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“Cherry-Picked” Humanitarian Interventions: A Complexity Approach to Explaining Libya 2011 . By Sarah Wilbanks Senior Thesis, International Relations Brown University, 2012 . Research Puzzle. Long history of selectivity in military humanitarian interventions Libya intervention

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cherry picked humanitarian interventions a complexity approach to explaining libya 2011

“Cherry-Picked” Humanitarian Interventions:A Complexity Approach to Explaining Libya 2011

By Sarah Wilbanks

Senior Thesis, International Relations

Brown University, 2012

research puzzle
Research Puzzle
  • Long history of selectivity in military humanitarian interventions
  • Libya intervention
    • Resolution 1973 passed one month after the outbreak of violence
    • Why Libya and not Rwanda, Darfur, DRC, Syria?
research question
Research Question

Given the selectivity of military humanitarian interventions in the post-Cold War era, what explains the swift and multilateral intervention in Libya in March 2011?

my argument
My Argument

A comprehensive and realistic understanding of why the international community intervened in Libya in 2011 can only be obtained through the adoption of a complexity approach to the study of international politics.

what is a complexity
What is a complexity?
  • “An interdisciplinary field of research that seeks to explain how large numbers of relatively simple entities organize themselves without the benefit of any central controller into a collective whole that creates patterns, uses information, and in some cases, evolves and learns.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour
  • Examines the humanitarian intervention in Libya as a complex system made up of intertwined actors and components that interact, respond to, and evolve with one another and their environment
  • Complex system characteristics:
    • Self-organization
    • Non-linearity
    • Emergence

Source: R. Lewin, Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos (New York, NY: MacMillan Publishing Company), 1992.

research design
Research Design
  • Methods:
    • Single case study approach
    • Process tracing/Counterfactual analysis
  • John Holland’s framework of complexity:
    • Focuses on the interactions, adaptations, evolution, and emergences of system components
    • Describes the processes of the complex system
findings
Findings
  • 4 emergences of unique international orders
    • Significantly narrowed the path of available options, and drove the international community towards a military intervention
    • International order = behavior, norms, structures
  • 5 essential system variables
    • Catalyzed emergences
the international community s path to military intervention in libya 2011
The International Community’s Path to Military Intervention in Libya 2011

Adapted from: Jörg Sydow, Georg Schreyögg, and Jochen Koch. “Organizational Path Dependence: Opening the Black Box,” Academy of Management Review 34, no. 4 (2009): 689-709, 692.

implications and future research
Implications and Future Research
  • Implications
    • Can help actors realize the most

efficient path of action for the situation

at hand

    • Future research must incorporate factors and actor interactions outside of conventional theories
  • Future Research
    • Cross-case comparison
      • May reveal patterns prevalent throughout previous interventions