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The Arab Spring, Seen from Brazil
Matias Spektor
The New York Times
23 December 2011
Matias Spektor is a historian and a regular commentator in the Brazilian press.
(…) Rousseff’s position on Syria has come under heavy criticism. Democratic countries like Brazil “shouldn’t sit by and watch as Syria implodes,” Human Rights Watch has declared. “Their efforts at private dialogue have achieved nothing, and hundreds more Syrians have died in the meantime.”
When Brazil abstained this spring from voting on the U.N. Security Council resolution that helped rid Libya of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, its position elicited a similar rebuff. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., chided Brazil, along with India and South Africa, for taking a stance “that one might not have anticipated, given that each of them came out of strong and proud democratic traditions.” (…)
(…) At bottom, she is resisting the pull from Paris, London and Washington to coerce governments that have fallen in their disrepute. And she is denouncing the dangers inherent in the rising tide of humanitarian interventionism.
In her view, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, the first one ever to invoke the “responsibility to protect,” only authorized a no-flight zone over Libya, and that was too easily used to justify a NATO-led bombing operation against Colonel Qaddafi. As her foreign minister put it in November, Brazil fears that in the future humanitarian arguments “might be misused for purposes other than protecting civilians, such as regime change.” (…)
(…) All along, Rousseff has been arguing that foreign interventions designed to protect civilians must be tightly regulated: “The Security Council must ensure the accountability of those to whom authority is granted to resort to force.” Last month, she circulated a concept paper for discussion at the U.N. Security Council entitled “Responsibility While Protecting.” It argues that without limits on what the powerful may do, the emerging ideology of humanitarian intervention could easily turn into a tool for foreign manipulation. (…)
(…)The Arab Spring has not been particularly pro-American or pro-European, and discontent with foreign interventions in the Muslim world may end up fueling resentment against the West. It would be a shame if the cause of human rights were thus tainted by the colors of imperial reassertion.
To prevent this, Rousseff should more clearly state her very sensible position. She must warn her colleagues in the North and the South, the East and the West that even if U.N.-sponsored interventions on behalf of freedom are here to stay, unless new rules of conduct are put into place to tame those who take action, the “responsibility to protect” may come to endanger us all.
Read the full op-ed.

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