification makes operations possible in the international political realm, while the latter priorities shape the modalities of operations. Here cosmopolitan justification of nationally motivated and justified operations contributes to the failure of protection (if it can be called failure, as protection of global civilians may not have been the primary aim of the operation), and yet it would be difficult to claim that cosmopolitan ethics contributes to the suffering. After all, it was the lack of cosmopolitan commitment that was part of the explanation for the failure. This logic, in which cosmopolitan commitment suffices to justify but not motivate operations, is analysed theoretically by Falk. He opposes current ‘cosmopolitan operations’ because of the shallow commitment to cosmopolitan ethics. According to Falk:

[a]t this stage in world politics any genuine humanitarian moves by states are likely to be underfunded and insufficient. In contrast, interventions backed by the requisite will and resources are likely to be strategic in motivation, and humanitarian only in rationalization; such interventionary violence will be illegal and anti-humanitarian. This is the meaning of Kosovo. (Falk, 2003, p.325; for a relatively similar argument, see Gilmore, 2014)

The new war theory posits that, to tackle intrastate anarchy, one should intervene and suppress violent opportunities that could be exploited by conflict entrepreneurs, terrorists and dictators. According to Kaldor, ‘[t]he analysis of new wars suggests that what is needed is not peacekeeping but enforcement of cosmopolitan norms, i.e. enforcement of international humanitarian and human rights law’ (Kaldor, 1999, pp.124–5). Kaldor rejects an old British peacekeeping concept that assumes that minimal power should be used and instead subscribes explicitly to the Weinberger–Powell Doctrine: use of overwhelming force that creates an environment that negates opportunities for violence that exist in a weak system of governance in fragile states (ibid., pp.128–9).

If new wars are a result of declining control and policing, then control and policing need to be introduced in fragile states to end violence. This logic can be found in the US rhetoric of cosmopolitan interventionism. The threat is opportunistic, so opportunities for violence need to be negated by the ‘overwhelming force’ of strong powers (Clinton, 1997, p.1257). Victims need protection and the moral basis underlying protective missions is unchallengeable (Obama, 2012a, p.v). The common prescription of theorists of new wars is that cosmopolitan powers should have responsibility to protect in intrastate anarchies, resorting to force if needed, even if this means violating the sovereignty of states that are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens (Bellamy, 2002; Duffield, 2001; Habermas, 2000; Kaldor, 2003; Linklater, 2017; Mello, 2010; Münkler, 2002; Thakur, 2016). External force should be used to block violent opportunities and to introduce a setting like that in functioning states. This prescription for humanitarian intervention is central to the theory of new wars. For the sake of conceptual clarity, I will use the cosmopolitan theories of uncivil wars (Snow, 1996), degenerative wars (Shaw, 2003), and new wars (Duffield, 2001; Gilbert, 2003; Heupel and Zangl, 2010; Kaldor, 2012; Mello, 2010; Münkler, 2002) as a theoretical model for political humanitarian interventionist justification (although the mode of intervention is not necessarily exactly that described by the theory).

Yet, even if almost all theorists of new wars agree that an international military effort at protection could be successful, there are differing interpretations about the ways in which real-life protection wars have been conducted. While Habermas praised the international effort in Kosovo as a purely cosmopolitan effort (Habermas, 2000, p.61), the way in which humanitarian law was enforced in Afghanistan, Iraq and thereafter has been explicitly criticized by many new war theorists (Kaldor, 1999, p.159). While Kaldor, for example, accepts humanitarian interventions in principle, she criticizes the Western approach for the misunderstanding of the nature of the fragile states. In such states, according to Kaldor, the approach was old-fashioned, militaristic, Clausewitzian, and aimed simply at defeating the enemy or forcing one’s own will on it. This is the logic of military combat in old wars; in new wars, the intervention must win the hearts of the people and help build the state structures that could then control violence (Kaldor, 2012, pp.152–61). Chapter 8 of this book will develop this idea and look at the consequences of the power-centric approach that focuses on protection by defeating, coercing or bribing the agent who poses an intentional threat to global civilians, rather than doing something to protect people from unintentional threats (by offering humanitarian assistance), or by approaching threats by means of mutual self-restraint (by developing multilateral mechanisms of arms control), or by means that do not affect the agent of threat (by accepting refugees). There the focus is in the discourse strand on protection, but the analysis makes a difference between power-oriented and non-power-oriented approaches to it.

The question of whether humanitarian interventions to protect civilians are useful or not also depends on the agency of protection, not just on the approach adopted. Chapter 7 of this book will focus on the question of agency and ownership of protection and norms that protective operations enforce. New war theorists claim that there is no need for cosmopolitan agency (global agency that is also ‘owned’ by the targets of cosmopolitan norm enforcement). Nor do they see any need for complete unanimity regarding operations of protection (Kaldor, 1999, p.126). These theories can be seen as the theoretical foundation for unilateralist humanitarian interventionism by the US. Still, the success or failure of Western humanitarian interventions cannot be completely traced back to the presumptions of the theory, since the way in which interventions have been conducted does not completely correspond to the theory of new wars.

Some of the rationalist scholars and post-colonial theory disagree with this analysis. Fearon and Laitin (and Tilly) claim that great power rule in the Third World has generally created rather than solved problems. While in Europe, where state development took place without external interference, the creation of states led to order, ‘Asia, Africa, and the Middle East…[which] experienced colonial and imperial wars before 1945, especially in the 19th century, were more likely to experience civil wars post-independence’ (Fearon and Laitin, 2014, p.3; see also Tilly, 1975). This is also the claim of post-colonial theory. While pre-colonial Africa and Asia had prosperous states even with some institutions of popular sovereignty, the slave trade and colonial intervention reversed this development. Instead, extractive rather than democratic institutions emerged. The difficulty of post-colonial state formation has been related to the growing power of elites within civil society (Mamdani, 2010) and the fact that new leaders of independent post-colonial states had no interest in changing the extractive state institutions into institutions that could serve people. Consequently, the fragile part of the world is not uncontrolled chaos; it is a well-managed disorder that produces benefits to its users and designers. Such disorder is a consequence of the legacy of colonialism and a result of extractive colonial state institutions (Chabal and Daloz, 1999).

Furthermore, Posen suggests that the US grand strategy should be based on restraint, and that the ‘US has to give up some objectives. The coercive reform and political reorganization of other countries has proven expensive and “success” has proven elusive’ (Posen, 2014, p.169). Fearon and Laitin describe this conclusion as typically realist, and one that President George W. Bush supported before the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001 (Fearon and Laitin, 2004). Similar rationalist realism could be detected in the speeches by President Donald Trump, especially until the aerial operation against the Syrian Air Force base in April 2017 (Trump, 2017b).

Post-colonial theory suggests a diagnosis that leans more towards Posen, Fearon and Laitin than to the new war theories. According to Ayoob ‘disorder is primarily the product of the early state of state-making during which, as the earlier European example demonstrates, violence and conflict are inevitable’ (Ayoob, 1995, p.13). The problem of anarchical states is not something new, but rather one that relates to the early phase of state-making. The Third World state is not disintegrating; it has never existed (Chabal and Daloz, 1999). Ayoob contends that states must be allowed to develop without external interference even if this means some violent and authoritarian phases. Yet, post-colonialist theory does admit that the collapse of the communist states of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia contributed to the expansion of zones of disorder: ‘The dismemberment of the SU and Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War also has led to the geographical expansion of the Third World, which now embraces Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Balkans’ (Ayoob, 1995, p.15).

Post-colonial theory also disagrees with the theory of new wars on the effect of external powers on state fragility. Ayoob is even more extreme in his conclusions about this than Posen and the rationalists. Ayoob maintains that Cold War great powers did not seek to control violence in developing countries:

[S]uperpower involvement in Third World conflicts in supportive and other roles did not commit the two dominant global powers to ensure the security of their local clients and allies under any circumstances or to confront each other directly to ensure security for their allies…[the] Third World became the zone where East/West competition could be waged with minimal apparent danger of uncontrolled escalation. (Ayoob, 1995, p.14)

Thus, the ending of superpower interest in the Third World was a blessing rather than a curse to developing countries.

So, according to theorists on post-colonial security, Western interference has never served the purpose of the developing world. Thus, avoiding such interference cannot be a problem, even though post-colonial theory recognizes state fragility as central to conflict problems (Ayoob, 2005, p.959). According to the post-colonial theory of security, security in the Third World is often challenged by intrastate threats related to lack of cohesion between people, lack of legitimacy and poor performance of the government. Building aid mechanisms outside the state and the government may address the immediate problems of the state, but only sidelines the vital state-building project, which, in the long run, is crucial to the people’s security (Azar and Moon, 1988c).

According to Ayoob, the problem of humanitarian intervention in fragile states is related to the perceived illegitimacy of great power agency in the Third World. While Kaldor sees the source of legitimacy of such intervention in the quality of the operation (Kaldor, 1999, p.159), Ayoob sees the lack of Third World authorship and ownership as the source of the problem. Even if the intervention is meant for the protection of civilians, the people who are objects of this protection tend to resist it because of this perception (Ayoob, 2001).

The reason post-colonial and new war theorists have a very different idea of the degree of ownership among the people that are being protected in fragile states is partly related to the difference in the focus in the study of cosmopolitan protection. The struggle against the authoritarian leaders of communist autocrats at the end of the Cold War is the favourite focus of the new war theorists. New war theorists suggest that there was a transcontinental movement of citizens (Burke, 2004), which gave rise to the emergence of a global civil society (Kaldor, 2003, p.vii). This global civil society has managed to advocate and sell the idea of a set of basic humanitarian norms, and a set of norms pertaining to their enforcement (Kaldor, 2003). Thakur suggests that the spreading of the international legal consensus can be identified in the introduction of a number of international conventions and agreements that a number of states have formally committed to and implemented (Thakur, 2016).

While this global civil society acts as one in areas related to fundamental human rights, against dictators, terrorists and human rights violators, it needs coercive institutions that can exercise overwhelming power to control and prevent the opportunities for the most extreme types of violations of the international humanitarian law (Kaldor, 1999, pp.128–9). The world cannot wait for a world state to emerge (ibid., p.126). Instead, global civil society must work with transnational institutions, such as the Western European Union (WEU), Partnership for Peace, NATO Coordination Council (NACC), and with cosmopolitan countries (Kaldor, 2012, p.188). Kaldor considers these forces that act for the security of global citizens, not for their national interests, as cosmopolitan countries, or cosmopolitan powers (powers that ‘constitute an intensification of transnationalization in the military sphere’) (ibid., 2012, p.139).

However, when interventions are studied from the perspective of the Third World, the question of ownership changes. Even if East European civil society felt togetherness with their Western supporters, this is not necessarily the case with Iraqi victims of the Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian violence. NATO or NACC, let alone the different coalitions of the willing or international security forces that NATO has control over or forces that consist of former colonial rulers, might not represent the victims of violence in fragile countries, and this, according to Ayoob, could be the reason conflicts may escalate with Western interventions (Ayoob, 2001). While Kaldorian optimism related to the feasibility of international intervention clearly interacts with interventionist political discourse, the question of whether intervention protects or not, and whether the question of agency of protection has consequences, are empirical questions that this study can and will address.


This book represents constructivist pragmatist scholarship. The reason it is useful to study the success and failure of cosmopolitan protection is practical. If we continue to assume that whatever the Global North does to the developing world has only positive consequences, then we cannot make informed decisions on whether and how to interfere in violent unfairness in the Global South.

The reason the focus is on the success of a strategy or an orientation, and the knowledge behind such an orientation rather than on exogenous causal conditions of conflict fatalities, is practical too. If it is assumed that reality is exogenously constituted rather than something that strategies of genuine agency can create, we must abandon ontologies that could allow our purposive action to change things in a way that would minimize conflict fatalities. If the focus is only on exogenous causation, and if we feel that conflicts can only be explained through the degree of exogenous causal conditions (explanatory power of a model), we will be writing off the agency that we would need to use our knowledge to make peace and reduce violence (Heidegger, 1962). Therefore, it is also practical to try to understand social processes from within the purposes of agents, as Hollis and Smith (1990) suggest. Yet, while this study will begin from premises that do not write off agency, it will also not assume that social developments simply follow our intentions. Otherwise it would be difficult to understand why the willingness to protect civilians can lead to the escalation that eventually kills the civilians we wanted to protect. Agency interacts with social and material realities, just as, for example, Wendt and Wight suggest (Wendt, 1987; Wight, 2006), and the process of this interaction sometimes leads us in directions we did not intend to take. Thus, the interactive process where agency interacts with social and material structures requires our attention so that our agency could be more successful in achieving things we want to achieve.

However, the pragmatism of this study is not of the classical kind. Because classical pragmatists focused on the materially constituted realities, they could see the function of knowledge as instrumental. Whichever knowledge can help us deal with the reality around us is pragmatic in an instrumental sense. However, if the reality is constituted by our collective interpretations we cannot just consider instrumental pragmatism. We cannot just consider what tools knowledge offers for the fixing of a material condition, but instead we must think about what kind of realities our shared knowledge constitutes. A paradigm of race purity in a racist state can have instrumental value for the management of something we understand as races, but the very ‘knowledge’ of races already creates social agency of these races. Instead of just thinking whether theories of race purity can be used for something practical, we must also consider whether the existence of races as political actors that the theory and its concepts construct, is a positive, pragmatic reality. When classical pragmatism only considers instrumentally what we can do with certain knowledge or a certain paradigm, constructivist pragmatism that this study represents also considers what that knowledge does to us and our social realities. A constructivist pragmatist must also consider theories and concepts for the usefulness of the entity they constitute, as without our knowledge, theories and understanding (and convention) of many ideative entities, such as states as actors of international relations or money as an instrument of economic exchange, such realities would not exist. Thus, we must extend our use of the pragmatist criteria in our assessment of the practical value of theories from considerations of their instrumental value to the practicality of realities they constitute (Kivimäki, 2016, p.18).

In addition to agency, a practical approach to protection would require the recognition of interaction between agency and elements of social structures such as roles, norms and identities that in causal models are often seen as problematic due to their partly endogenous relationship with behaviour. We cannot ‘explain’ in the classical positivist sense violence or non-violence by referring to norms, roles or identities, as none of these ‘independent variables’ are analytically separate from the ‘dependent variable’: one cannot claim the existence of a norm if everyone demonstrates a complete lack of that norm, or the identity of a fighter if the actor never fights. Yet, norms, roles and identities are relevant to and not just tautologies of violent or non-violent behaviour. By offering positive identities, it is possible to entice a conflicting party towards more cooperative behaviour, while by accepting norms, a community can alter the behaviour of its members.

To incorporate agency, socially constructed realities, partly endogenous social realities, and yet also recognize material realities, we will not be able to use all the methods that are used in causal modelling of behaviour. For the investigation of effects of cosmopolitan protection, we can start with correlative relationships between an approach (cosmopolitan protection) and consequences of that approach (in terms of fatalities and state fragility). However, due to agency and the fluidity of social structures, we cannot assume that what we can observe happening is something that had to happen. Instead, we must accept the possibility of alternative futures: things could have gone differently. Even the starting point of our analysis – the discussion of the consequences of protection – must be analysed with counterfactual realities in mind. The study of processes that enabled politically feasible use of violence must necessarily focus on the development of the interaction between agency, the emergence of social structures and the realities of material structures.

Analysis of the Consequences of Protection

The investigation of the extent to which military protection of global civilians has failed or succeeded will need a slightly different research strategy than the question of why the practice of protection has produced these outcomes. The first task related to the assessment of failure or success will require counterfactual analysis on the relationship between intervention on the one hand and fatalities and fragility on the other.

Doing this does not require very elaborate quantitative tools – we do not want to test multi-causal models, but only focus on the effects of one policy that can be easily identified. Thus, simple calculations suffice. However, the main methodological problem in this study is related to the problem of counterfactual reasoning: it has been suggested that the cost of intervention is easy to measure, while it is not possible to document the effect of intervention in preventing atrocities whenever such intervention is successful, since the evidence in these cases is missing (Paris, 2014, p.574). To demonstrate that an intervention has failed one needs to claim two things: (1) that in conflicts that were intervened, the level of fatalities and state fragility would generally have been lower had there not been an intervention; (2) that in conflicts that were not intervened, the level of fatalities and state fragility would generally have been higher had there been an intervention. Counterfactuals may be difficult to prove in individual cases, but an empirical observation of development in conflict fatalities in a historical era in countries and conflicts where interventionist policies are practised is possible. Comparisons in similar times, between similar fragile countries and between similar conflicts, make counterfactual analysis possible if we then compare cases of intervention and cases of non-intervention.

Analysis of the Path to Failure

The second part of this study (Chapter 5 onwards) focuses on discourses. The starting point of this analysis is the idea of treating text as data (Wilkerson and Casas, 2017). Textual analysis will be used to reveal how discourses interact with material and social structures and constitute social structures and how these structures interact with political agency. This investigation will follow the path of failure to protect by starting from the fact of the failure that has been established in Chapter 4, and by moving down that path backwards first to the counter-discourses of US protection. There the textual evidence is based on the translated speeches by Muammar Gaddafi (15 speeches and letters in 2001), Bashar al-Assad4 (ten speeches after the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011), Saddam Hussein (five speeches, letters or interviews with Americans), Slobodan Milošević (nine speeches and letters 1998–2001) and the documents by the main terrorist enemies, ISIS (Islamic State administrative documents with 285 documents plus the so-called ISIS masterplan5) and Al Qaeda (24 translated documents related to the US or mobilization, from the CIA depository: Bin Laden’s Bookshelf6). Because Sierra Leone is the main case of successful protection, it has received special attention in the textual analysis. There the focus is on texts by the group associated with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) – the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (25 press releases) – and the RUF itself (comments related to peace negotiations). The Sierra Leonean case has also been strengthened by interview material among UK officials involved in the intervention in 2000.

This textual evidence was investigated for the rationales of enemies of the West in their legitimation and justification (and mobilization) of violence. The focus was on how the Western practices and discourses helped these violent actors find perceived legitimacy for their violence. The method of analysis of the ‘counter-discourse’ is based on the coding of texts for their references to ‘struggl’,7 ‘bomb’, ‘attack’, ‘protect’, ‘defen’, ‘kill’, ‘revol’, ‘rebel’, ‘fight’ and ‘take up arms’ (in all tenses) that refer to violent acts of the actors themselves in an approving manner. The qualitative analysis of the justifications of counter-cosmopolitan violence by terrorists, criminals and dictators has identified both identitive and activity-related justifications, of which the following were most prominent and frequent in the documents of enemies of the West:

●  Identity of the opponent justifies violence if the identity is:
–  imperial (anti-imperialist justification);
–  colonial (anti-colonialist justification);
–  criminal (legalist justification).
●  Action of the opponent justifies violence if the action is:
–  power-centric;
–  violent to people (reference to atrocities, threat to peace);
–  tribalist;
–  anti-democratic;
–  oppressive (reference to limitation of freedom);
–  impoverishing/exploitative;
–  threatening to state security;
–  in violation of an agreement/law.

Trends and cross-country/conflict differences in the strategies of legitimation of violence by enemies of the West were then established using NVivo.

With these tools and with more traditional content analysis of all the selected translated texts of enemies of Western cosmopolitan interventions I have then established three clusters of rationales in Western interventions that are being used by enemies for the constitution of legitimacy of their own violence. These three clusters are selfishness, unilateralism and militarism. Legitimations of enemy violence that draw from what is seen as the Western imperial justification, from the perceived breach of the international law on sovereignty, from the rhetoric of defence of the state against external aggression, internationally anti-democratic (powerful countries bullying weak countries), and from the rhetoric of oppression and limitation of sovereign freedom, have been lumped together in the cluster of unilateralism. Legitimations of enemy violence that draw from the rhetoric of colonial exploitation and impoverishment by the West, or selfish imperial power motives have been lumped together in the cluster of selfishness, while justifications that draw from the logic in which the enemy’s violence is vindicated by the violence and military handling of the West are lumped together in the cluster of anti-militaristic justifications.

While the analysis of discourses does not imply a belief that justification of action is the only thing that is needed for a violent action, it commits to the idea that texts reveal more than just justifications, and that justifications too are needed as necessary conditions for political action that requires mobilization of forces and resources. While it is politically difficult to take into account the information that enemy propaganda can offer, it seems that conflicts escalate in interactive processes in which the discourses and approaches of one side constitute the legitimacy of discourses and practices of the other. Thus, even if the West should not be manipulated by the lies of terrorist discourse, such discourse contains information that can help avoid the escalation of conflicts.

Texts, even propaganda, can be studied as evidence if we focus on things it creates rather than on things it describes or refers to. Propaganda that emphasizes a norm, for instance, commits the speaker to it as it elevates the costs for him or her of violating it (Glanville, 2018). Yet, a propagandistic description of the realities on the ground cannot be used as evidence of realities on the ground.

This difference between the utility of studying realities that speech creates and the utility of studying a reality a speech describes on the basis of the speech is often misunderstood in political reality. According to President Bush Jr, for example:

Usama bin Laden8 used Somalia as an excuse for people to join his jihadist movement. In the past, they used the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was a convenient way to try to recruit people to their jihadist movement. They’ve used all kinds of excuses. This Government is going to do whatever it takes to protect this homeland. We’re not going to let their excuses stop us from staying on the offense. The best way to protect America is defeat these killers overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. We’re not going to let lies and propaganda by the enemy dictate how we win this war. (G.W. Bush, 2007e, p.1703)

Here Bush assumes he can ignore the way in which bin Laden creates normative realities in his speech, simply by rejecting them. Yet, Bush seems to admit the failure of his approach when he admits that US operations and staying on the offensive increased anti-US terrorist mobilization. Even if Bush does not accept bin Laden’s and anti-US militants’ rationales against the US, they are still a reality if they increase anti-American mobilization. Yet, he claims it is the ‘best way to protect America’. While public statements tend to manipulate the reality in a way that helps the speaker’s bargaining leverage (by exaggerating one’s commitment and determination, and by exaggerating signals of division among one’s enemies), the construction of legitimate strategies creates realities itself, and is therefore a reality to be studied, not just a propagandistic picture of some objective reality.

Based on the clusters of rationales that enemies of Western interventions constitute in their texts I will then go further backwards along the path of failure to protect by examining how selfishness, unilateralism and militarism emerge in the Western discourse strand on protection. The purpose of the analysis of Western and anti-Western discourses is to reveal the interactive process in which both sides legitimize their violence by reference to the violence of their enemies. This way, textual analysis reveals the mutual constitution of legitimate violence in a process of escalation. The analysis of the counter-discourse reveals three sources from which enemies of the West tend to derive the perceived justification and legitimacy for their violence:

●  the selfish nature of Western military action;
●  the unilateralist approach of that action; and
●  the militarism and power-centricity in the way Western ‘protection’ is conducted.

From enemy discourses, this study moves another step backwards by looking at how elements that enemies of the West in protection wars perceive as selfishness, unilateralism and militarism emerge in Western practice and discourse. Due to the central role of the US in military operations to protect global civilians, and due to the central role of the US’s president in American foreign policy, I have selected the US government’s Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (US Government Printing Office, various years) as my primary data (Kivimäki, 2019b, forthcoming) for analysis of Western protection discourse. I have studied the entire period of the emergence of the discourse strand on protection starting from the last days of the Cold War until the last published electronic versions of the compilation of the presidential papers (1989–2012),9 almost 30 million words.

Using this data, I will substantiate my claims on discourses in a more transparent, rigorous and convincing manner than by simply selecting sentences from various sources. Even if one does not assume that measurable material realities are the only reality, it is possible to avoid ‘fantasy theories’ (as Schweller, 1999, calls them), by treating texts in a methodical manner so that their interpretations may be verified or rejected.

However, instead of treating text as something that describes reality as the authors see it, this study is committed to a different ontology and thus a different method than most computerized textual analyses. It is based on the idea that world politics is not dictated by exogenous, material realities. Thus, my research on the social realities of protection must start from the discourses that are, on the one hand, a product of human activity, but which also facilitate and constrain the imagination and opportunities of human agency on the other. The interaction between agency, social realities and material realities cannot be revealed by a causal analysis that seeks explanations of developments based on exogenous material causes, nor can it be revealed by an analysis that does not recognize the importance of interpretations and discourses as social reality. Thus, such an analysis needs to look at meanings revealed in the texts. It must examine their relation to material, non-discursive events and structures as well as to purposive agency.

To make sense of frameworks that legitimize and justify killing in a military operation for an audience, one needs to analyse the texts that the actor presents to this audience. In this way, one can understand the ontological and normative foundations and the ways in which these foundations are mobilized and associated with projects such as military intervention. One needs dispositive analysis to reveal the knowledge behind the actions and practices of cosmopolitan protection (Foucault, 1974). However, when investigating apparently conflicting discourses, as is the case when one looks, on the one hand, at protection that tends to kill the ones it intends to protect, and on the other, at how selfish interests enter altruistic discourse strands on protection, one will probably not find a coherent set of texts within which all these contradictions make sense. Instead, one needs to analyse the historically specific processes in which the discourse strands of different issue areas meet and where compromises are needed and made within systems of decision-making. Different audiences can then be convinced by references to different types of normative and ontological premises in which dramatic events affect interpretations (Jäger, 2001).

We need to study the specific histories of interaction between action and social structures, in which actions are constituted by existing social structures and social structures are constituted by interpretative actions (Wendt, 1987). If we look at ideational constructs such as humanitarian norms, as well as human, group or national and international pursuits to rescue civilians anywhere in the world, we can see that these discourses and pursuits were born and they developed and created the institutions that they needed to succeed through specific historical processes. In these processes, social and material realities enabled and obstructed, directed and focused purposes and norms of civilian protection. Other norms and structures that political norms created affected the path from ideas to outcomes. Studying this path will require ‘discursive process tracing’, in which the focus is on texts that reflect and create discursive events, such as changing types of arguments, norms and interpretations, rather than merely material events. Quite as Justin Rosenberg has suggested, such analysis of path-dependent historically specific processes and changes requires methods that are grounded in historical and social analysis, rather than methods that assume ahistorical regularities (Rosenberg, 1994; see also Tickner, 2001, p.9). It is focused on historically specific discursive events. These events naturally interact with changes in material realities, but they are not dictated by unchanging material regularities. Also, this interaction is well documented in texts related to political strategies on protection of civilians.

When tracing the processes of discourse development there are junctures at which deviations in the original intent behind a policy discourse enter the scene. Such junctures could be found in the following:

●  Within the internal logic of the discourse strand that deals with protection of civilians: how certain types of arguments are allowed while others are not, depending on the normative and ontological premises of the discourse and pre-agreed-upon premises for argumentation on which the discourse strand is based. This part of the analysis uses the lessons of so-called dispositive analysis, aimed at reconstructing and revealing the knowledge lying behind discursive and non-discursive practices and reconstructing non-discursive practices that have led to the manifestations/materializations and the knowledge contained therein (Jäger, 2001, p.47).
●  In the entanglements of discourse strands (ibid., pp.47–8) on protection and other interrelated issues. These entanglements are meaningful for the development of the normative and ontological premises of the discursive strand of protection. How, for example, the discourse strand on victimhood is used to depoliticize protection in the entanglements that expose discussion on protection to the ontologies and ethics of debates on victimhood (or criminality, or security threats, or democracy) affects the way in which the ownership of protection is shared.
●  In the interaction of the text with audiences as part of the discourse context of protection (ibid., p.48). It is clear that, domestic and international audiences, and rural national voters vs international diplomats have very different ethical and ontological expectations of the US president. Thus, texts produced for these two audiences affect the development of the discourse strand. The requirements imposed on the president or another decision-maker in US foreign politics based on a situation presented to a domestic or international audience affects US policy in varying ways, since consistency in the statements and knowledge revealed in texts and actions is necessary for credibility. Sometimes, interpretations of the realities of world politics are created to solve problems created by the need for consistency. US presidents, for example, tend to favour worldviews in which national interests can be reconciled with international responsibilities, and sometimes the need for consistency pushes them towards interpretations that are not optimal in terms of credibility, or ones that can only be sustained by hiding the evidence against them.
●  In the interaction of the discourse with the institutional settings to which they belong. The question of differing audiences is closely linked with the question of the structure of decision-making (ibid., pp.47–9). The president primarily needs to persuade Congress to obtain funding for foreign operations, and the nation’s voters to maintain the mandate and decision-making power on foreign operations. When the knowledge behind domestic and international audiences clashes, it is understandable that compromises need to be made, primarily at the expense of global ontologies and ethics.
●  In events and discourse histories (ibid., p.49). Crises in Rwanda, Somalia and Bosnia are often cited as the most important historical discourse contexts that affect the development of a discourse strand. The globalist ontologies of the immediate post-Cold War period were difficult to reconcile with the well-published events in Mogadishu in March 1993, when 18 US soldiers were killed. At the same time, the experienced consequences of the failure to react forcefully in Bosnia and Rwanda have served to boost interventionist arguments.

Despite dealing with interpretative reality and social constructs, in my investigation I have refused to make a random selection of what is important or to put forth loose claims about the representative quality of particular constructs. Instead, I have mapped discursive developments using computer-assisted textual analysis. For this I have used the NVivo text analysis program.

First, I selected proxy words for different discourse strands and used word frequency analyses to reveal how different discourse strands are related to each other and how this relationship develops. Second, I coded10 clauses that deal with protection (selecting them by searching for the world ‘protect’ in its different forms) for the types of threats against which protection is needed. I ruled out instances covering protection of Americans and US institutions against non-external (for example, protection of American children against crime, decadence or tobacco and the like),11 non-life-threatening threats (protection of US tobacco farmers, economic protectionism, etc.) and unintentional threats to the US and Americans (pandemics, environmental degradation,12 securing of international traffic against technical dangers). Any other threats have been included in my further analysis.

The next phase of relational textual analysis focuses on the referent object of protection – that is, who is being protected. When possible, I have done this technically by looking at the grammatical reference of the word ‘protect’. In some cases, though, the referent object of protection needs to be followed further in the paragraph and the speech/letter/interview. In this way, all clauses with the word ‘protect’ were included in this relational coding, which classified the referent objects into three categories: (1) protection of the US state and its people and institutions from intentional external danger; (2) protection of allies from comparable danger; and (3) protection crucial to their survival and well-being of people and institutions other than allied states from internal and external, intentional and non-intentional threats (that is to say, genuine cosmopolitan protection, such as protection of citizens in developing countries from terror, dictators and criminals, but also from developmental problems).13 I call protection in the last category cosmopolitan because it cannot be seen as directly useful to US self-interest.

For the cosmopolitan type of protection, I also investigated the agency. I identified five types of agencies: (1) US agency; (2) allied agency; (3) US-led unrepresentative ad hoc coalition agency; (4) bilateral agency – where the US works with a developing country that is not in alliance with the US to protect that country and its citizens; and (5) representative international agency (United Nations, International Criminal Court, arms control regimes and agencies, and other actors that offer protection within countries that are members of the agency).

While the three first types of agency are clearly unrepresentative – there, somebody is protecting somebody else – the last category is undoubtedly representative. The bilateral/other agency is more difficult to interpret. This is a category of sentences in which cosmopolitan protection takes place in a country or is exercised for citizens of a country that is not allied with the US, but where some of the actors of protection, to varying degrees, are practising the protection themselves. These range from US drone programmes where sentences suggest the participation or acceptance of the local leader, to sentences of protection where the main actor is the country itself, but with US encouragement. Most sentences in this category deal with situations in which the US military is training and guiding the Afghan and Iraqi government, army and police in the protection of their own citizens.

Finally, I also coded those clauses where the referent object of protection was cosmopolitan (global civilian) according to the method of protection. Driven by the power of militarist responses in motivating and legitimizing violence of the anti-US camp (discourse analysis of Saddam Hussein’s, Bashar al-Assad’s and Al Qaeda’s texts), I made a distinction between power-biased protection and protection that was not power biased.

When studying power bias – the preference for power strategies over power-neutral or power-negative strategies – I have selected the following criteria for clauses in texts that determine whether they constitute power-centric realities for cosmopolitan protection:

A clause is power biased if the means of protection:

●  prevents the acts of someone harming or threatening the people to be protected;
●  deters someone from harming or threatening the people to be protected;
●  rewards someone for not harming the people to be protected;
●  destroys or weakens someone who is harming or threatening the people to be protected.

It is not power biased if protection is conducted:

●  by action that does not affect the threatening agent (offering asylum etc.);
●  against non-intentional threat (poverty, disease, etc.);
●  by means of self-restraint: protecting democracy by the leaders in an agreement that concerns the protector (here agreements like the Helsinki Declaration signed by 35 nations in 1975 could be considered self-restraining, whilst democracy promotion in another country would be power biased as it deals with the behaviour of others).

This computerized textual analysis made it possible to show trends and developments in a transparent way. Coding was focused on the elements of the Western discourse that were revealed in the analysis of the texts of US enemies (actors that the US needed to protect its global civilians from) as elements that justified violence by dictators, criminals and terrorists. In addition to aiding a test of aspects of qualitative discourse analysis, a computerized textual analysis also directed the qualitative analysis to texts that are central and representative of various discursive changes or characteristics of the discourse strand.

The coding on NVivo of the presidential papers and the quantitative data on word and relational frequencies (Kivimäki, 2019b, forthcoming) are openly available in NVivo and Stata formats from the replication data depository of the University of Bath, Research Data Archive at doi:10.15125/BATH-00535.


1.  The expansion of security communities is not just geographic and quantitative, but also a qualitative phenomenon. Qualitative expansions of units of security governance (security communities), such as gradual democratization (inclusion of civilians in the group of protected, and the inclusion of security agency/protectors) and the inclusion of minorities in the security community have also reduced violence (Pinker, 2011, pp.295–480).
2.  Optimally, I would study the entire period from the crumbling of the Cold War order at the end of the 1980s until today, but as reliable data on state fragility are only available from 1995 and since reliable data on conflict fatalities end in 2016, this forces me to restrict the analysis of the consequences of protection to this time period.
3.  There is an exception to the cosmopolitan neglect of the analysis of agency, see Pattison, 2010.
4.  In this book, and in the bibliography I use the full name so spelled. When referring to the president in the main text I use, simply, Assad.
5.  See the Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi website at
6.  See
7.  To catch all clauses with these words in all their variations, I make my searches using only the root of the words.
8.  Also spelled Usama bin Ladin and Osama bin Laden. In this book I retain the spelling as used in quotations but use Osama bin Laden in my text.
9.  Year 2012 is, so far, the latest year for which the USGPO compilation of presidential papers is available in NVivo-compatible format.
10.  For help with the development of the nodes and testing the unambiguity of the coding rules, I am grateful to Riccardo Boscherini, Thomas Brewis, Maddy Holley and Astrid Vikström.
11.  Since the threat of terrorism in US discourse is clearly externalized, even when the perpetrators are US citizens, I ruled all terrorist threats as external even though in the 1990s these were often seen as criminal threats rather than international political conspiratorial threats.
12.  I coded protection of the environment as a separate category in the openly available dataset, but in this chapter it is conflated with ‘other protection’.
13.  I classified the protection of terrorists by rogue states in the category of protection that I have ruled out in the beginning to maintain the normative relevance of this category of protection.