A Dangerous Doctrine

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


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A growing number of observers—from here at FrontPage to NRO to Foreign Affairs—are calling the West’s intervention in Libya’s civil war a test run for the UN’s so-called “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. The Responsibility to Protect (or R2P, as UN types call it) basically holds that nation-states have a responsibility “to protect their populations—whether citizens or not—from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and from their incitement,” in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Further, the doctrine holds that UN member states have a “responsibility to respond in a timely and decisive manner…to help protect populations” when a nation-state commits one of these acts. As the secretary general concedes, R2P “could have profound implications.”

Genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, mass-murder and state-sanctioned brutality are not unique to our times, of course. But the fusion of mass-murder and mass-communications—the CNN effect, as it was called in the 1990s—is. In other words, it’s easy to understand why R2P has gained traction in an age when man-made famine in Somalia, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and government massacres in the Middle East are broadcast for the all world to see—in real time. Moreover, it’s reasonable to expect governments not to murder their own people.

What’s more problematic is expecting—let alone requiring—members of the UN to intervene whenever a government fails to live up to the murky and malleable definition of “protecting” its population.

First, on the intervention side of the equation, R2P taken to its logical conclusion will increase the heavy burdens on the U.S. armed forces, while decreasing America’s freedom of action and independence. The U.S. military, after all, is already the world’s first responder and last line of defense. Playing this role in pursuit of an enlightened self-interest that promotes America’s goals while helping the world’s unfortunates along the way is one thing; doing it as handmaiden to the UN, EU or Arab League is quite another.

On the other side of the R2P equation—the trigger for intervention—who at the UN, ICC, Arab League or European Union decides what justifies an R2P intervention? R2P advocates are quick to answer that an R2P intervention can only be triggered by genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity or inciting such actions. Of course, all of these are subjective terms. Just ask Armenia and Turkey, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, Russia and Chechnya, the people of Sudan. Everyone from Tony Blair to Tommy Franks was accused of war crimes during the Iraq war. Today, Libya’s rebels and Libya’s government, NATO’s leaders and Khadafy’s henchmen, are all accusing each other of war crimes. This isn’t to say that there aren’t genuine cases of war crimes, genocide and the like in the world, but rather that Americans may define these terms differently than the bureaucrats who roam the UN.

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  • waterwillows

    Yes, it is so true. The web of deceit and deception is ever growing. All of them wearing the mask of 'being for our own good'.
    But more likely not for our good at all. Now lets discover just who this 'good' will be in favor of? That type of information is always useful for promoting insights and better understanding.

  • Andres de Alamaya

    By alternatively supporting each side, these conflicts could be kept running interminably thus decimating both sides thereby improving the global condition.

  • http://apollospaeks.townhall.com ApolloSpeaks

    LIBYA, THE FRENCH CONNECTION AND THE SPECTER OF VIETNAM

    If there's any lesson that this country should have learned from the French it's this: DON'T FOLLOW THEM INTO WAR. The last time we did we got the long, losing military Odyssey called Vietnam and spent years at enormous cost in lives and treasure trying to clean up their mess. And here we go again with history repeating itself in a different part of the world with the French spearheading a war* against the despot of a former European colony and the US blindly following suit…….

    Click my name to continue reading this widely linked article on my top townhall.com blog.

  • http://www.therepublicrevealed.com/ Victor Laslow

    It is once again popular to hate Jews and the movement is growing strong in the UN, That is why Obama wants to hand over our military to the UN so he can wash his hands as did Pontius Pilate and lay the blame on others.
    Victor

  • USMCSniper

    A lecture to liberals from one of your betters: It is the altruism that subjects our military to the slow bleed of dead and maimed soldiers in order to avoid killig the enemy leader or hurting a civilian. It is altruism that tells our soldiers to build toilets for a hostile population rather than to defeat the deadly enemy. It is altruism that places the lives and welfare of muslims over the lives of our soldiers and the security of Americans. Since altruism provides no specific goals for war — it says only that, whatever our goals, they must be good for others and not self-interested — a lack of purpose is the inevitable result of the suicidal military doctrine.

  • jacob

    How come this R2P didn't apply to the 8 year bombings HAMAS submitted ISRAEL
    to and the last 50 rockets and moirtars barrage ???

    Os it is that it only favors MUSLIMS like the KOSOVO usurpers, because it surely
    didn't apply to the DARFUR genocide perpetrated by MUSLIMS ????

    OR DID IT ??????

    Speak about double standards and half truths wrapped in double lies…! ! !

  • geez

    We are the un's whore that continues to take IOU's. Wake up America and vote Bozobama out of the White House in 2012. Give him a ticket back to his professed home, Kenya.

  • Stephen_Brady

    I hasten to add to this discussion that the purpose of R2P is not … repeat, NOT …. to protect and help the innocent. The purpose is to redefine what national sovereignty consists of.

    For example, is the United States a sovereign nation? If there was a movement by the states to protect the borders, would not the Obama Administration then be justified in moving against those state, in accordance with the R2P doctine? Haven't they already done so in Arizona?

    Pandora's Box, which will result in global warfare …

  • tagalog

    Given that war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and the incitement of them are matters of law covered by the Geneva Conventions, for a war crimes tribunal to decide once they've occurred, what is it that justifies the before-the-fact "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine? How does the U.N. rationalize the doctrine on a prior-restraint basis?

    Do we just take the U.N.'s classification of an act as one of these wrongs that call for U.N. intervention?

    I think the U.S. better take steps to remove itself from this kind of value-judging.

    • Henach

      Obama has created a slippery slope, which can allow an international lynching of a state or a people based on delusions that it is about to commit genocide. Samantha Power once advocated that the US send an armed force to protect the Palestinians from genocide that she imagined would be carried out by the Israeli Jews against the Palestinians. Power's idea is moving toward carrying out an international lynching in advance, to be driven by paradoid delusions. Obama is trying it out, as an experiment in Libya, to get the American public used to the idea.

  • Steve

    The Radical Left is working on so many fronts and so many levels, both domestic and foreign, it seems almost too much to deal with. It's as if the Radical Left fanaticism is simple too much for those of us that want ot live in freedom. Demoralizing.

    • Stephen_Brady

      Fight it, Steve! Get mad, join a Tea Party, work for the best candidates for office, never give up. I know how demoralizing it is, but the American people are on to exactly who the enemy is. We've got to keep firing the lefties and keep the pressure on the GOP.

    • Jim_C

      Where do you get "radical Left?" This doctrine is exactly what this website was advocating last week. It's exactly what Newt Gingrich was saying…before he discovered how unpopular it was, and changed his mind

      To many this site's readers' credit, they also saw that this is foolish. So the game becomes "slowly shift the blame to liberals and pretend we weren't calling for action just last week."

  • pj gildernew

    Look out Israel! This p2p charade is the first step to make it legal for the nations of the world to come against Israel since they will have the precedent in Libya…messing in he affairs of a sovereign nation. How you say?!? Isn't all of the Western media already screaming about how the Palestinians are being attacked "unprovoked" and the Jews are totally cutting off food and humanitarian aide (as if! Israel has provided their sworn enemy with every thing they have including electricity, food, and medical supplies…would America do that for Al Quida??) So now because of this ludicrous precedent The UN could decide we need to implement P2P on Israel since they are committing human atrocities against so called palestians (if you actually know your history there is NO SUCH thing as a Palestinian) and there is already a Palestinian STATE its called JORDAN!!!!! Wake up AMERICA!!! Do not mess with ISRAEL or its land or GOD will SEVERELY JUDGE US!!! Read Ezekiel 38 & 39 and Psalm 38…sooner or later all Muslim countries surrounding Israel will attack her and GOD will supernaturally intervene and Damascus will never be in habited again!! Let them take care of their own problems internally. How would we have felt if Spain or Russia came to the aide of the union or confederates? It is NOT in America's interest to depose Gadafi and allow the Muslim Brotherhood to fill the void left by NO government and YOU should know it will be filled with sharia law. (So much for women being treated with respect & expect MORE killings of Christians ).

  • Lightning Jack

    If R2P can't be applied fairly and universally to all the worlds tyrannical regimes such as Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria, and Sudan, ET Al., then it has no legitimacy as a humanitarian mandate, and therefor should not be applied at all.

    The very R2P concept is not only unenforceable, it sets a dangerous, vague and subjective criteria which could be politicized, or used to force U.N. global socialist doctrine that would clearly violate U.S. Constitutional laws.

  • tramky

    Samantha Power?! She's an idiot. And a liar. And, by the way, she is the wife of Cass Sunstein, the idiot advisor to Obama who advocates a return to the technological level of 1901.

    Hamas, which was VOTED into power by the Palestinian people, is to be DEFENDED from attack by Israel! What idiocy. Hamas, of course, as anyone knows, advocates the elimination of Israel from the panoply of nations and pushing all Jews into the sea–in other words GENOCIDE of the Jews! But Power wants the Palesinians to be defended against the Jews of Israel.

    It is literally true that when you listen to what these kinds of people think, say & do, it is just jaw-dropping in its irrationality and idiocy. And these people hold positions of influence and high levels of financial compensation! They ALL should be unemployed and groveling in the streets for handouts, so idiotic and destructive are their beliefs.

    • nina

      Exactly my sentiments.

  • nina

    I don't understand why conservatives suddenly don't like the US intervention in Lybia, when they have been criticizing Obama for his belated entry into this idiotic adventure. They should have been the first against this moronic act. We are mired in two endless wars, our deficit is threatening to engulf us, and we blithly go to war again. For what?

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