Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jennifer M. Ramos's "Changing Norms through Actions"

Jennifer M. Ramos is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University. Her research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of political change, with an emphasis on the role of ideas, norms, and identity. In addition, she specializes in US public opinion and foreign policy. Her current research interests include religion and foreign policy preferences, drone warfare, and the preventive use of force.

Ramos applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Changing Norms through Actions: The Evolution of Sovereignty, and reported the following:
What happens when international norms collide? This is the question I began with for this book. I find it particularly interesting as applied to situations in which the international community had to choose between two competing values that dictate proper state behavior —an inherently difficult decision precisely because the choice is between things that we value. My interest is in the effects of that decision (and its related action) on the normative environment within which states act. Does the “chosen” norm remain at the top of the hierarchy, or does it depend on how well the intervention goes?

I examine these queries in the context of state sovereignty and its challengers. For a long time, state leaders have held state sovereignty as an inviolable norm—a core belief that a state has the right to conduct its internal and external matters as it sees fit. Yet, now we see the rise of other international norms that do not easily coexist with such an idea. Human rights norms are a common example of this.

In order to see the effects of intervention on the normative environment (if any), I compare state discourse before and after an international intervention. On page 99 of my book, which occurs within the human rights chapter, I review China’s international stance on human rights relative to state sovereignty prior to the first international humanitarian intervention in Somalia (1991-1995). My expectation is that, given China’s own culpability regarding human rights as well as its non-participation in the UN mission in Somalia, China will not likely be swayed from its core belief that state sovereignty trumps human rights. Not surprisingly, the evidence confirms this proposition.

Yet, China serves as an important baseline for comparison for states, such as the UK and the US, which did intervene in Somalia. Counter to rational choice expectations, these states more strongly reinforced human rights norms during and after the intervention than did other major non-intervening states such as China—even despite its cost and lack of success. Ironically, there may actually be a silver lining in a failed humanitarian mission.

My book, however, extends beyond human rights and investigates two other areas that challenge—collide with—state sovereignty. These include counterterrorism norms and norms regarding weapons of mass destruction. In addition to replicating the counterintuitive results in the human rights chapter, they also point to the importance of the legitimacy of an intervention for norm evolution to occur.
Learn more about Changing Norms through Actions at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue