Realpolitik and humanitarian intervention: The case of Somalia

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24 Scopus citations


This article examines factors that motivate major powers to participate in humanitarian interventions, with a case study of US intervention in Somalia during the period 1992-93. Two potential explanations are assessed: First, the article considers the conventional perspective that the United States intervention was guided by humanitarian considerations, particularly a desire to attenuate effects of famine, war, and political disorder in Somalia. Second, US intervention may have reflected realpolitik considerations, e.g. maintaining control over traditional spheres of influence for reasons of national power and prestige, as well as gaining access to potential oil supplies. While altruistic concerns may have had some influence on US conduct, this study finds that humanitarianism was (at best) mixed with considerations of national interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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