Rwanda Reconsidered: A Study of Norm Violation

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Glanville, Luke
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2006
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Abstract

Norm violation should be of particular interest to constructivists since it can reveal more clearly the nature of the interplay between norms and self-interest. Cases where humanitarian intervention fails to occur, for example, can expose the nuanced relationship between humanitarian norms and the material and strategic self-interests of states. We should not ignore these cases but engage with them. They could reveal traces of norms in spite of their violation. The response of the international community to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 is such an example. This tragic case study provides us with rich insights into the strength and nature of the norm prescribing intervention. For reasons of space, this paper will consider only the response of the United States to the genocide. The US is by no means an ordinary state, if there is such a thing, and so any conclusions will not necessarily apply to others. Nevertheless, as global hegemon, the US is enormously influential. As Kegley and Raymond (2004:41) suggest, “When the reigning hegemon promotes a new set of norms, the code of conduct changes for virtually everyone. What the strongest do eventually defines what everybody should do, and when that practice becomes common, it tends to take on an aura of obligation”.

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Journal of Contemporary African Studies

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24

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2

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International Relations

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