April 6th, 2011
04:59 PM ET

Discussing the "Responsibility to Protect"


Here’s the definition of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) from the International Coalition for R2P:

1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.

3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.

The New York Times reports that this has been a historic month for the evolution of R2P:

"The unusual military strikes by the United Nations against military bases of the Ivory Coast’s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, represent a seminal moment in which an organization generally disinclined to intervene forcefully in the affairs of member states is showing a new willingness to take bold action to save lives, diplomats and analysts said….
"'There is a new trend in the Security Council in which the responsibility to protect principle is gaining a new hold,' said Stéphane Crouzat, spokesman for the French mission to the United Nations. Invoking past conflicts in Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia, he added: 'There is a desire to intervene before war crimes or ethnic cleansing can take place.'"

Max Boot urges us to “give the UN some credit” for acting:

"Something pretty extraordinary is happening in Africa. Libya may get all the headlines, but with little notice, another U.N.-backed intervention is taking place in the Ivory Coast, with French aircraft bombing the presidential palace to force out strongman Laurent Gbagbo who insisted on staying in power despite losing the 2010 election.

"In both cases international intervention has been explicitly premised on the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (R2P)—the notion, which arose after the massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s, that the international community has a right, indeed a responsibility, to intervene in other nations’ internal affairs to stop the most egregious human rights abuses."

Josh Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN is deeply critical of R2P:

"Obama’s comment is a paradigmatic statement of the beguilingly known “responsibility to protect,” a gauzy, limitless doctrine without any anchor in U.S. national interests. This putative responsibility emanates from the desire to divert American military power from protecting U.S. interests to achieving “humanitarian” objectives. The doctrine had its adherents even in the Bush administration, but they have reached measurable power only now under President Obama. The current U.S. military engagement in Libya, as he has defined it, is the jewel in their crown.

"The “responsibility to protect,” of course, is limitless by its own terms. Why are we not using force to protect the North Koreans, who’ve suffered through decades of totalitarian rule? Why are we not using force to protect Zimbabweans from Robert Mugabe, whose abuses are easily on a par with Qaddafi’s? What about Syrians, Iranians, Tibetans, etc.?

"The endlessness of the responsibility to protect is not a conceptual problem with the doctrine, but its essence."

Nick Kristof’s rejoinder to the charge of inconsistency is:

"[J]ust because we allowed Rwandans or Darfuris to be massacred, does it really follow that to be consistent we should allow Libyans to be massacred as well? Isn’t it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?"

What do you think?

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Dear Mr. Bolton
    I bet Libya was chosen by lot. Just imagine how this decision came into being. There are so many troubled spots in the region, that the U.S. would like to take care of. Nobody could agree on which one. So names of those troubled spots were written on pieces of paper, folded and cast into a box. Obama and his administration sat at a table and he asked someone to fish a piece of paper out of the box. He opened it and read "Libya".

    April 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  2. Brett Paatsch

    Nowhere that I can see in the UN Charter is the Responsibility to Protect mentioned.

    And until an amended version of the UN Charter is ratified as per article 108 of the charter itself which describes how amendments are to be made, this Responsibility to Protect seems to violate the principles of "sovereign equality of members" and the non intervention in domestic matters described in Article 2 which has been ratified since 1945.

    Article 2 states:
    The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

    1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

    2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

    3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

    4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

    5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.

    6. The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

    7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.
    Article 108 states

    "Amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council."

    So .... WHEN EXACTLY, IF EVER, did Responsibility to Protect become part of the UN Charter? Anybody?

    Seems to me that the Security Council does not have the authority to change the UN Charter itself by simple resolution, that rather, they need the concurrence of the member nations as per Article 108 of the Charter for amending agreements to be valid.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  3. KJ Flayderman

    You can only take responsibility in such a matter when the provider can take care of its self. The USA must take care of itself BEFORE it pledges commitments to such responsibility! Good Grief!

    April 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  4. KJ Flayderman

    Ms. Grace, please speak up.
    Would I have to die for you to speak up?
    How do you chose which dead people for discussion?
    Why does my information not meet your concern for society and your position to implement change??
    Death is so permanent.
    Experiencing death and living to tell it, please speak up.

    April 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  5. sjgdyu

    Article 41
    The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

    Article 42
    Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:34 am | Reply
  6. Elaine Cullen

    There are numerous problems with the UN's responsibility to protect legislation that was first enacted in the early 1990's when Somalia was under attack by militias. Two of the primary ones are the UNs arbitrary authoritarian totalitarian action declaring that it as a body has the authority to militarily invade foreign troops and station foreign troops there. As a body comprised of foreign nations who are making these decisions, the question as to what their goals are in sending in military troops to foreign nations are not incidental ones. These actions have resulted in country's being destroyed through secession and their assets and resources being taken over by other countries, including Japan and Germany which have been increasing their investments in war torn countries all over, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore there is a troubling pattern in foreign countries where UN troops have been present, of not leaving even if stabilization has been achieved. There is no longer conflict in areas such as Bosnia Herzegovina, yet foreign troops under the UN as well as other bodies have been there continually since the early 1990's and for no reason. Is the goal stabilization and peace or continued military occupation? Lastly, is the clear ineffectiveness of the UN as a body to "protect" anyone, and the same is increasingly true for NATO. From Somalia, to Rwanda, to Sudan to Afghanistan, from Croatia to then neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and now Macedonia, as well as numerous other countries, one thing that the UN peacekeepers have not done is protect anyone. In fact they have often stated that their "mandate" is not to protect but to provide aid. NATO say's it's job too is to "protect" however, with both international orgs, what is seen is a lack of protection and both the UN and NATO aiding murderous militias that attack the people of the country and the nations themselves. The UN has shown themselves to be criminal in their actions and lack of responsiveness in areas where they present themselves as "peacekeepers".

    April 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Reply

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