Although abstract and operational aspects of humanitarian intervention have been long and deeply debated, the decisional mechanisms have had less attention. Two key challenges to using force to protect civilians and stop mass atrocities need further treatment. These are: understanding political will to support intervention; and assessing the roles of human rights and humanitarian norms in shaping policies. In this chapter I establish a framework to explain the outcomes of

policy making for intervention. It integrates social constructivist thinking with realism and other related logics of decision making. This framework organizes the analysis of the case studies-Somalia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone-in the following chapters. By examining how human rights and humanitarian norms resonate with debating policy makers, it points up conclusions about what motivates decisions to undertake

particular responses to mass atrocity cases, including the possibility of armed intervention. Political will is a woolly concept. The elements most often associated

with it include information or evidence; belief or faith; affect and liking; awareness or concern; capacity and resources; and leadership. It can be understood as the mobilizing force undergirding policy decisions that are context-dependent and established case by case. In mass atrocity cases, for example, the problem in motivating policy makers to take effective action is hardly related to lack of information. Early warning signs typically abound in such cases and data are readily available from reputable sources.2 Yet mobilizing political will entails much more than simply funneling information to the right individuals who are well-positioned to respond effectively to mass atrocities. Darfur, Sri Lanka, and Syria are cases in point. So how is political will created? Although this question has no satis-

factory answer, several leads can be inductively suggested that relate to the nature of the argument and the logics policy makers use in their decision making. Where national interests shape foreign policy preferences of governments, the kinds of cases we would reasonably classify as mass atrocity cases intersect with long-established human rights and humanitarian norms. In some cases these norms have helped shift policy-maker mindsets to be more amenable to doing not just what is materially possible, but what is ethically appropriate given both the context and nature (as well as the horrors and urgency) of a particular mass atrocity case. This involves expanding a government’s universe of obligation, so to speak, as well as appeals to national image and the positive reputation effects of being a good international citizen.3 Relatedly, building political will requires a normative shift concerning whether the use of force to save lives constitutes a “responsible” policy option.4 Additionally, political will is shaped by assessing material resources and risks. The costs of taking forcible action are always high, but if prior policy decisions have been shown ineffective or injurious to halting or preventing mass atrocities, use of force may become a cost-effect choice. In sum, building political will requires not only building a good argu-

ment, but getting the right message to the right person(s) at the right time in the policy process so that it resonates and persuades. Sustained energy and creativity help advance good arguments, as do leadership and even luck.5 Identifying critical policy makers who are controllers or agenda-setters can advance a good argument. Presenting key policy makers with information that helps them narrow their preferences among policy alternatives may also help snowball a good argument within and across policy arenas.6