Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Twenty-First Century Military Multilateralism: “Messy” and With Unintended Consequences

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Abstract:  The current century has witnessed several high-profile Western military interventions in developing countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mali/West Africa are well-known examples. All three were initiated unilaterally by the US or France but were soon supplemented with multilateral missions which operated in parallel with the unilateral intervention force, giving them a “messy” appearance. In the three cases, the foreign policy decision-makers in the US and France reacted mainly to domestic stimuli, most evidently in the case of the US, where revenge for 9/11 was a strong motive. Like-minded partners in NATO and troops from developing countries shared the burdens of the US and France and gave legitimacy to the military interventions. The consequences of the interventions were not that they contributed to stability. Rather they supported the incumbent elites, as they were able to avoid launching economic and political reform. The lack of reform undermined the prospects for stability.

Keywords:  Afghanistan; conflict management; Iraq; Mali; multilateralism; terrorism; West Africa



© Gorm Rye Olsen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.