Did Qaddafi’s End Justify the Means?
20 October 2011
This Foreign Policy roundtable discussing “how Libya changed the face of humanitarian intervention” features David Bosco, Michah Senko, Gareth Evans, and Kyle Mathews.
When international forces struck against Muammar al-Qaddafi's military outside the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in March -- the beginning of the end for the Libyan dictator who was killed on Oct. 20 in his hometown of Sirte -- they were acting on a doctrine called "responsibility to protect," or R2P. The idea, not even a decade old and only embraced by the United Nations in 2005, is that a country's government could be held accountable -- with military force, if necessary -- for failing to ensure the well-being of its citizens. In our November issue, Foreign Policy explores the history of this doctrine -- but what about its future? Was the successful toppling of the Qaddafi regime a new dawn for muscular humanitarianism or a false one? Did the invasion make the world less safe for dictators or for the rest of us? We convened a roundtable of experts to weigh in on what humanitarian intervention in the post-Libya world will look like.
David Bosco: How Libya Made Humanitarian Intervention Less Likely
(…) All of which is to say that the "responsibility to protect" (R2P), the doctrine that guided this year's international intervention in Libya, has a structural problem, at least insofar as it involves military action to prevent atrocities. Early intervention in Rwanda might have saved as many as 500,000 lives, a stunning achievement. But it's almost certain that such a mission would not have been viewed as a stunning success. The problem is that R2P's successes will always be ambiguous and debatable, dogged by "what if"s. Its costs, meanwhile, will be painfully evident in the form of military expenditures and casualties and in whatever unintended consequences may follow an intervention. For that reason, the doctrine will struggle to build a record of success and cement its place as an international norm. (…)
Micah Zenko: After Qaddafi, Every Dictator Will Want to Get His Hands on a Nuclear Weapon
The world has entered an era characterized by two contradictory dynamics. The first is the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) doctrine, which states that each government is individually responsible for protecting its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. (…) The second dynamic is the prevention or rolling-back of states' acquisitions of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles. As authoritarian governments face escalating international scrutiny over their treatment of their people, they have an increasingly greater incentive to develop WMD programs to deter foreign military interventions enforcing R2P. In short, advocates of R2P may be inadvertently encouraging proliferation, because no government possessing WMD has ever been invaded and overthrown by an outside military force. (…)
Gareth Evans: Can We Stop Atrocities Without Launching an All-Out War?
Libya was a textbook case for the application of the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) principle, and the U.N. Security Council resolutions in February and March, which paved the way for the military campaign, were textbook responses. After his regime's initial attacks on unarmed protesters, Muammar al-Qaddafi was first warned, censured, sanctioned, and threatened with International Criminal Court prosecution; only when it was clear, three weeks later, that neither persuasion nor nonmilitary coercion would change his course and that a civilian massacre in Benghazi was imminent was selective military action authorized. And the intervention worked -- at the very least in preventing a catastrophe in Benghazi and many more civilian casualties elsewhere than would otherwise have been the case. Equivalently quick and robust responses would have saved 8,000 lives in Srebrenica and 800,000 in Rwanda.(…)
Kyle Matthews: Libya is the Beginning of the End for the World’s Worst Villains
Before and after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi and his cronies in Libya, many pundits and commentators erroneously blamed the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) doctrine for leading NATO into war. Many have gone further in claiming that R2P is headed for the trash heap, painting the doctrine as neocolonialism hiding behind the mask of humanitarianism. Yet none of them touches upon what actually transpired at the earliest stages of the Libyan crisis, nor do they proffer any practical alternatives for protecting civilians from mass atrocity crimes. This is a shame, because R2P is a rising international norm, not a declining one. (…)
See the entire roundtable.