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The instrumental use of norms in war: Impact on strategies and strategic outcomes

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States and non-state actors increasingly use norms instrumentally as integral parts of strategies to help win wars by exploiting political vulnerabilities produced by other actors' adherence to the norms. Actors especially manipulate reactions to violations of casualty-aversion norms to entice or prevent external interventions in conflicts. States have few defenses against the instrumental manipulation of norms they hold dear, and seem largely oblivious to their normative vulnerabilities. High success rates and the continuing proliferation of human rights mean new types of instrumental uses of norms for new purposes are likely to emerge, posing major practical challenges to policymakers, military personnel, and intelligence services, and theoretical challenges for scholars.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Washington, DC, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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