Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
This thesis investigates the conditions under which decisions for military intervention are constrained by public opinion. Prior studies have identified electoral cycles and legislative checks as potential constraints on foreign policy making, but the interaction of these constraints and public opinion has gone largely unobserved. This thesis utilizes the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya as a case study to test whether the presence of upcoming elections or strong legislative checks on military deployment decisions are sufficient to motivate governments to make decisions about military intervention that are consistent with public opinion. My findings suggest that governments are chiefly constrained to public opinion through immediate electoral pressures. Strong legislative checks on foreign policy failed to prove sufficient to constrain foreign policy to opinion. These findings suggest that the inclusion of public opinion is critical for foreign policy analysis. Also, with NATO contributions held hostage by electoral time horizons and public sentiment, it may be difficult for NATO to move beyond shifting coalitions of those willing to contribute to missions.