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Sordid aggression or humanitarian intervention? : why the Kosovo intervention divided so many international relations and international legal scholars Richmond, Sean

Abstract

This study examines the scholarly debate over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) military action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 with a view to better understanding why it generated such intellectual polarization and fundamental disagreements amongst international relations and international legal scholars. Employing a method of comparative literature review, this investigation focuses on constructivist, neo-Marxist, liberal, and international legal accounts of the Kosovo intervention. It finds that the Kosovo intervention proved divisive because it speaks to substantive differences in the meta-views of scholars regarding the source and nature of legitimacy, sovereignty, and hegemony, and the values they ascribe to the international community. Many of the disagreements depend on whether a scholar prioritizes freedom and justice or equality and fairness and whether they emphasize the natural and universal moral foundations of international law and legitimacy or base these foundations more procedurally on state consent and sovereign equality. Finally, scholarly disagreement about the Kosovo intervention stems from differing views on the existence and desirability of larger global trends - such as "imperial sovereignty" and "Empire" - post- Cold War. As this study aims to have policy-level and theoretical relevance, the implications for both elements are briefly considered in the conclusion.

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