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The Purpose of Intervention


The decision for a powerful state to intervene in the affairs in a weaker state, short of war, is interesting for one central reason: it establishes the boundary between the two primary institutions in international politics: war and sovereignty.  Non-interference is necessary for states to exercise their sovereign control, and what constitutes an acceptable reason to violate another state’s sovereignty has changed over time.  Why have these shifts occurred, and what do they imply for the role of international norms? A realist would argue that interventions are driven only by state interests, but realism offers little in explaining why a state might perceive its interests differently over time.  The author offers explanations that account for shifting international norms in three categories of armed intervention.

Central Argument:


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About the author: Martha Finnemore is University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her research focuses on global governance, international organizations, ethics, and social theory.  She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been a visiting research fellow at the Brookings Institution and Stanford University, and has received fellowships or grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the United States Institute of Peace.