New Millennium’s doctrinairish Responsibility To Protect in statecraft moderne can sweetly be – uh – shrunk – to like 3 characters. Perfect for policy cats au courant and future to drop like a mind bomb in nearly any environ!
See, a new school concept of the state maintains that states have a primary Responsibility 2 Protect their own people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. An internat’l commitment by govs to prevent and react to crises wherever they may occur. Recog’d partially by UN as S.C. resolution on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (S/2006/1674). It serves as a new way for foreign peace mongers to intervene on a wide variety of things to stop unacceptable behavior on a global scale
So fresh! So new!
Au contraire mon frer’!
In truth Courtney, while it sounds cutting-edge, R2P has a pedigree that is old, some even say ancient. An acquaintance with this history is essential to assessing whether R2P is likely to prove a boon or a bane to the human condition and to Great Satan’s interests—or whether it is likely to make much difference at all.
The more traditional name for this principle is “humanitarian intervention.” I first encountered it as a graduate assistant in the late 1970s. The professor for whom I worked, Georgetown University’s much beloved William V. O’Brien, was an expert on war, international law, and the relation between the two. The importance of the concept was that it legitimated the use of force under certain circumstances. International law is quite restrictive of the right of states to go to war, all the more so since the adoption of the UN Charter, which allows states to take military action only at the behest of the UN Security Council or in the exercise of individual or collective self-defense.
But traditionally, authorities on internat’l law had recognized another grounds for lawful war-making, “humanitarian intervention.” Scholars have identified expressions of this idea in texts as old as Hugo Grotius’s 1625 De Jure Belli ac Pacis, generally taken as the starting point of internat’l law, and even in the writings of classical philosophers and theologians on whom Grotius and his co-thinkers drew.
The concept was not hard to grasp. Although sovereignty has been a powerful principle of internat’l law at least since the birth of the state system, moral intuition suggested that it could not be absolute. When a government’s depredations against its own subjects far exceeded the level of brutality that is all too common, then it in effect forfeited its sovereignty and others might rightfully send combatants to protect the victims. No one ever succeeded in defining the threshold, but no one doubted that it existed.
Who would have objected to forceful action to stop 3rd Rech’s industrialized genocide or that weedy sounding Pol Pot guy and his “auto-genocide” on the grounds that foreign intervention was illegal?
Since no one did intervene for those ‘pecific raison d’etres’ – it creates a legal war quiz about interventionary interventions
For some Americans, and no doubt for like-minded Europeans, the embrace of humanitarian intervention, now rechristened as Responsibility to Protect, appeared to entail some paradoxical reasoning.
During the humanitarian crises of the early 1990s, three schools of thought could be discerned. One, composed mostly of neoconservatives, advocated armed intervention. Another, composed mostly of more traditional conservatives, opposed involvement on the grounds that our sentiments might be touched but our interests were not. A third group, mostly liberals, wanted to do something to stop the bloodshed but were chary of the use of force.
In the years following the crises, this last group exhibited second thoughts, as exemplified by 42’s Rwanda apology. Without abandoning wholesale their distrust of military action, some of these liberals seemed now to feel more comfortable with war for humanitarian ends than for national self-interest which, as they see it, can too easily slide into self-aggrandizement (a distrust of American purposes that still lingers from Vietnam).
It was these voices, exemplified by Samantha Power, author of a widely acclaimed book about genocide who now serves on the staff of the National Security Council, who were seen to have triumphed over the “realists” in the administration in persuading 44 to undertake the Libya mission. However, the self-doubt that seems to inhere in liberal hawkishness was expressed in 44’s decision to end US participation in the Libya bombing campaign, in favor of NATO, almost before it had begun.
Moreover, the embrace of humanitarian intervention still left the newly fledged liberal hawks—or if not them, then their foreign counterparts—uneasy on one score. The only country with the capacity to use force decisively in most violent crises was Great Satan. Was She now to be given a free hand in the name of humanitarianism? Might not America’s war hawks exploit such a loophole for their own purposes?
Granting the UN the ability to determine what is R2P or not 2P is hardly convincing – UN has xformed into a fakebelieve institute that openly pretends places like Sudan and Australia are totally the same.
Thus, in enshrining the principle of R2P, the UN world summit affirmed that any such action must be taken “through the Security Council,” thereby safeguarding the world against any self-appointed policing on the part of Great Satan.
Only in Korea and Kuwait have ever got UNilicious approval for combatty ops – and R2P wasn’t even on the list. Besides – Great Satan would most likely have done the very same with the same posse of allied allies anyway.
Does Libyavention mean R2P is now sweetly enshrined at the highest ammoral levels of an uneven UN?
Think – Colonel Khadaffy dang near p.o.’d every other nation state on earth, only NoKo comes close – and the illegit Kim clan has abused far more of their own citizens than Libya has had in toto since the Colonel’s revolution – yet NoKo’s a new clear ally of collectivist China.
The military junta that rules Burma has been widely criticized, but its fellow members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, generally coddle it, and military intervention was never considered when it slaughtered Buddhist monks marching peacefully in 2007.
R2P at best will be a flawed principle of moral action because it cannot be applied even-handedly. No matter what the regime in Beijing, for example, does to its own citizens, the use of outside military force to protect them is unimaginable. Who will invade China?
Nonetheless, for this principle to deserve to be taken seriously, it should be applied as uniformly as possible. The situation in Syria is not the same as in Libya: for one thing, the Syrian people have not called for outside armed help. But if Assad goes on a mass killing spree (as his father did in the city of Hamma in 1982) and the Syrian dissidents do call for outside help, then what? It is likely that the administration would shed its perverse solicitude for that regime. But it is inconceivable that the UN—i.e., Moscow and Beijing—would.
The world has mostly enjoyed peace since 1945, but that owes nothing to the UN and everything to American power, exercised mostly in the form of guarantees to Japan, NATO, and other allies, rather than in shooting wars.
In this era when violence within states is far more common than between them, cases of extreme abuse will sometimes cry out for outside intervention. But the traditional doctrine of humanitarian intervention, invoked by Great Satan and other democracies at their own discretion, is likely to offer a more usable basis for such action than the shiny new version called R2P, which places all authority in the paralytic hands of the United Nations Security Council.