Theoretical Applications on Why Bill Clinton Decided to Send Troops to the Balkans Term Paper

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Theoretical Applications on why Bill Clinton decided to send troops to the Balkans.

As with any intellectual endeavor, theoretical assumptions and discussions in International Relations, mean little if they have no connection to actual events. Thus the true test of any theory purporting to describe the conditions and dynamics of the relations among nations, is how well it can explain the behavior of actors operating in the global political arena. It is therefore important to examine and interpret important international events within the framework of different theories. It is only through this process that we can better understand the event itself, as well as the theory which claims to explain it. One of the more important events in the last twenty years has been the military intervention in Kosovo by the United States in 1999. The question of why President Bill Clinton ordered the deployment of military forces in the region is not easy to answer, especially if one seeks to go beyond the rhetoric and simplistic political commentary presented in the mainstream news. Given that, this essay will critically asses the decision to go to war in the Balkans from both a classical realist, and a constructivist theoretical perspective.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Theoretical Applications on Why Bill Clinton Decided to Send Troops to the Balkans Assignment

Interpreting the war in Kosovo from a theoretical perspective requires one to first set out the parameters of that perspective in broad strokes. Every theory makes certain assumptions about what motivates actors on the world stage to do whatever it is that they do. Chief among the concerns is usually why states enter into armed conflict with one another and engage in what is essentially the systematic killing of human beings for a political objective. The classical realist perspective, as outlined by thinkers such as Hans Morgenthau, suggested that at its core, human nature is what causes war. States seek to maximize power on the global arena, so as to have the freedom to pursue their interests, just as human beings seek to maximize their power within society so as to have a similar freedom. In society however, human beings are bounded by enforceable laws which ultimately limit what they can do to gain power. Internationally though, there is no enforceable law which prevents states from acting in certain ways, therefore creating a situation of international anarchy. According to the realist perspective, all leaders, regardless of their personal traits or qualities, will more or less act to pursue their interests without regard to moral or ideological considerations (Morgenthau 1978, 112). According to realism then, President Clinton did not intervene in Kosovo due to any humanitarian concerns, but rather because of national interest and the pursuit of power. This seems plausible, especially if we consider the interests of the United States at the time, and how intervening in Kosovo helped protect them.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has engaged in a policy of spreading and facilitating cultural and economic globalization all over the world. Given its comparative advantage in many areas of business, the United States benefited tremendously as countries liberalized their economies and allowed open trade and commerce. U.S. based multinational corporations were able to spread all over the world. The continued growth of these companies, has been perceived as being crucial to the economic prosperity of the Untied States. Economic prosperity is closely related to military power, because it is what facilitates expenditures which give a military its size, capabilities, and technological edge. Thus the power of the United States is tied to its economic output. In order for multinationals and even smaller companies to invest overseas and thereby increase their profits, they must be able to invest in relatively stable regions. Further, the more stable the world is, the better it is for business in general, because money, goods, and labor can flow freely to areas where they are in most demand. Thus after the Cold War, where no sole ideological competitor exists, the interest of the United States lies simply in promoting international stability and globalization. In that sense, the European Union, while not necessarily appearing to be a very "realist" endeavor, actually serves the interests of the U.S. because it facilitates free trade and commerce.

Slobodan Milosevich's campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo created instability in the heart of Europe, and this presented a direct threat to the interests of the United States as outlined above. Humanitarian considerations were negligible, and this is easily demonstrated. For example, the Dayton Peace Accords signed in 1995, made an explicit deal with Milosevich to end the conflict in the region (Bacevich and Eliot 2001, 128). This left a man that was later tried as a war criminal in power, precisely because the interests of the United States were better served by keeping him in power at the time. If humanitarian or moral concerns were paramount, as it was presented in the media, then this would not have occurred. Furthermore, the actual air campaign led by the United States and implemented under NATO, did little to halt the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. In fact, many argue that it actually made things worse. A real humanitarian intervention would have likely called for ground troops to physically protect the vulnerable populations from Serb attacks. We know that from the beginning this was "off the table," and thus we can infer that the aim was never explicitly to protect the civilian population but to create a political settlement by giving Milosevich no option but to negotiate and withdraw Serbian forces. By the time he finally did so, an estimated 10,000 Kosovars had already been killed, and 1.4 million had been displaced (Bacevich and Eliot 2001, 131). His campaign of ethnic cleansing was therefore somewhat successful. What we see then is that the political pressure to do something and the interest of the United States to promote stability is what actually caused Bill Clinton to intervene in 1999. All of these things are generally in line with realist theoretical perspective of pursuing national interests.

However, it is important to consider that realism does not explain everything about the conflict, and in fact there are some glaring problems with the whole realist perspective in general that make it difficult to fully apply in this case. For example, the United States might have had its interests served better by merely allowing Milosevich to carry out his plan in the Balkans and actually supporting him politically and militarily. Yugoslavia was a rather stable and prosperous state under the former leadership of the dictator Tito. In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, and the death of Tito, ethnic rivalries that were once buried bubbled to the surface. Milosevich saw himself as a successor to Tito and many have argued that his aims were to hold the country together at all costs (Sell 2003, 95). By supporting him as the "strong man" of the country, the U.S. could have maintained its interests in maintaining stability in Europe, without committing itself to a military adventure. Considering that war is an expensive and risky undertaking, which realists see as something that should be avoided, the theory fails to explain why Clinton not only pursued national interests, but also took at least some humanitarian and international law issues into account. It is here that constructivism could offer some important insights, because it assumes that "anarchy is what states make of it," that the international system does not automatically force states and their leaders to act in specific ways, or to automatically pursue power defined as interest and eschew everything else as meaningless (Wendt 1992, 393).

Constructivsm, as originally presented by thinkers such as Alexander Wendt, assumes that international political order is socially constructed. We are bound to certain courses of action in international affairs, only due to our previous experiences, cultural bias, and deliberate choices. Unlike realism, or even liberalism, constructvism does not see things as static, or based on inherent principles and axioms. Instead, the system as it stands is a result of certain historically contingent conditions, conditions that can change over time if people decide that is what they want to do. Yet within that very dynamic theoretical perspective, there is also the understanding that states will likely follow the course of action most familiar to them, within the more dominant paradigm or framework at the time. Realism has tended to dominate the intellectual climate of International Relations theory in the United States, it makes sense then that policy measures would reflect that. Essentially, if top foreign policy figures and national security advisors in the country have a strong realist background, then according to constructivism, it is likely that their recommendations will reflect a realist view of the world. Yet because policy measures are not dictated by external forces as they are in realism, there is still the option of making different choices. Additionally, as more choices are made in different directions, and the socially constructed international order changes as a result, new norms of behavior and acceptable foreign policy outcomes are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Theoretical Applications on Why Bill Clinton Decided to Send Troops to the Balkans."  April 9, 2010.  Accessed May 31, 2020.