Friday, 18 March 2011

Libya and R2P

The surprising result of debates at the UN has been the passing of a resolution that permits all "necessary action" to protect people who are being attacked by the Gaddaffi regime in Libya. This has followed a period of inaction which appeared likely to result in a victory for the regime over the uprising. Such a result would have ensured that a state that has become viewed as a clear "pariah" would not only have survived but done so on the backs of the slaughter of the population of Benghazi and others.

The policy of liberal intervention was discredited after the debacle in Iraq and may have been part of the reason why President Obama took sometime coming behind the view that was pushed by France and the UK. However, there are other parallels that need to be borne in mind and which show the correctness of the resolution reached. Firstly, the fact of the second Gulf War itself is based largely on the failure of the resolution of the first one. When President Bush senior failed to support the Kurdish and Marsh Arab uprisings in 1991 he not only ensured the continuance of Saddam Hussein's regime but did so on the basis of Hussein murdering his opponents. Similarly, irresolution in Bosnia in the 1990s created the basis for the Serbian slaughter of civilians in Srebnica, something prevented in Kosovo later as the lesson was learned of the need to intervene in the Balkans. Sierra Leone and Rwanda also point to reasons for thinking there remains a case for liberal intervention.

The defeat of Gaddaffi is something that should be taken to be a goal worth achieving. The UN has recognised in recent years the doctrine of a "responsibility to protect" (R2P) and this is the core of the resolution that was passed. Anyone who thinks war is a "good" thing is clearly crazy but in this situation the prima facie case is clearly for intervention as the failure to intervene would most assuredly have been tragic.

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