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Via Andrew Sullivan--and despite the fact that I don't think it was a particularly good idea--I'm once again compelled to indirectly defend an element of the intervention in Libya.

He approvingly quotes Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis's argument that supporters of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P) are little different than neoconservatives.

As with the neo-cons, though, the R2pers use their own sense of moral superiority and self-righteousness to hide a bitter reality; that their doctrine is far from being the grand paean to universal human rights that they like to pretend that it is. [...] The "€œResponsibility To Protect"€ Doctrine [seems to be] an excuse for Europeans and Americans on the left to support intervention not because it protects the vital interests of the nations they live in, but because it makes them feel good.

There'€™s another similarity between the R2P crowd and the neo-cons, of course. In both cases, there is an absolute sense of certainty that causes people to ignore the facts on the ground. For the neo-cons, the certainty that we'€™d be greeted as liberators by the people of Iraq and Afghanistan caused them to discount the necessity for any kind of post-war planning, and to believe that merely introducing "€œdemocratic"€ institutions into nations that had never known democracy would lead to an immediate transformation that took decades, if not centuries, in the West. For the R2P'€™ers, it'€™s absolutely certainty that merely being guided by the desire to "help"€ people is sufficient to accomplish their goals, meaning that there'€™s no need to worry about the fact that the rebels you'€™re protecting are allied with a terrorist group, or that the conflict your’re intervening in may be more tribal than political. Finally, for both the neo-con and the R2Per there is the overwhelming certainty that they are better judge€™s of the future of a nation than the people who actually live there.


The problem with Mataconis's argument here is that he's conflating R2P with regime change. Specifically, when he writes that R2Pers think "that merely being guided by the desire to 'help' people is sufficient to accomplish their goals," I'm left to assume that the goals he's speaking of is the unification of Libya under a non-Gaddafi regime. But while that might be what the Administration is currently angling towards, it's not what R2P is about, and to say otherwise is to tar a rather specific and limited doctrine with the same disorganized and shifting motivations that have tripped up the Obama team as of late.

Let's look at what, exactly, R2P is:

[T]he Responsibility to Protect, stipulates that:

1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.

3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.


There's nothing in there that goes beyond preventing the kind of massacre that the Administration says was planned for the citizens of Benghazi. All of the subsequent and current talk of overthrowing Gaddafi, arming the rebels or even sending soldiers into Libya has to do only with R2P insofar as the R2P doctrine was, supposedly, the intellectual basis for getting involved with Libyan affairs at all.

It's possible that Mataconis thinks that such mission creep is inevitable whenever the R2P doctrine is enforced, but that's not what he's saying here. And if it seems like I'm nitpicking, it's only because I find the full conflation of neoimperialism with human rights (as Mataconis does with his title, "The Obama Doctrine: Humanitarian Imperialism") to be deeply unfair and, what's more, worrying.

Originally posted to elia isquire on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 04:36 PM PDT.

Also republished by Foreign Relations.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Call me suspicious but I'm starting to get a bad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    papicek

    feeling that this Benghazi reign of terror thing may have been a bit exaggerated.  It's almost too good.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:53:19 PM PDT

  •  I'm sorry I missed this one earlier... (0+ / 0-)

    bt I've been involved in a fairly spirited discussion in my own diary.

    Nonetheless, to the extent that a ruler's legitimacy comes under question, then R2P does enable regime change.

    That's not in the document, but features prominently in the surrounding discussion about what R2P is supposed to mean, and this is the result of the incident which caused Kofi Annan to call for a new policy regarding crimes against humanity: the Rwanda genocide.

    It's hard to defend the sovereign rights of one responsible for a genocide.

    Republished by the Foreign Relations Group.

    Thanks for the diary.

    "The cure for bullshit is fieldwork."
    Robert H. Bates, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Harvard University.

    by papicek on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:33:23 PM PDT

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