Monday, November 7, 2011

The Song Remains the Same

No, not that one--this one: You Can't Always Get What You Want David Rieff, among others, is unhappy with how R2P played out over the skies of Libya.  I never really followed the origins of R2P, but I have to ask those who want the world to address cases where states do not treat their citiziens responsibly: how can one enforce R2P without regime change? 

How can abusive governments credibly commit to treating their populations better?  How can the international community compel abusive regimes without the use of force?  Unless the targeted population is potentially secessionist a la Kosovo or South Sudan, in which case the outsiders can facilitate secession, how do you get an irresponsible government to become responsible?  Particularly if there is a record of broken promises?  Thus, R2P logically implies regime change. 

Of course, the bigger problem is that countries will not do intervene everywhere governments are being irresponsible.  So, if you think R2P is de-legitimatized if it is applied selectively,  then R2P was doomed at birth.  Countries do not have infinite capabilities, attention and interest.  Yes, intervention occurred in Libya because Europeans had greater interest and because it was easier than elsewhere.  No intervention for Syria or Yemen, and under-intervention in Congo/Sudan.  So, yes, countries discriminate in International Relations.  We have known that since 2002.  No principle will be consistently applied to every case. 

R2P might still be relevant, rather than epiphenomenal, as this justification for intervention might create larger constituencies in support of intervention and cement existing coalitions supporting involvement due to other interests.

Of course, at the end of the day, I am a norm-skeptic, but I find this gnashing by R2P fans about Libya to be self-unserving.

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