Population protection in the 1990s : managing risk in the new security environment
Throughout the 1990s, Western states, either as part of a UN force, a multinational coalition under UN authority, or a coalition of states operating without UN approval, intervened militarily in intrastate conflicts, ostensibly to protect endangered non-combatants. In spite of their military superiority and vast resources, the Western interveners were largely unsuccessful at providing protection to the populations. This thesis seeks to explain why Western states intervened in humanitarian crises throughout the 1990s in a way that failed to protect populations. Using the protection interventions in northern Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo as case studies, this thesis demonstrates that the interveners prioritised the protection of their self-interests over the protection of the endangered populations. As a result, and in spite of their humanitarian rhetoric, Western interveners protected populations only when doing so coincided with the pursuit of their self-interests. Furthermore, this thesis argues that by utilising concepts from risk theory, it is possible to reconcile the willingness of Western states to intervene in humanitarian crises with their refusal to provide adequate protection to vulnerable civilian populations. Rather than viewing these inadequate protection interventions as anomalous occurrences that defy an overarching explanatory framework, it argues that they were the logical results of the West's post-Cold War "risk" perspective. By applying key concepts derived largely from Ulrich Beck's sociological conception of a Risk Society to the population protection interventions of the 1990s, this thesis develops an explanatory framework for understanding the complex and seemingly counterproductive strategies employed by Western states. The thesis concludes that Western states were acting as risk societies and approached the interventions of the 1990s as exercises in "risk management" in which the costs required to protect populations were deemed to be disproportionately high when compared to the risks posed to Western self-interests.