UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Humanitarian intervention and rhetorical paralysis : sources and effects of moral rhetoric in the UN Security Council Slota-Newson, Sam


This thesis investigates the causes and effects of moral rhetoric on the Security Council’s ability to respond to humanitarian crises. It identifies that Absolutist Moral Rhetorical Positioning (AMRP) can stem from cosmopolitan norms, reputational costs, and the structure and norms of the UN itself. When addressing humanitarian crises, these sources lead states to cross from argumentation into justification, which obscures deliberation and obstructs pragmatic outcomes. The effects of AMRP, evident in individual cases and the trajectory of intervention, are explored through analysis of Kosovo, Libya and Syria. AMRP manifests most notably through moral hazard, mission creep and Security Council deadlock; ultimately the effects are seen in the Security Council’s inconsistent responses, and consistent inability to find the most effective solution, when confronted by humanitarian crises.

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