Saturday 13 Aug 2022 | 19:39 | SYDNEY
Saturday 13 Aug 2022 | 19:39 | SYDNEY

Reader Ripose: Libya & R2P

19 April 2011 12:32

Sam Fairall-Lee writes:

Hi Tim & Jess. Thanks for your posts, I found both quite insightful. However, where you ask 'what future do such actions have…'', my immediate response is 'not a very promising one'.

Why' Because the R2P concept has caused global society to become less committed to the broad cause of humanitarian intervention than it was before. Libya is the exception here, not the norm.

Your point regarding the failure of the Security Council to implement a proposed resolution on Darfur, after referring to R2P in its deliberations, is telling. Whereas the 1990s saw Chapter VII resolutions authorising interventions in places such as Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, the Congo and Haiti, the period following the release of the formal R2P report in 2001 has seen a distinct shift in momentum.

Now, as seen with Darfur, states are expressing their concern with what is essentially an attempt by the R2P designers to fundamentally re-interpret the meaning of state sovereignty.

As R2P attempts to make sovereignty conditional on state behaviour, as well as attempting to codify the criteria for military intervention, states are naturally resistant.

China, Russia, India, the Non Aligned Movement, and almost any state that perceives it may become a 'Western target' are fundamentally opposed to such a weakening of their sovereignty, whilst the US is opposed to any policy that would ‘pre-commit’ its forces to action. The so-called ‘endorsement’ of R2P by the 2005 World Summit was in-fact anything but.

Whilst the Security Council's response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide was lax, no government publicly raised any concerns over Rwandan sovereignty during the Council's deliberations. It could also reasonably be argued that the failure to authorise NATO's Kosovo intervention in 1999 was due to Russian national interests, not broad concerns over the nature of sovereignty.

Regarding Darfur, however, there was deep disquiet over the potential violation of Sudanese sovereignty and, moreover, even those states that were nominally in favour of intervention were able to pass-the-buck by claiming that the Sudanese government wasn't 'unable or unwilling' to protect its citizens, thereby avoiding a key R2P criteria for intervention. In the case of Libya, debate over the potential effect on the fundamental meaning of sovereignty has been rife.

As you say, the Libya intervention just happens to be one of those rare situations where humanitarian concerns and national interests coincide. Gaddafi was unlucky in that he engaged in high-profile state-sponsored terrorism, partook in the odd bit of nuclear weapons related proliferation, was seen as regionally unstable, and is sitting on significant energy reserves. Yet despite this, and the fact that no actual troops will set foot in the country, 1973 got only ten votes. What if it was the late 90s and such action was being considered solely through the lens of 'maintaining international peace and security' and not R2P' Would there be greater support'

In attempting to prevent future humanitarian crises, R2P may have actually increased the obstacles to humanitarian intervention and increased the measure of 'national interest' required to enable even a relatively restrained use of military force.