“The Road to Hell and Back”: Successes and Failures in the Enactment of Humanitarian Intervention during the Obama Administration
Robinson, Justine Taylor
This thesis examines how United States presidential administrations change over time in their policies on humanitarian intervention. More specifically, how and why do American presidential administrations (and the officials in those administrations) fail in some cases and succeed in others in enacting conflict resolution and genocide preventative measures? This thesis will focus on why officials in the two Obama administration sometimes used ambitious means of humanitarian intervention to prevent or mitigate genocide and other mass atrocities, as in the cases of Libya and the Yazidis in Iraq, and sometimes took only limited steps to achieve humanitarian goals, as in the case of the Syrian Civil War and Syrian refugees. This thesis is particularly interested in cases where earlier Obama administration actions and outcomes forced the president and his advisors to rethink their approach to potential humanitarian intervention cases. The central hypothesis of this thesis is that policy changes on humanitarian intervention over time within U.S. presidential administrations depend on whether the political and professional reputations of government officials who advocated or opposed earlier interventions have strengthened or weakened as a result of the outcomes of those earlier (non)-interventions. This thesis will focus on the Obama administration from January 2009 to January 2017, the administration's decision-making processes into deciding how and why to intervene or not intervene in a foreign crisis, and the successes and failures in preventing genocide and other mass atrocities through the enactment of those foreign policy decisions and interventions. Moreover, the thesis examines the history of humanitarian interventions, the effect of American foreign policy decision-making in presidential administrations, and evolving views of key officials on whether humanitarian interventions do more harm than good to prevent and stop further mass atrocities. This thesis will provide timelines of and analyze three qualitative case studies of humanitarian crises the Obama administration was involved in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. The thesis concludes its final section with a set of recommendations on practical and theoretical guidelines to follow to win policymaking battles on future issues surrounding humanitarian interventionism and mass atrocity prevention.
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