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Intervention Legitimisation and the Modern Democratisation Movement



Change log


Stewart-Jolley, Victoria 


At the beginning of the 21st century, the US led invasions into Afghanistan and Iraq. While both invasions were initially framed as security imperatives, the subsequent occupations were situated within a narrative of democracy promotion, liberalism and development. The act of invasion and the imposition of democratisation, raises the question can ‘democracy by force’ be reconciled in international law and international relations?

There is little agreement of a theoretical definition of democracy in any discipline. The democracy which this study examines is both specifically Anglo-American and ‘liberal’ in terms of its origins and structural understanding. The form of democracy brought to Afghanistan and Iraq was a specific construction undertaken by the occupier, containing ‘exceptional’ characteristics and values: ‘freedom’, ‘prosperity’, ‘capitalism’, and ‘peace’ It is this combination of norms reflexively described as democratic, that was subsequently adopted by the UN and the development community.

Revisions to the international legal system sought to legitimise the use of force to prevent gross violations of human rights. This was accompanied by the reframing of the State as illegitimate, where it pursued illiberal policies. In the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq prohibitions on the use of force and transformative occupations were disregarded, in part to accomplish regime change, with far reaching implications to both international law and the international order.

In addressing these events this thesis examines how democracy has been described over time, the form which has been exported and the claims made for it. It asks, where is democratisation situated in international law, and is this understanding affected by its imposition? Finally, it considers whether and what kind of democracy was delivered in Afghanistan and Iraq and how did the occupiers principles interact with overriding interests.





Farmanfarmaian, Roxane


Democratisation, International law, Iraq, Afghanistan, Transformative occupation, Democracy, Military intervention


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge