Social Cues by International Organizations: NATO, the Security Council, and Public Support for Humanitarian Intervention
45 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2021
Date Written: October 4, 2019
This article advances a new theory to explain which international organizations (IOs) affect mass support for war and why. It argues that IOs, depending on the political identities they represent, influence citizens by sending social cues about whether military intervention is normatively appropriate and will be viewed by peer countries in a positive light. Applied to the case of humanitarian intervention, the argument implies that NATO vis-à-vis its liberal identity has a powerful effect on the citizens of democracies, the primary participants of these human rights operations. Original evidence from five survey experiments conducted in the United States and Japan, validated by observational data, support the social cue argument. NATO and the liberal community raises domestic and foreign support for intervention by sending social cues, and this effect exist independently of the UN Security Council, an IO that is heterogeneous, conservative, an “elite pact,” and has the authority to legalize war. The evidence also rules out alternative explanations about burden sharing, political ignorance, NATO’s military strength, NATO’s representation of a western rather than democratic identity, and the U.S.’s unique role in the liberal order. The theory and findings give a new answer the age-old question of why international institutions can legitimize foreign policy, and contributes more broadly to debates about norms and social identity in international politics.
Keywords: International organizations, Public Opinion, NATO, UNSC, Humanitarian Intervention, Political Communities, Survey Experiments
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