Focusing on the 1992-1994 US-led intervention in Somalia, the objective of this article is to explore three interrelated phenomena that the story of the Somali intervention reveals. The first is that ideas matter and can explain state behaviour. Secondly, in the absence of complementary material interests, a commitment to ideational concerns can prove to be unsustainable when human and economic costs begins to rise as occurred in 1993. Thirdly, the international and domestic norm prescribing intervention functions in direct opposition to the domestic norm of force protections and understanding the interplay of these two norms is crucial if we are to comprehend the possibilities for humanitarian intervention.
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