June 21, 2012

REDEFINING SOVEREIGNTY:

The Intervention Dilemma (Joseph S. Nye, 21 June 2012,ISN Blog)

[A]fter a genocide that cost nearly 800,000 lives in Rwanda in 1994, and the slaughter of Bosnian men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, many people vowed that such atrocities should never again be allowed to occur. When Slobodan Milošević engaged in large-scale ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution recognizing the humanitarian catastrophe, but could not agree on a second resolution to intervene, given the threat of a Russian veto. Instead, NATO countries bombed Serbia in an effort that many observers regarded as legitimate but not legal.

In the aftermath, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan created an international commission to recommend ways that humanitarian intervention could be reconciled with Article 2.7 of the UN Charter, which upholds member states' domestic jurisdiction. The commission concluded that states have a responsibility to protect their citizens, and should be helped to do so by peaceful means, but that if a state disregarded that responsibility by attacking its own citizens, the international community could consider armed intervention.

The idea of a "responsibility to protect" (R2P) was adopted unanimously at the UN's World Summit in 2005, but subsequent events showed that not all member states interpreted the resolution the same way. Russia has consistently argued that only Security Council resolutions, not General Assembly resolutions, are binding international law. Meanwhile, Russia has vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria, and, somewhat ironically, Annan has been called back and enlisted in a so-far futile effort to stop the carnage there.

Until last year, many observers regarded R2P as at best a pious hope or a noble failure. But in 2011, as Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi prepared to exterminate his opponents in Benghazi, the Security Council invoked R2P as the basis for a resolution authorizing NATO to use armed force in Libya. In the United States, President Barack Obama was careful to wait for resolutions by the Arab League and the Security Council, thereby avoiding the costs to American soft power that George W. Bush's administration suffered when it intervened in Iraq in 2003. But Russia, China, and other countries felt that NATO exploited the resolution to engineer regime change, rather merely protecting citizens in Libya.

In fact, R2P is more about struggles over political legitimacy and soft power than it is about hard international law. Some Western lawyers argue that it entails the responsibility to combat genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under the various conventions of international humanitarian law.

And since the regimes are undemocratic they are illegitimate.  Essentially, the onus is on the Realists to justify not intervening.  Since there is no justification for not aiding the Syrian people, we will do so.

Posted by at June 21, 2012 5:26 AM
  

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