Research Portfolio Post #4: Article Comparison

Both neo-positivist sources are situated within the same conceptual grouping analyzing social norms as the primary factor in intervention, though both acknowledge that norms interact with interests/strategic concerns. Even in considering this however, these sources do not apply cognitive/decision-making lenses on intervention, but rather concentrate mostly on social norms. Both sources also look at the Right to Protect in similar and complimentary ways. Bellamy observes through small-n cases the salience and appropriations of R2P as a norm and observes the role/status of norm-carriers like the US and UK.[1] Bellamy interestingly notes the states’ need to invoke established normative framings of human rights to justify even legal wars. The most important contribution from this source extends beyond its observation of the diminishing status norm-carriers and highlights the subjectivity of the threshold for transfer of the R2P from the host state to the international community as well as the observation of the contradictory invocations of R2P to argue in support and against intervention. Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino’s article expands on this by acknowledging the diversity of ways states engage with the norm through different types of “feedback”. The sources’ methodology “summaries governmental positions on R2P, as expressed at 2012 UN Interactive Dialogue on R2P and in a few other UN discussions as well as the voting of Security Council members during the Libyan and Syrian crises” which is then used to articulate states’ postures vis-à-vis the R2P norm into either “rejection”, “hard feedback”, “soft feedback”, and “endorsement”.[3] The point of the source is to understand the relationship between state’s interests and international norms by looking at how those most affected by the norm (high-salience states) respond versus those that are low-salience.

I use the readings for key theories/definitions within the same school of thought of social norms and for insights into the logic of case selection/size for my research. Though both case-sizes mostly retain the same ontological assumptions, they produce different data types whereby large-n illustrates generalized patterns of probabilistic/causal inference and small-n allows for greater scrutiny of the necessary and sufficient conditions of variables and their elaboration/explanations. These sources prompt the study of feedback to norms, but topically consider cognitive/decision-making lenses – a possible site for exploration in my research. This literatures also informs my understanding of the conversation and provokes further questions concerning how states seek to mobilize/diffuse norms of intervention besides investigating norms as one of other explanatory variables behind intervention decisions.

[1] Bellamy, Alex J. “Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq.” Ethics & International Affairs19, no. 2 (2005): 31–54.

[2] Negrón-Gonzales, Melinda, and Michael Contarino. “Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations20, no. 2 (2014): 255–76.

[3] Negrón-Gonzales, Melinda, and Michael Contarino. “Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations20, no. 2 (2014): 261.

3 thoughts to “Research Portfolio Post #4: Article Comparison”

  1. Mohammad, your discussion of small-n studies researching normative framings of R2P was very interesting. I had to read the post a couple of times, actually, as my presupposition of the word “normative” automatically being disassociated with neo-positivism led me astray the first time I read the post. I am particularly interested with the delineation between UN definitions of “soft feedback” and “endorsement” and how that may play out in your paper. I do wonder though- are there any perspectives presented laying out a context-oriented view of state intervention? Will you choose to use the traditional three schools of IR thought in your paper, or are there more specific (or entirely completely different) groupings you anticipate using?

    1. Right now, I’m not sure as to whether or not I will use the same definitions/methodology as Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino (though that remains a possibility) or whether I would identify the need to modify/adopt new categories for whatever reason as I continue to review existing literature. To answer your question about soft feedback versus endorsement without regurgitating the entirety of the article, endorsement generally refers to the acceptance of the norm. Here, a state would plainly “agree” with the R2P norm rather than contest it. From here, the authors look at things such as misapplication (which is not a contestation and sometimes actually reinforces the legitimacy of the norm) as well as localization (adaption of global norms to local ones). These two components sit awkwardly from the other categories which are endorsement, soft and hard feedbacks, and rejection. Soft feedback differs from endorsement in that states may support R2P but may express reservations/skepticism which may lead to the adoption of other safeguards against intervention for instance. These categories are helpful but the placement of states in those categories is difficult/complex (states approach a plethora of the cases differently like Russia did to Syria versus Libya, and because there is no clear criteria that states votes for/against as well as abstentions immediately situate the state within a category). In this respect, an application of these categories to a case necessitates in-depth understanding of how the states operated in a specific time and place and then an evaluation of how these categories intersect with interest to control for whether or not these states acted the way they did due to norms. It’s pretty complex! As for interpretivist considerations, I think questions could consider the language of texts and how they may permit for diverse interpretations and subsequent norm reactions. Alternatives could also look at how UNSC/Arab League/African Union speeches in a particular intervention case may refer to a particular pattern of symbols/images/etc that reveal a discursive structure of meaning. Finally, I’m not sure that I would use the conceptual groupings of liberalism, realism, and constructivism the way they are as the first two in particular may pertain more to political conceptions of actor behavior rather than explanatory variables, though new categories may resemble their assumptions. To put that in less crude phrasing, conceptual groupings such as social norms, interests, and “psychological” decision-making (for lack of more precise language) may refer to some of the orthodox schools of thoughts’ arguments but introduce them as explanations similar to the Weyland article.

  2. Overall you have a good post here, Mohammad, and your discussion with Price is also very good in terms of thinking about how you are reading and evaluating the literature and thinking about connecting it to your own project. The articles that you discuss here are clearly relevant to your research and you’ve done a good job in identifying the main claims in each. A bit more depth in citing specific methodological elements of each article would deepen the discussion. Overall, though, a good job here–this will provide a good foundation for your continuing research.

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