Advertisement

Resilience of the Humanitarian Narrative in US Foreign Policy

  • Noora Kotilainen
Chapter

Abstract

In the post-Cold War era, interventionist foreign policy legitimized by humanitarian narratives became a central feature of the US-led liberal international order (LIO). This chapter derives from critical discipline in the study of international humanitarian politics and identifies political utilization of humanitarian reason as a central practice legitimizing the liberal order. Currently the LIO is frequently presented as contested by trajectory represented in front by President Trump’s protectionist “America First” policy, seen to mark a break from the liberal humanitarian order and leading to America abandoning the role of “leader of the liberal world.” The chapter evaluates the contemporary persistence of the humanitarian narrative frame in legitimizing foreign US policy. Trump’s resorting to the humanitarian frame is analyzed by means of narrative and rhetorical framing analysis, in two empirical cases. First, humanitarian framing in Trump’s National Security Strategy (NSS) is compared with the wording of the Obama administrations’ NSS. Secondly, the legitimization of the 2017 US airstrike to Syria and the 2013 planned intervention to Syria are compared on a narrative level. The inquiry indicates resilience and flexibility of the legitimizing humanitarian frame within recent US foreign policy. Nevertheless, the investigation shows alterations: reframing of the humanitarian subject and modification toward a more exclusive definition of protectable life.

Keywords

The United States Humanitarianism Foreign policy 

References

  1. Aaltola, Mika. 2009. Western Spectacle of Governance and the Emergence of Humanitarian World Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almukhtar, Sarah. 2018. Most Chemical Attacks in Syria Get Little Attention. Here Are 34 Confirmed Cases. The New York Times, April 13. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/13/world/middleeast/syria-chemical-attacks-maps-history.html.
  3. Allison, Graham. 2018. The Myth of the Liberal Order: From Historical Accident to Conventional Wisdom. Foreign Affairs 97 (4): 124–133.Google Scholar
  4. Barnett, Michael. 2011. Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Belloni, Roberto. 2007. The Trouble with Humanitarianism. Review of International Studies 1 (33): 451–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bentley, Michelle. 2017. The Intervention Taboo(s): Strategy and Normative Invalidation. Review of International Studies 43 (3): 557–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chandler, David. 2006 (2002). From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention. London: Pluto Books.Google Scholar
  8. Chouliaraki, Lillie. 2013. The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-Humanitarianism. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  9. Cordesman, Anthony. 2017. Giving the New National Security Strategy the Attention It Deserves. Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 21.Google Scholar
  10. D’Angelo, Paul, and Jim A. Kuypers, eds. 2010. Doing News Framing Analysis: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Douzinas, Costas. 2007. The Many Faces of Humanitarianism. Parrhesia 2: 1–28.Google Scholar
  12. Duffield, Mark. 2007. Development, Security and Unending War. Governing the World of Peoples. London: Polity.Google Scholar
  13. Duncombe, Constance, and Tim Dunne. 2018a. After Liberal World Order. International Affairs 94 (1): 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. ———. 2018b. Humanitarianism and the Crisis of the Liberal World Order. International Affairs 17: 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fassin, Didier. 2011. Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. The End of History? The National Interest Summer, 1–18.Google Scholar
  17. Garcia Encina, Carlota. 2018 The Trump Administration’s National Security Strategy. Elcano Royal Institute, Working Paper 14/2018 – 13/7/2018: http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/wcm/connect/25d788de-9e45-4c6d-acb6-d4e98f89845c/WP14-2018-GarciaEncina-Trump-Administration-National-Security-Strategy.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=25d788de-9e45-4c6d-acb6-d4e98f89845c
  18. Garfinkle, Adam. 2017. Parsing the Liberal International Order. The American Interest, October 27.Google Scholar
  19. Gordon, Michael, Helene Cooper, and Michael Shear. 2017. Dozens of U.S. Missiles Hit Air Base in Syria. The New York Times, April 6. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/us-said-to-weigh-military-responses-to-syrian-chemical-attack.html.
  20. Hunt, Krista. 2002. The Strategic Co-Optation of Women’s Rights. International Feminist Journal of Politics 4 (1): 116–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ikenberry, G. John. 2012. Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ikenberry, G. John. 2018. The End of Liberal International Order? International Affairs 94 (1): 7–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ikenberry, G. John. 2017. The Plot Against American Foreign Policy: Can the Liberal Order Survive? Foreign Affairs, May/June. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-04-17/plot-against-american-foreign-policy.
  24. Jahn, Beate. 2018. Liberal Internationalism: Historical Trajectory and Current Prospects. International Affairs 94 (1): 43–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kagan, Robert. 2018. The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our imperiled World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, Joeng Hee. 2016. Understanding Narrative Inquiry: The Crafting and Analysis of Stories as Research, 2016. Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Kotilainen, Noora. 2016. Visual Theaters of Suffering. Constituting the Western Spectator in the Age of Humanitarian World Politics. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences Publications 31.Google Scholar
  28. Kuypers, Jim. 2010. Framing Analysis from Rhetorical Perspective. In Doing News Framing Analysis. Empirical and Theoretic Perspectives, ed. P. D’Angelo and J. Kuypers, 286–311. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. McCormack, Killian, and Emily Gilbert. 2018. Spaces at the Intersections of Militarism and Humanitarianism. Critical Military Studies 4 (2): 97–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Security Reports Overview. 2018. National Security Strategy Archive. http://nssarchive.us/national-security-strategy-reports-overview/.
  31. National Security Strategy of the United States. December, 2017. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.
  32. Nikunen, Kaarina. 2019. Media Solidarities: Emotions, Power and Justice in the Digital Age. London: Polity.Google Scholar
  33. Nye, Joseph S. 2017. Will the Liberal Order Survive? The History of an Idea. Foreign Policy, Jan./Feb. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/will-liberal-order-survive.
  34. Obama Lines Up Key Support in Congress for Syria Attack. 2013. Los Angeles Times, September 3.Google Scholar
  35. Obama’s Shocking Case for Attacking Syria: Gruesome Series of Videos Taken in Aftermath of Gas Attacks that White House is Using in Closed-Door Briefings to Persuade Lawmakers to Back US Strikes. 2013. Daily Mail, September 7. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415192/Obamas-shocking-case-striking-Syria-Gruesome-series-videos-taken-aftermath-gas-attacks-White-House-using-persuade-Senators-Congressmen-US-air-strikes.html.
  36. Parmar, Inderjeet. 2018. The US-led Liberal Order: Imperialism by Another Name? International Affairs 94 (1): 151–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pierce, Roger. 2008. Understanding and Adopting Discourse and Narrative Analysis. In Research Methods in Politics, ed. P. Roger. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. President Donald J. Trump’s Address to the Nation on the Crisis at Border. The White House, January 8, 2019. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-address-nation-crisis-border/.
  39. Reid, Julian, and Michael Dillon. 2009. The Liberal Way of War: Killing to Make Life Live. Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Reid-Henry, Simon. 2014. Humanitarianism as Liberal Diagnostic: Humanitarian Reason and the Political Rationalities of the Liberal Will-to-Care. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39(3): 418–431. https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/tran.12029.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Syria. 2013. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, September 10. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/10/remarks-president-address-nation-syria.
  42. Remarks by the President to the White House Press Corps. 2013. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, August 20. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/20/remarks-president-white-house-press-corps.
  43. Rothkopf, David. 2009. Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.Google Scholar
  44. Sliwinski, Sharon. 2011. Human Rights in Camera. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Speck, Ulrich. 2016. The Crisis of Liberal Order. The American Interest, September 12.Google Scholar
  46. Staniland, Paul. 2018. Misreading the ‘Liberal Order’: Why We Need New Thinking in American Foreign Policy. Lawfare, July 29. https://www.lawfareblog.com/misreading-liberal-order-why-we-need-new-thinking-american-foreign-policy.
  47. Statement by the President on Syria. 2013. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, August, 31. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria.
  48. Stokes, Doug. 2018. Trump, American Hegemony and the Future of the Liberal International Order. International Affairs 94 (1): 133–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Syria Crisis: Obama Wins Backing for Military Strike. 2013. BBC News, September 11. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-24043751.
  50. Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. 2013. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, August 31. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/text-letter-president-speaker-house-representatives-president-senate-31/.
  51. The Trouble with Trump’s New National Security Strategy. 2017. The Economist, December 19. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2017/12/19/the-trouble-with-trumps-new-national-security-strategy.
  52. Tictin, Miriam. 2011. Causalities of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Timeline of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Activity, 2012–2018. 2018. Arms Control Association, November. https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Timeline-of-Syrian-Chemical-Weapons-Activity.
  54. Transcript and Video: Trump Speaks About Strikes in Syria. 2017. The New York Times, April 6. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/transcript-video-trump-airstrikes-syria.html.
  55. Vick, Brian. 2018. Power, Humanitarianism and the Global Liberal Order: Abolition and the Barbary Corsairs in the Vienna Congress System. The International History Review 40 (4): 939–960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Weber, Cynthia. 2010. International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Wolf, Martin. 2018. Davos, 2018: The Liberal International Order is Sick. Financial Times, January 23. https://www.ft.com/content/c45acec8-fd35-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noora Kotilainen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations