Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type



Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. michael D. Kanner


The emergence of the United States as the world’s sole hegemon at the end of the Cold War is a much-studied phenomenon, as is the rise of the “humanitarian intervention” after the fall of the Soviet Union. History shows the emergence of the United States as a leader in humanitarian interventions; however, research is lacking in determining what factors the United States uses in the decision process of if and when to intervene in various humanitarian crises. My paper seeks to fill that void, using case study analysis of the paired comparisons of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, and Somalia and Rwanda, as well as critical analysis of various presidential speeches and State Department correspondence to ask whether 1) the fear of precedence, 2) state sovereignty, and 3) political self interests play a role in the decision process, and the respective weight each factor carries. My findings were that precedence, state sovereignty, and political self interest do in fact weigh heavily in the decision process; furthermore, my findings suggest that political self interests represent a proverbial “trump card” in the decision process, with the most importance placed on this one factor. With these findings, I conclude that the term “humanitarian” intervention is misleading in US foreign policy, as there seems to be no weight placed on the morality of an intervention but rather how intervention can help the United States.