The four post-Cold War presidents have, to varying extents, incorporated moral concerns into their foreign policy considerations. After the conclusion of the 1991 Gulf War for example, President George H.W. Bush turned his attention to more humanitarian missions abroad. After sending thousands of troops to Somalia, President Bush took his last Oval Office address as an opportunity to articulate a moral argument for an internationalist foreign policy: “Anarchy prevails…[and] the people of Somalia, especially the children of Somalia, need our help. We’re able to ease their suffering. We must help them live. We must give them hope. America must act.” The mission in Somalia was about moral concerns and not just material ones.
Other presidents have followed suit. President Clinton conveyed a similar sentiment in April 1999 after choosing to exercise force in Kosovo. The President followed up comments by Elie Wiesel on the “perils of indifference” with his own spirited defense of humanitarian action. “We cannot be indifferent, at home or abroad,” he stated. “That is why we are in Kosovo.” More recently, in November 2003, President George W. Bush articulated his goal of ending “a cycle of dictatorship and radicalism that brings millions of people to misery.” Like his two immediate predecessors, President Bush integrated a moral concern for the well-being of other peoples into his administration’s foreign policy considerations. Perhaps most explicitly, President Obama recently explained that “to brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances” would be a “betrayal of who we are.”
As can be seen from the brief examples above, post-Cold War presidents have embraced the idea that the United States has moral responsibilities abroad. I plan to explore this trend. More specifically, I am studying how these presidents have reacted to humanitarian crises abroad. My research will explore the normative arguments both in favor and against having the United States incorporate moral concerns into its foreign policy. I will also address the ways in which changes in the balance of power can and should affect the extent to which the United States believes it has a moral duty to respond to humanitarian crises. My paper will conclude with a brief analysis of the United States’ current standing in the international system and how it should affect future presidents’ decision-making when humanitarian crises occur.
Jonathan Messing, University of Pennsylvania
 Derek Chollet and James Goldgeier, America Between the Wars: The Misunderstood Years Between the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Start of the War on Terror (New York: Public Affairs, 2008), 54. For full speech see http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/3984
 Chollet and Goldgeier, America Between the Wars, 212.
 Alex Callinicos, “Iraq: Fulcrum of World Politics,” Taylor and Francis 26 (2005): 601.
 Barack Obama, “Address to the Nation on Libya,” 28 March 2011.