An assessment of humanitarian intervention based on case studies by thematic analysis of debates on Libya and Syria in the British House of Commons, 2010-2014

PhD Thesis


Lewis, A. (2021). An assessment of humanitarian intervention based on case studies by thematic analysis of debates on Libya and Syria in the British House of Commons, 2010-2014. PhD Thesis https://doi.org/10.18744/lsbu.8xq35
AuthorsLewis, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

The objective of this thesis was to address the problem of the contradiction between the putative aims of humanitarian intervention and the harmful outcomes seen in intervention sites such as Libya (Hobson, 2016, Sensini, 2016, Cunliffe, 2020). The thesis contributes to knowledge by providing empirical evidence and contextual analysis of serious flaws in the contemporary theory and practise of humanitarian intervention, including the responsibility to protect (R2P) doctrine (International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, 2001).
Case studies of parliamentary debates on Libya and Syria from 2010 to 2014 permitted examination of arguments around intervention in the context of political debate and reported outcomes of intervention or non-intervention. From 2011, the British government supported coerced regime change in both countries on humanitarian grounds, but adopted different strategies in each case.1 Analysis of differences between British responses to Libya and Syria provided evidence of limited humanitarian motivation for intervention.2 Thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998) was chosen as a pragmatic method (Morgan, 2014) for identifying themes in the debates, assessing their relative predominance, tracking them over time, and analysing them in context.
The case studies identified weaknesses in the R2P doctrine which suggest that it may be inherently counter-productive (Cunliffe, 2020), possibly due to problematisation of how to do more, rather than better, humanitarian intervention. The evidence indicates that the USA, France and Britain, the states most likely to be tasked with humanitarian military intervention, particularly under the R2P doctrine (Cunliffe, 2020), are not suitable for the role (Dunford and Neu, 2019a). This thesis did not identify a suitable and capable R2P intervention force. However, the evidence was insufficient to support a conclusion that R2P is defunct.
The military intervention in Libya in 2011 was initially praised as an exemplar of the R2P in practise (Evans, 2011, Ban, 2012). Paradoxically, with the lessons of Western dissimulation and inhumane outcomes that emerged in Libya, and are evidenced in this thesis, informing Security Council decisions (United Nations Security Council, 2011a), R2P as amended by the General Assembly (United Nations General Assembly, 2005) may survive as a restraint against abusive humanitarian intervention.

Year2021
PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.18744/lsbu.8xq35
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Publication dates
Online19 Jul 2021
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Deposited23 Aug 2021
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Aran Lewis PhD thesis final 2021-08.pdf
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Appendix I - Theme and difference rankings for all years.xlsx
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Appendix II - Theme rankings per parliamentary year.xlsx
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Appendix III - Libya debates coded with theme labels.xlsx
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Appendix IV - Syria debates coded with theme labels.xlsx
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Appendix V - Theme codes with index.xlsx
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