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You could be forgiven if you question what anti abortion and anti war groups have to do with Responsibility to Protect.

These two groups share similar characteristics. Anti abortionist claim that you are either anti abortion or you are pro abortion. Of course that's a false choice. Speaking only for myself, I am neither anti abortion nor pro abortion. I am pro choice for many reasons.

Likewise anti war groups will claim that you are either anti war or pro war. Of course that's a false choice. Speaking only for myself, I am neither anti war nor pro war. I am a pragmatic realist for many reasons.

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm alluding to the current argument over Responsibility to Protect and how that applies to Syria. If you care to continue reading, jump over the jump and I promise you I will give those who stand in opposition to the Responsibility to Protect principle some Chomsky to sharpen their arguments.

Some background would be in order. R2P discussions began in the 1990s as a means to deal with atrocities the world had not addressed. To list a few that were either completely ignored or dealt with in a too little and too late fashion we have, Burundi, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Srebrenica, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria. This is not an exhaustive list.

By 2005 more than 150 of the UN member states had accepted Responsibility to Protect. It's still evolving and still has problems and limitations. Yet it is now considered an international norm and is supported by international law. One of the limitations was demonstrated this past week when Russia vetoed action against Syria. Any of the five permanent members of the Security Council can veto any action against themselves or any of their client states. I doubt Russia thinks they need the approval of the UN for their actions in Chechnya.

Chomsky is concerned that R2P favors the powerful at the expense of the weak. He's right. Same as it ever was. Only the powerful states have the means to intervene.

I'll keep this short and close with Chomsky's hopes which I share:

American public opinion brings up a further consideration. The maxims that largely guide international affairs are not graven in stone, and, in fact, have become considerably less harsh over the years as a result of the civilizing effect of popular movements. For that continuing and essential project, R2P can be a valuable tool, much as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been. Even though states do not adhere to the UD, and some formally reject much of it (crucially including the world's most powerful state), nonetheless it serves as an ideal that activists can appeal to in educational and organizing efforts, often effectively. My suspicion is that a major contribution of the discussion of R2P may turn out to be rather similar, and with sufficient commitment, unfortunately not yet detectable among the powerful, it could be significant indeed.


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