When is the use of force for humanitarian purposes legitimate? The book examines this question through one of the most controversial examples of humanitarian intervention in the post-Cold War period: the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo. In the face of contemporary problems of legitimacy and justification, the book offers a deep engagement with developments at the intersection of Habermasian communicative ethics and International Relations. The result is a set of rigorous normative guidelines – the ‘communicative imperatives’ – intended for application in analyses of the process and legitimacy of international deliberations around the use of force. The book provides an innovative contribution to the theory of communicative ethics through which actors are able to critique and evaluate decisions to use force. The communicative ethics framework contributes a critical communicative dimension to the question of legitimacy that extends beyond the moral and legal approaches so often applied to the intervention in Kosovo. The application of the communicative imperatives reveals forms of communicative distortion which serves to contest conventional accounts of the legitimacy of the use of force in Kosovo.
The chapter examines and critiques two concepts popular within broadly normative schools of thought in International Relations: ‘good international citizenship’ and the ‘responsibility to protect’. In so doing, attention is drawn to both the problems posed by practices of inclusion and exclusion in international politics and the limits to conceptualisations of legitimacy when it is conflated with morality or legality. The chapter identifies these thematic areas of concern and sets out the parameters of the debate concerning legitimacy in IR which leads to the argument for the need for a critical communicative dimension to legitimacy.
The chapter challenges the essentialist ethnic assumptions which underpin some interpretations of the conflict, instead, exploring the political and social construction of ethnic tension in Kosovo. Following on from this, the chapter identifies a number of key processes and actors which contributed to the marginalisation of Kosovo between 1989-99 and thus to the development of violent conflict. This historical and contextual account highlights missed opportunities for dialogue or non-violent engagement prior to 1999 and picks up the theme of inclusion/exclusion. Set against the conventional narrative of events within the Security Council, the justification of last resort drawn on in 1998-99 to permit the shift to the use of force by NATO is problematised.
The chapter explores the ‘linguistic turn’ in critical and social theory of which Habermas was a central proponent and which has considerably influenced constructivist and critical theorists in International Relations. By exploring the work of scholars in both critical and constructivist IR camps who bring together the tripartite themes of the legitimacy of the use of force, a communicative-theoretic approach, and the intervention in Kosovo, the chapter argues that the underlying purposes of the critical and constructivist projects in IR remain somewhat different. Moreover, neither, as they have been articulated to date, fully captures the potential offered by a Habermasian-informed analysis of the role of justifications for the use of force.
Dialogue as normative grounds and object of critique
The chapter introduces Habermas's key concepts for a communicative ethics and sets out the relevant debates surrounding his theory of communicative action and discourse ethics. It then looks at a variety of critical interventions which have contributed to reformulations of discourse ethics and how these themes have played out in the application of Habermasian theory to IR. Exploring the conversation between Habermas and those who have adopted and critiqued his theoretical position within IR serves to frame the wider debates concerning Habermas's project and sets out a number of key concerns with his approach. These concerns clarify why communicative ethics as it is developed in this book cannot simply map onto Habermas's own theoretical position. The chapter begins to articulate an alternative conception of communicative ethics which takes inspiration from but is not synonymous to Habermas's position.
Building on existing theories of communicative ethics and the limitations to Habermas's project identified in earlier chapters, this chapter articulates a series of communicative imperatives and a set of issues regarding the relationship between theory and practice which strike at the heart of the emancipatory and evaluative orientation of critical theory. The communicative imperatives have two key purposes: to operate as an instrument of critique and to guide actors and participants in the normative development of practical dialogue. The chapter seeks to facilitate our understanding of the role of language in the construction of legitimacy and to contribute to the procedural argument that how we arrive at decisions may be as important as the substance of those decisions.
This chapter sees the application of the communicative imperatives to the decision-making process surrounding the use of force in Kosovo. The analysis focuses primarily on deliberations within the Security Council, at the Holbrooke negotiations in 1998, and at the Rambouillet Conference in 1999 and offers an evaluation of the communicative practices adopted to justify the use of force. The interpretive power of the communicative imperatives unsettles conventional interpretations of the military intervention in 1999 through its contestation of the degree to which the communicative practices surrounding the decision to intervene were legitimate. Crucially, the communicative ethics framework challenges the enabling justification of last resort and highlights key moments of illegitimate dialogue which paved the way for the use of force.