The Realists against intervention. Arguments, deliberation and foreign policy

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Since the end of the Cold War, the problem of military intervention has been at the heart of major debates and decisions (or non-decisions) in the majority of occidental countries, namely with regards to Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Zaire, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. A multiplicity of debates have formed around what citizens and political and military leaders have the right to expect from these interventions, on their motivations, on the relation between the hypothetical benefits and the imposed costs (in people and resources), and on the exact identity of the supposed beneficiaries. In order for a public action to be conceivable, the situation must be perceived as the result of human actions, and that it could be plausibly changed by human intervention. Along the development of this process, the actors resort to causal explanations using arguments which describe the situation, relate it to specific causes and then propose measures for its resolution. The objective of this article is to identify the realist paradigm, one of the classic frameworks frequently used to analyse confrontations over intervention and non-intervention, which remains a principal lens for research in the study of international relations. After defining the notion of intervention, we will review the main arguments developed by Albert Hirschman in Two Centuries of Reactionary Rhetoric (Deux siècles de rhétorique réactionnaire) in order to identify a framework for interpreting multiple types of public actions. Next we will demonstrate how the Realists have used the arguments of perversity, uselessness, and imposed danger with regards to interventions between the thirties and 1990. – Summary AFRI-2001