Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Political, Economic, and Social Consequences of Foreign Military Intervention

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Political, Economic, and Social Consequences of Foreign Military Intervention

Article excerpt

Foreign military intervention is one of the most common types of interstate military force used over recent decades. As war's costliness increases and the efficacy of economic sanctions and other foreign policy tools is increasingly questioned, it may become even more prevalent. Unfortunately, the field of international relations has little systematic understanding of the types of impacts such military ventures can have on target states in the developing world. In PCSE AR1 regressions of 106 developing countries from 1960 to 2002, we find that large scale foreign military interventions, which have over 1000 intervening troops, do not leave a significant imprint on governing institutions, economic growth rates, or physical quality of life in developing democracies. The same cannot be said for non-democratic states in the developing world. Hostile interventions can help to democratize non-democratic targets, while rival interventions lay the groundwork for long- term economic growth.

Hermann and Kegley (1996: 440) maintain that foreign military intervention is "arguably the most frequent type of military force in use and under debate today." Thus, it is, in their words, "one of todays most pressing security issues" (Hermann and Kegley 2001: 237). As major wars have declined in frequency over recent decades and the efficacy of costly and time-consuming economic sanctions is questioned, foreign military intervention seems to have become a sine qua non of modern statecraft. Despite the growing prevalence of foreign military intervention, we still have little understanding of the type of impacts this typically low-scale force has in target countries.

This article takes an initial step toward understanding the broader impacts that foreign military intervention has on developing states' governing institutions, their economic performance, and their citizens' quality of life. Assessing the impact of foreign military intervention is not as straight-forward as it might seem. Much depends on the size of the intervention and its purposes. Some interventions may have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on the target state, while the effects of others are fleeting at best.

The difficulties inherent in assessing intervention impacts are underscored when looking at the rarer and more heavily analyzed phenomenon of war. Over a decade ago, Thompson (1993: 126) lamented the "paucity of war consequence studies" and little has changed since. He identified a number of methodological and theoretical reasons for the lack of assessment studies. Methodologically, there is little agreement on the types of impacts analysts should focus on, and a host of impacts may be indirect and difficult to conceptualize and to measure. The field also has little idea how far into the postwar era researchers should look for traces of the consequences of war.

Theoretical barriers are even more challenging. Put simply, we have no well-articulated and broadly accepted theories on war consequences. Although there are exceptions, the bulk of extant research on war focuses on its causes. The normative rationale for the dominance of these studies is obvious. Many scholars emphasize the causes of war hoping to learn something about its prevention. Since so much attention has been paid to war initiation, however, scant energy has been put into developing a systematic understanding of the ramifications of war.

These challenges are only magnified when studying events that are less conspicuous and presumably less costly than war, such as foreign military interventions. Despite a seeming abundance of obstacles, we attempt a first cut at understanding the impact that unilateral foreign military intervention has on developing states. We define unilateral foreign military intervention as the dispatch of national armed forces to another sovereign state in an attempt to influence political, economic, or social conditions in the target country (see Pearson and Baumann 1993). …

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