The Role of Norms in American International Authorization Requests

40 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2014

See all articles by Clayton J. Cleveland

Clayton J. Cleveland

Political Science, University of Minnesota Duluth

Date Written: 2014


Why does the United States operate outside international organizations when projecting military force in some instances but request international authorization for others? I compare three cases that exhibit variation in their outcomes: Operation Desert Fox (1998), the Iraq War (2003), and Libya (2011). I assess the competing explanations for these different decisions. I find that the U.S. decision makers sought to conform to the normative standard of international authorization but only sought international authorization when they thought they could secure the sanction from an IO. This explanation is compared to explanations which emphasize the role of the informational properties of UN Security Council decisions and spreading the costs of military force. This research makes a theoretical contribution by demonstrating how state leaders behave under circumstances where they do not expect to secure international authorization. This is demonstrated in the empirical cases which present a strong test for the influence of international norms on the decision making of states.

Keywords: Military Intervention; International Organizations, International Authorization, United Nations Security Council, United States, Foreign Policy

Suggested Citation

Cleveland, Clayton J., The Role of Norms in American International Authorization Requests (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Clayton J. Cleveland (Contact Author)

Political Science, University of Minnesota Duluth ( email )

United States

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