The Responsibility to Protect through the Realist Lens: Strategic Choice, Inconsistency, and Delegitimation

 

This piece was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of the Yale Review of International studies.

Photo caption: The flags fly outside of the United Nations.


 Abstract

In 2005, the World Summit Outcome articulated the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as an international political commitment of member-states at the United Nations to prevent and prosecute atrocity crimes. This study interprets the third pillar of R2P with regard to international military intervention through the lens of realism in international relations theory, framing it as an ephemeral foreign policy tool. It argues that the national realist appropriation of this concept leads to an inconsistency in implementation that discredits its humanitarian objectives and foreshadows its delegitimation by states. This looming problem occurs due to a series of factors, including: 1) the fickle and susceptible tenets of institutional liberalism that underscore R2P, 2) its legally ambiguous nature that is conducive to its selective, discretionary, and inconsistent use by the international community, 3) its subjugation to the national interests of states as expressed through their foreign policy choices, and 4) its interpretation as a tool that harbors the potential to upset relative security and system stability. The existence of forgotten and ignored crises involving atrocity crimes, such as in Darfur in the 2000s and Syria during this decade, delegitimizes the cases when international intervention does occur to protect civilians, framing them as self-interested invasions by powerful states. This analysis thus contends that the debate surrounding R2P should be reformulated, shifting the focus from legalism and moralism to a practical understanding of how to normalize its application. Achieving greater consistency in its enforcement would help the international community protect the legitimacy of its humanitarian bedrock and viably address qualifying emergencies in the future.

 

Acknowledgments

As I conclude this study, I must express my gratitude to several friends and mentors.

First, I would like to thank my advisor, Professor Thania Sanchez, without whose guidance and positivity I would not have been able to produce this thesis.

I am also very grateful to the Yale Political Science Department and Professor David Simon, who provided me with invaluable feedback and support.

I would also like to thank Mrs. Aikaterini Tzima, an exemplary diplomat and astounding mentor under whose direction at the United Nations I was inspired to research this topic.

To my amazing friends at Saybrook College, your love and support kept me going this challenging semester.

Finally, I would like to thank my brother and best friend, Andreas; this thesis is dedicated to you.

 

 

Index of Abbreviations

ICC – International Criminal Court

ICISS – International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

ICJ – International Court of Justice

ILC – International Law Commission

IR theory – International Relations theory

NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization

P5 – Permanent Five: China, France, Russia, UK, USA

R2P – Responsibility to Protect

SG – Secretary General of the United Nations

UN – United Nations

UNGA – United Nations General Assembly

UNSC – United Nations Security Council

WSO – World Summit Outcome

 

Introduction 

The Uncertain Future of R2P

In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) convened in Canada and articulated for the first time the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).[1] In 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) modified and subsequently approved the contents of the ICISS report in its World Summit Outcome (WSO).[2] R2P has thereafter gradually become a permanent fixture in the vocabulary associated with humanitarian emergencies. Intergovernmental organizations, states, NGOs, and civil society have all employed it on multiple occasions to demand or legitimize international action against atrocity crimes conducted within the borders of a state.[3] As per the paragraphs of the WSO that established this framework:

  1. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.

  2. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.[4]

Secretary General (SG) Ban Ki-Moon further elaborated upon these stipulations in his 2009 report entitled “Implementing the responsibility to protect,” in which he identified three pillars for the agenda’s implementation.[5] The first focuses on the domestic responsibility of states to protect their civilians from atrocity crimes, the second on the responsibility of the international community to provide assistance and capacity building to states so that they can fulfill R2P, and the third on the responsibility of the international community to respond to atrocity crimes when states manifestly fail to do so.[6] Based on the WSO and the 2009 SG report, enforcement of R2P when a state does not fulfill its responsibility can range from a warning to a full-scale military intervention depending on the circumstances.[7] The target government might be unable to protect its population due to a lack of capacity, but it could also be unwilling to fulfill its responsibility because it is complicit or fully responsible for the crimes in question.[8] The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has since reaffirmed the concept in its resolutions, such as 1674 (2006) and 1894 (2009), as have a series of SG reports and the establishment of the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.[9] A Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, a position currently held by Ivan Šimonović, has been tasked since 2008 with directing its theoretical development and institutional application.[10]

Yet heated debate and controversy have surrounded R2P since its inception, as many commentators have struggled to understand its place in international law and have expressed reservations about the coercive measures that can be applied under the third pillar.[11] The legally ambiguous and discretionary nature of this agenda has led many states to openly question its legitimacy and integrity.[12] Many of its critics speak of a wave of defeatism regarding civilian protection, while others decry the political disunity that plagues international executive bodies such as the UNSC.[13] Meanwhile, advocates of the concept oppose this portrayal of a “growing controversy” and remain optimistic about the gradual emergence of a consensus on its interpretation and implementation.[14] As this debate rages on, numerous cases of atrocity crimes that endanger and claim the lives of civilians remain unaddressed by the international community.[15] While the concept has been vocally applied in certain cases, such as in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, other cases where the horrors of atrocity crimes are blatantly manifest, such as the crisis unfolding in Syria since 2012, do not elicit a commensurate response.

Through this analysis, I argue that R2P functions as an ephemeral foreign policy tool and is best understood through the lens of realism in international relations (IR) theory, which views states as constantly competing for power and relative security in an anarchic system. More specifically, I engage with both advocates and critics to highlight the concept’s fickle and legally ambiguous nature as a tenet of institutional liberalism, according to which international institutions and organizations can successfully instigate interstate cooperation to prevent conflict and solve global challenges. I consequently argue that this indeterminate framework allows states to appropriate R2P as a realist device and inconsistently employ it on a selective, case-by-case basis that favors their interests. The existence of forgotten or ignored crises involving atrocity crimes delegitimizes the cases when international intervention occurs to protect civilians as self-interested invasions by powerful states. I thus contend that the national realist appropriation of this international liberal concept leads to an inconsistency that discredits its humanitarian objectives as unilateral foreign policy decisions. The debate surrounding R2P should therefore be reformulated, shifting the focus from one-sided legalistic and moralist arguments to a practical understanding of how to normalize its application. Achieving greater consistency in its enforcement would help the international community protect the legitimacy of its humanitarian bedrock and viably address qualifying emergencies in the future.

In this context, the following investigation draws from IR theory and empirical case studies related to what the ICISS called “the responsibility to react,” rather than the responsibility to prevent these crimes altogether or to rebuild a state after they have been stopped.[16] In spite of the focus of this study, it should be noted that the third pillar of R2P does not refer to the use of force as the only alternative to inaction, but includes a variety of peaceful options involving political, diplomatic, and humanitarian channels, such as sanctions.[17] In addition, I do not address here strategies for the prevention of atrocity crimes under the first and second pillars, nor the operational challenges to intervention that include logistical and financial obstacles, violations of humanitarian principles, and nation-building. In order to better grasp and overcome the complications that arise from the application of the third pillar, it is first necessary to understand why certain calls for action against atrocity crimes elicit an international armed response while others remain unaddressed. IR theory can help identify the main challenges to R2P’s success by illuminating the mechanics of state behavior under the third pillar. Only after addressing this underlying issue can the operational aspects of intervention under R2P be properly resolved. In this spirit, I follow former Assistant SG and ICISS member Ramesh Thakur’s advice “to combine philosophical and theoretical reflections with empirical case-studies” in search of a productive approach to this problem.[18]

The Lens of IR Theory & Strategic Choice

In order to understand why R2P faces a looming crisis of legitimacy, this analysis aims to transcend traditional barriers between liberalism and realism in IR theory. I adopt a combinational approach that accepts the inherent realism in state behavior, but purports that national foreign policy often serves liberal internationalism with success. The research thus aspires to contribute to the evolution of realist theory and to productive dialogue between realists and liberals with regard to the dynamics and potential of international institutions.[19] In accordance with existing theory, this analysis demonstrates that a variety of fluid factors determine the legitimation, or in this case delegitimation, of international institutions. The internalization of codes of conduct, jurisdictional determinacy and specificity, the record of adherence by states, and punitive and incentive mechanisms are all factors that shape this process.[20] By not viewing international law and IR theory as black and white, but as a spectrum where concepts like R2P escape narrow legal definitions, I focus on the problem of operationalizing rather than legalizing or institutionalizing R2P.[21] I accept as a given fact that genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity are all universally undesirable and in the vested interests of all states to prevent and punish as crimes for a variety of political, moral, and security reasons.

Under this framework, I ascribe to a reasoning that focuses on the realist enforceability of R2P as a tenet of institutional liberalism, rather than on its precise legal label in international law. I recognize that the legal ambiguity of R2P and the debate over its interpretation are conducive to its inconsistent application, yet I do not espouse legalism, which advances strict adherence to the law and searches for prescriptive legal solutions. The research does not concern itself as much with the legal right of states to intervene under the third pillar as with their political will to do so from an IR standpoint.[22] As discussed below, confusion over the nature of this right makes political will a leading factor that trumps legal and terminological evaluations.[23] This lens of analysis is largely contingent on Stephen Krasner’s seminal book Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (1999) and its application of James March’s and Johan Olsen’s thesis on the supremacy of the logics of expected consequences over the logics of appropriateness.[24] I purport that their argument holds true in this case, as political action and outcomes with regard to R2P do form the result of preference-maximizing rational behavior in the form of foreign policy responses.[25] Nevertheless, Krasner asserts that institutions and the multiplicity of norms and jurisdictions in the international environment can decisively influence actors’ strategies and decisions.[26] With this condition in mind, I attempt to prove that states intervene under the third pillar only when it is in their interests to do so, working with this fact rather than around it towards the normalization of R2P.

International Law & Institutional Liberalism

A thorough investigation of the challenges that R2P faces must begin by identifying its normative foundations, which are deeply rooted in tenets of liberalism, and particularly institutional liberalism, as encountered in traditional IR theory. In institutional terms, this concept derives legitimacy from and simultaneously interacts with an elaborate legal apparatus pertaining to state sovereignty, human rights, and intergovernmental cooperation.

R2P originated in the 1990s, when the international community faced a major backlash of popular humanitarian sentiment due to repeated failures in responding to mass atrocities in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo.[27] Public opinion on the national and international levels contributed to a shift from the concept of vulnerable civilians’ right to protection to that of a responsibility to protect them.[28] When the ICISS coined the term R2P in 2001, it partly attributed this sense of duty to the international community and tasked it with the protection of civilians if their government was unable or disinclined to provide it.[29] After the WSO was signed in 2005, many concerned parties interpreted the third pillar as a reincarnation of the highly controversial concept of “humanitarian intervention,” which heavily featured in public debate after Rwanda and Srebrenica.[30] This association spawned both rhetorical and practical challenges, discussed in more detail in the following section about the concept’s troublesome equivocality.

Regardless of such obstacles, by the turn of the century, the theoretical underpinnings of R2P had made their way into the language of world leaders. During the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) aerial campaign in Kosovo in 1999, President of the United States Bill Clinton told the media that “If the world community has the power to stop it, we ought to stop genocide and ethnic cleansing.”[31] It is telling that the resulting Kosovo Report characterized the intervention as “illegal but legitimate.” In spite of its legal indefensibility (given its lack of UNSC Article 39 authorization), its indispensable humanitarian function granted it legitimacy.[32] This trend continued throughout the 2000s, which saw the informal codification of R2P and its induction into the vocabulary of the international community. On 28 March 2011, President of the United States Barack Obama defended American involvement in NATO’s UN-sanctioned military operation in Libya by stating that: “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”[33]

In this context, R2P has been envisioned and articulated against an elaborate institutional and legal backdrop that is essential to its function: the complex system of international laws and institutions. As per the ICISS, this “emerging guiding principle in favor of military intervention for human protection purposes is also supported by a wide variety of legal sources.”[34] In the same report, the ICISS established third pillar intervention based on the “Just Cause Threshold:”

Military intervention for human protection purposes is an exceptional and extraordinary measure. To be warranted, there must be serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings, or imminently likely to occur, of the following kind: A. large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or B. large scale ‘ethnic cleansing’, actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.[35]

When the responsibility was mapped out in the WSO, it was limited to the four atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.[36] This specificity underscored the gravity of such intervention and set the protection of civilians as its sole objective in an attempt to assuage skeptics who viewed R2P as an open-ended infringement upon state sovereignty. More importantly, it attached this agenda to a series of institutions that form the core of the postwar international legal regime.

The first of these institutions is the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, whose first article establishes genocide as “a crime under international law which [the signatories] undertake to prevent and to punish.”[37] This foundational provision grounds the first pillar of R2P by establishing governmental responsibility to prevent and punish genocide. Article 8 provides an interpretation, providing to signatories the option to “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of” this crime.[38] International involvement is therefore directly referenced in the Genocide Convention, and the competent UN organ implied is the UNSC, which holds the authority to sanction the use of force. This international responsibility to protect civilians from atrocity crimes appears in the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) application of this convention in the 2007 case ruling for Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, in which it is stated that:[39]

[T]he obligation of States parties is rather to employ all means reasonably available to them, so as to prevent genocide so far as possible. A State does not incur responsibility simply because the desired result is not achieved; responsibility is however incurred if the State manifestly failed to take all measures to prevent genocide which were within its power….[40]

Included in these means to prevent genocide is recourse to any and all available domestic remedies and subsequently to the international community, a solution to which the signatory state has ascribed as a last resort by signing the Convention.[41]

Language of equal import that provides legal grounds for R2P is present in the common articles of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, as Article 1 commits states “to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.”[42] This provision is inextricably tied to Article 8.2 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which defines ‘war crimes’ as breaches of the Geneva Conventions under the jurisdiction of the Court, including:

(c) In the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, serious violations of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities….

[…]

(e) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character, within the established framework of international law….[43]

These two articles in tandem establish that signatories must prevent and punish war crimes committed against unprotected civilians even in the case of domestic conflicts, granting legitimacy to the first, second, and potentially third pillar. At the same time, the International Law Commission’s (ILC) non-binding Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts attribute to member-states of the UN the duty of international cooperation in order to prosecute any grave breach of international law.[44]

All these provisions relating to R2P come into play under the UN’s institutional structure. Of the utmost importance in considering action under the third pillar is Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which grants the UNSC the right to determine what qualifies as a threat to international peace and security (Article 39), as well as legally authorize the use of force against a state without consent (Article 42).[45] The UNSC has not only increasingly responded to atrocity crimes since the end of the Cold War, but has since also adopted the language of R2P on certain occasions during the past decade.[46] Through its authority derived from Charter, its resolutions have set precedent in acknowledging intrastate humanitarian emergencies and atrocity crimes as direct threats to international peace and security.[47] This trend would not have transpired were it not for the constellation of the Genocide Convention, the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute, and, of course, the UN Charter.

The third pillar of R2P is best explained as a global understanding that certain states will be unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities, resulting in situations where international action is required.[48] The Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Professor Alex Bellamy, provides an accessible definition that avoids legal elements: “a political commitment to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities accompanied by a policy agenda in need of implementation.”[49] Prominent international relations theorist Robert Keohane interestingly frames R2P as a concept that fits into broader global trends of increasing legalization, legalism, and moralism, as well as a declining “coherence of some international regimes.”[50] His latter observation is perhaps the most pertinent when it comes to R2P’s inconsistent application, yet his overall evaluation demonstrates its theoretical foundation on the belief that moral principles can give direction and structure to political action.[51] This is by no means a new development: Permanent 5 (P5) veto powers of the UNSC (China, France, Russia, UK, US) often evoked morality and even the concept of obligation to justify their foreign policy decisions during the Cold War era.[52] The fact that intervention under the third pillar must pursue exclusively moral objectives of protecting and saving civilians from atrocity crimes constitutes an update of jus ad bellum that raises many questions about jurisprudence and morality in international law.[53]

The growing influence of international civil society, intensifying globalization, and the increasing feasibility of interventionism due to interdependence networks and technology can help contextualize the character of R2P, which draws directly from liberalism in IR theory.[54] This doctrine is premised on the belief that states are capable of successfully cooperating with each other and non-state actors to transcend power politics, avoid conflict, and overcome global challenges.[55] In this case, atrocity crimes are the challenge at hand, with R2P resting upon the thorny intersection of national sovereignty and security on the one hand, and self-determination and human rights on the other.[56] It is the gravity of a government’s failure to fulfill the positive and negative rights of its population (i.e. to prevent and stop other parties from attacking its citizens or to not attack them itself) that justifies intervention in the case of atrocity crimes.[57] When this failure occurs, it is supposed to automatically deprive the state of its claim to national authenticity and sovereignty, legitimizing external intervention aimed at rectifying the humanitarian violation.[58] One of the many internal divisions within the theory of liberalism is that between liberals favoring interventionism and those opposing it.[59] External intervention for civilian protection undeniably falls in that first camp and draws its authority from the UN.

Such action therefore endorses an ideology of institutional liberalism, which supports cooperation in international relations, such as third pillar intervention to stop atrocity crimes, through international institutions and organizations, such as R2P and the UN.[60] This worldview challenges Westphalian tradition by making sovereignty conditional on and partially synonymous with the protection of civilians: it is a privilege that states earn, rather than a fixed or absolute entitlement, and it can be taken away if necessary.[61] For a government to merit its title, it has to live up to shared standards involving restraints and stipulations on its power.[62] For R2P to function, international institutions, such as the UN, the humanitarian principles, and the precepts of civilian protection, must enable the cooperation required for successful intervention with a humanitarian purpose.[63] This assumption implies that a universal notion of justice is attainable through interstate cooperation, an idea that the ICISS explicitly referred to in its report:

Just as the substance of human rights law is coming increasingly closer to realizing the notion of universal justice – justice without borders – so too is the process. … the universal jurisdiction which now exists under a number of treaties, like the Geneva Conventions, and which enables any state party to try anyone accused of the crimes in question, is now beginning to be seriously applied.[64]

The rhetoric of IR liberalism is also present in the 2017 SG report “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Accountability for Prevention,” which underscores that both international and national action against atrocity crimes is necessary to promote “just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”[65] When pronounced in such a manner, R2P also intersects, perhaps not on paper but on the battlefield, with republican liberalism’s missionary ideals about the spread of democratic governance that holds representative governments accountable to their populations.[66] The political nature and normative imperatives of this concept evidently become problematic and potentially self-defeating at this point. Such a vision of global governance, as liberal and law-enabled, not only flirts with imperialistic moralism and myopic legalism, but also prioritizes traditional and asymmetric power dynamics between states.[67] As discussed in the following sections, in a world where institutional liberalism often hits a wall built by realist national practice, R2P is in grave danger of delegitimation if its inconsistent application is not thoroughly dissected and overcome.

 

The Grey Zone: Legal Ambiguity & Sovereignty

R2P emerged from the tempestuous international experience with atrocity crimes in the 1990s and built its liberal narrative on the extensive legal apparatus analyzed above. Nevertheless, realist dynamics that oppose institutional liberalism severely jeopardize its implementation and lead to its inconsistent and selective application, which foreshadows its delegitimation by states. Before exploring these inhibitory realist politics in more detail, the legal ambiguity and scholarly dispute that plague R2P warrant special attention, as they contribute to a defective institutional environment in which states can employ this doctrine in erratic and dubious ways. The legalism that permeates this debate and the struggle to attribute a label to this agenda ultimately offer no answer to the problem of inconsistency and ignore the formative influence of political power and interests.

A plethora of views exist about the precise legal nature of R2P, although all fall under a strong consensus on its nonbinding and political character, making it much easier to define the concept in negative terms. Unequivocally, it is not a primary source of international law, as it only appears in non-binding and ancillary sources, such as UNGA declarations, SG reports, and legal scholarship, and is absent from all formal ones, such as treaties, customs, and principles.[68] It does not possess the status of a legal obligation due to its vague definition and scope, lack of a prescribed mechanism through which to delegate authority, and unspecified framework of implementation.[69] The UN High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change referred to R2P as an “emerging norm” in its 2004 report about shared responsibility on international security.[70] Nonetheless, scholars have since denied that it can be characterized as a ‘norm,’ because it lacks the clarity of legal elements required to recognize an emergent norm.[71] Many states have also refuted this characterization.[72] Faced with increasing international legalization in the past decades, many writers have classified certain concepts as ‘soft law,’ because they escape the paradigm of treaties and custom as the only pathways to legality.[73] Yet R2P has even been excluded from this flexible category as it presently carries no aspirations of assuming legally binding power and it is impossible to predict how and when it could turn into a legal obligation.[74]

In terms of what R2P actually is, some scholars have defined it “as a stalled or degenerating norm,” as a compilation of shared expectations with regard to the treatment of domestic populations, and as a sum of expectations that states with common political and institutional identities share.[75] It is considered to be a universal and enduring commitment that applies to all situations throughout time, yet practically forms a discretionary option for states.[76] Under this framework, legalistic approaches posit that the concept allocates informal jurisdiction by expanding and conferring public powers to the international community and its members.[77] Bellamy contends this terminologically normative approach and views the responsibility simply as a policy agenda that has to be implemented.[78] With regard to potential progress towards the concept’s elucidation, the aforementioned ILC Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts appear to be far from becoming a binding treaty anytime soon, in spite of their mostly positive reception by the UNGA.[79]

In consequence, the ambiguity, confusion, and debate surrounding R2P’s place in the legal and institutional apparatus of the international community significantly debilitate its application by allowing states to appropriate it as an ephemeral foreign policy choice.[80] This legal indeterminacy can be more broadly framed under the ambiguity of the concept of ‘responsibility,’ whose parameters in international law are not defined in any convention or other formal source.[81] Even though R2P does not qualify as opinio juris vel necessitatis, its use of the term ‘responsibility’ may approximate some form of legitimacy rather than legality.[82] The possibility of future legal obligations stemming from its ongoing ad hoc implementation is a contested topic and a dreaded prospect for many states.[83]

The liberal theoretical claims upon which R2P rests not only contribute to this paralyzing uncertainty about its legal nature, but they also come to odds with a fundamental principle of international law: state sovereignty.[84] More specifically, the challenge of indeterminacy is particularly problematic with regard to the implications of pillars two and three for sovereignty.[85] It is an uncontested fact that the four atrocity crimes are universally illegal, yet a crucial question remains: is it legal for external actors to prosecute them domestically? Article 2.7 of the UN Charter forms the hallmark of the principle of noninterference in respect of the territorial sovereignty of states:

Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.[86]

It logically follows that tensions exist between this provision and the activation of Article 42 under Chapter VII that authorizes the use of force.[87] Third pillar intervention tacitly accepts the interpretation of atrocity crimes as an international threat even when conducted domestically and warrants authority over this interpretation to the UNSC, an executive body whose membership structure is widely contested.[88]

Governments have even criticized the first and second pillars of the WSO, arguing that information gathering, monitoring, and assessment activities conducted by the UN can constitute violations of sovereignty.[89] Stephen Krasner distinguishes between four types of such sovereignty: international legal sovereignty, Westphalian sovereignty, domestic sovereignty, and interdependence sovereignty.[90] It is the relationship between R2P and Westphalian sovereignty, meaning the jurisdiction of states to determine the nature of their domestic authority, that is crucial to the former’s function, as the implementation of the third pillar effectively conditions this capacity of target states.[91] The ICISS report attempted to reframe and resolve the heated “sovereignty-intervention debate” that arose following humanitarian operations in the 1990s and was largely unsuccessful.[92]

As was mentioned above, a significant obstacle to R2P’s success has been its conflation with the older and rather unpopular term ‘humanitarian intervention,’ which stirred major controversy and fears with regard to the constitutional integrity of the principle of non-intervention following NATO’s campaign in Kosovo.[93] Some commonalities between these two concepts include external interference with humanitarian objectives, intrastate civilian protection operations, and the use of military force, most often for the protection of persecuted minority groups.[94] This terminological conflation has been particularly detrimental to the reputation of R2P, especially for those suspicious of the attempts made to reframe sovereignty as responsibility and prioritize civilian protection while vaguely sidestepping references to non-intervention.[95] Thakur has bemoaned the grouping of these two terms, commenting that “it is difficult to know if the continued employment of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the academic world as synonymous with R2P is due to intellectual hubris, laziness or incompetence.”[96]

The liberal contribution of this agenda to the normative architecture of the international community has thus produced major confusion and uncertainty.[97] Is it possible to claim that state refusal of external intervention against atrocities denies the international community its responsibilities when their very nature and legality are the subject of dispute? The fact that some of R2P’s partner norms and institutions are also under scrutiny further complicates matters. Most notably, the ICC, which is supposed to complement the three pillars by prosecuting criminals involved in atrocity crimes, has incomplete membership and faces serious opposition by certain states, including the US.[98] In light of the legal and institutional obstacles that plague R2P’s conclusive conceptualization and implementation, legalist approaches emphasizing the need for its formalization as a norm appear to be misguided and counterproductive.[99] Streamlined legalization and institutionalization of R2P become impossible when the fundamentals of its implementation cannot be concretely established.[100] This debate is not only unable to reach any definitive conclusions due to the pitfalls of legalistic and moralist rhetoric, but it also approaches the problem in an inverted manner. It is the realities of the international system that shape if and how a concept like R2P will function, first in the military and political battlefields, and consequently in the legal and institutional arenas. As discussed in the following sections, the concept is presently exposed to the realist politics of state governments, which selectively employ the term at their discretion and in pursuit of their national interests on a case-by-case basis. The resulting inconsistency in practice threatens the very viability and legitimacy of R2P.

 

Principle in Practice: R2P as a Realist Device

Realism: Foreign Policy & National Interests

The performance of R2P is therefore strong in liberal and ideological terms, mediocre at best in legal and institutional terms, and, as will be discussed in this section, poor in practical and political terms. Time and again, the international community has confronted its limits in rallying political will for civilian protection, an agenda interpreted as an optional tool of diplomacy that legitimizes intervention if powerful preferences coincide with the requisite criteria.[101] State behavior towards R2P can best be understood through realism to explain how national interests unrelated to humanitarian concerns determine its implementation.[102] The realist school of thought views states as the only significant actors in world affairs, the international system as anarchic and competitive, material factors (e.g. military might) as far more important than non-material ones (e.g. international law), and state actions as rational and conducive to self-help.[103] According to Basaran, “humanitarian and strategic concerns are not merely coincidental [but] indistinguishable.”[104] International law and ethics seem to figure less in some cases of atrocity crimes, such as in Syria since 2012, when states opt for action or inaction in violation of international norms and structures.[105] Economic interests, historical enmities, political agendas, and security concerns all contribute to the inconsistency of R2P.[106]

Before exploring empirical cases illustrative of this realist appropriation, it is important to consider the concept as a matter of strategic choice in rational foreign policymaking. Governments exercising their foreign policies do not deliberate over whether R2P is a norm, a provision of soft law, or an emerging custom. They identify it as a non-binding and optional path, and may therefore operate within this framework to achieve the best possible result for their national preferences.[107] Any and all obligations arising from the second and third pillar of the SG’s 2009 report should therefore be viewed as foreign policy decisions and opportunities for self-help. It can be expected that anytime political will and military capacity overlap, states will engage in intervention to protect civilians.[108] A cost-benefit analysis pertaining to foreign policy objectives is necessary to decide if intervention is too risky, ambitious, or otherwise potentially prejudicial.[109] Krasner points out that decision-makers seek to preserve their position and further their constituents’ interests; utilizing, ignoring, or blocking R2P are different ways to achieve these goals, as is recourse to the normative shield of sovereignty.[110]

The ICISS specified that any intervention under the third pillar should be “carried out only for the purposes proposed,” yet this hope may simply be an unrealistic one.[111] Pioneering IR theorist E. H. Carr would have branded this expectation as a typical case of ‘utopianism’ that ignores the disharmony and rivalry of state interests in a multipolar world.[112] Hans Morgenthau, one of the postwar architects of realism, would have also rejected this sanitized humanitarian view of R2P for being fundamentally incompatible with the eternal insecurity and struggle for power in international politics.[113] The same could be said of a response by Kenneth Waltz, father of neorealism.[114] It can be safely assumed that rulers want to remain in power and promote the security of their position and constituents – if the third pillar furthers these objectives and the major institutional powers at the UN (the P5) concur, R2P will be applied.[115]

It would be a gross oversimplification to condemn this entire agenda as a neo-colonial ruse that exposes weaker states against the predatory military powers vociferously pursuing their national interests.[116] Yet an overview of R2P as part of UN operations since 2005 shows that sovereignty and self-help repeatedly undercut international humanitarian principles, and in this case the civilian protection agenda.[117] As a result, instead of one scenario whereby R2P is invoked and applied as appropriate, there are four: the presence of third pillar criteria followed by intervention or inaction, and the lack of the third pillar criteria followed by intervention or inaction. In the remainder of this section, the effect of these scenarios on the legitimacy and viability of R2P are explored through empirical case studies.

Perhaps the most critical category is the lack of intervention when R2P criteria warrant international military action under the third pillar. The two most exemplary cases of such inaction in the face of atrocity crimes have been Darfur for the 2000s and Syria for the 2010s. The former case, a genocide that began in 2003 and unfolded as R2P was still being articulated, immediately challenged the concept’s capacity to generate any sort of “compliance pull” amongst states in a timely fashion.[118] The humanitarian crisis in what was then a contiguous Sudan became a staple accusation about the inability of the UN to respond in a timely and effective manner to atrocity crimes, just as the Rwandan genocide had been in the 1990s. John Holmes, who served as Under-SG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the time, noted in retrospect  that international intervention was not seriously considered until the genocide was well underway because it was simply not in the interests of capable powers.[119] Observers surmised that Sudan, a relatively poor and strategically unimportant state, did not merit the risks attached to such a humanitarian investment.[120] By the time action was underway, many commentators, such as Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani, characterized humanitarian concerns for Darfur as masked imperialism or, at the very least, contrived liberal rhetoric.[121]

Yet it is the crisis in Syria during this decade that has dealt the most serious blow to the reputation of R2P. Five years into the conflict, the evidence of several types of atrocity crimes is overwhelming. The complexity of relations between the Syrian state, the Syrian opposition, and ISIS on the one hand and foreign governments and international actors on the other has created a logjam in the UNSC. Human rights advocates and other critics have lamented the situation as definitive confirmation of the harsh reality that geopolitical interests supersede humanitarianism and civilian protection.[122] This crisis also evinces that domestic humanitarian emergencies often have significant regional and global repercussions. For instance, even though China has weak trade and investment ties with the Syrian economy, it is highly vested in maintaining regional stability in the Middle East for diplomatic, economic, and energy reasons.[123] In a similar vein, President Obama explicitly linked the situation to U.S. security interests and the threat of terrorism in order to defend proposals for intervention.[124] Even beyond the P5, India’s skepticism towards intervention might be understood as responsible and attentive apprehension towards Middle Eastern conflicts due to Delhi’s own large Muslim minority.[125]

Darfur and Syria thus comprise the two exemplary cases of R2P’s chronic selectivity, inconsistency, and sluggishness due to the dominance of realism at the UN, yet many other less publicized instances of inaction have occurred since its establishment. Some of these include the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen that has elicited little response and the escalating threat of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in post-intervention Somalia since 2006.[126] Indicative is the protection crisis that transpired in Sri Lanka in 2009, when intervention was never seriously considered despite the killing of approximately 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians. Under-SG John Holmes recounted how this crisis posed the fundamental “question of whether R2P means anything at all in practice,” since its first two pillars had been exhausted and the abuses against Sri Lankans may have warranted intervention under the third one.[127] Yet again, a divergence of interests can explain why the crisis did not even make it to the UNSC’s formal agenda.[128]

It is therefore evident that the reputation and legitimacy of R2P may be irreparably damaged as instances of inaction amass, in addition to cases when the application of the concept is hotly contested. The most striking example of such a debate occurred when, in 2008, Russia militarily intervened in Georgia to route local troops out of the region of South Ossetia in what became known as the Russo-Georgian War. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended the operation as lawful under R2P, while mainly Western observers argued that the intervention was disproportionate and illegitimate.[129] In response to this incident, grave concerns were expressed about how to identify and apply R2P.[130] In another instance, in 2008 Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar, whose government was unable to manage the emergency but refused to admit aid workers into the country.[131] A group of predominantly French policymakers rapidly invoked R2P to express the need for intervention, an argument that generated further unease towards the concept even though no military action was ultimately considered or required as the government was later convinced to accept aid.[132]

In consequence, Darfur, Syria, South Ossetia, Sri Lanka, and other such cases of ignored, unanswered, or debated humanitarian crises discredit and delegitimize action in the cases where R2P is applied. The poster child for the implementation of the third pillar is widely considered to be the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya. A looming humanitarian crisis in the target state was addressed using the vocabulary of civilian protection in compliance with the stipulations of the WSO and the 2009 SG report.[133] The terminology was partially expressed both in UNSC resolution 1973 and in the rhetoric of world leaders, such as British Prime Minister David Cameron.[134] Nonetheless, no sooner was the intervention welcomed as a victory for this emerging concept, than suspicion, complaints and accusations arose about the Western agenda in Libya and its underlying goal of regime change.[135] Many commentators have retrospectively framed this operation in relatively conspiratorial terms as a rare confluence of interests of the European Union (EU), LAS, and NATO centered upon economic and geopolitical concerns.[136] Initially a perceived success for R2P, the Libya case reignited fears about its function as a political tool that enables military predation and interference under humanitarian pretenses.[137] The same backlash later occurred against the response to the escalating crisis in Cote d’Ivoire in 2011, when the French-led intervention was later severely criticized for bypassing its mandate and facilitating regime change in violation of humanitarian principles.[138]

All of these case studies are the end results of complex amalgams of competing national interests expressed through the UNSC. Evidently, present institutional structures have been instrumental in transforming R2P into a “discretionary entitlement” dependent on the degree of convergence between powerful foreign policy objectives.[139] Such fragile convergence transpired momentarily to authorize the 2011 intervention in Libya, but appears to be definitively lacking in the case of Syria.[140] The ICISS, SG Ban Ki-Moon, and many other policymakers and commentators have called on the P5 to restrict veto use in humanitarian emergencies, yet these demands seem unlikely to succeed in the near future.[141] The opposition of many member-states to the ICC compounds the sluggishness, indecision, and bottlenecks at the UNSC, making it increasingly disinclined to refer breaches of international law to the Court.[142] As a result, the complementarity principle of the ICC is increasingly undermined, while tensions over legal jurisdiction intensify.[143] Calls for the UNSC to live up to its responsibility and put an end to impunity are made increasingly difficult to respond to under these mechanisms.[144]

This empirical overview, framed under the principles of realist thought in IR theory, demonstrates that when intervention is actually favored under the third pillar, it is in tandem with the pursuit of some form of power, such as profit, strategic influence, or prestige.[145] Taking into account the entirety of these case studies, it is safe to assert that past fears of R2P besmirching the broader agenda for civilian protection during armed conflict have partially materialized, owing to the concept’s political susceptibility.[146] Under the rigid structure of the UNSC, the implementation of the third pillar is bound to inconsistency and will occur only if the P5 reach an ephemeral consensus and the intervention has a high likelihood of success and manageable costs.[147] The ICISS itself briefly admitted that the material and political costs of intervention may make it imperative for self-interest to exist for intervening states to take on this complex responsibility.[148]

 

The Relativity of Security: Delegitimation through State Interaction

The above empirical overview thus establishes that states engage in, abstain from, or block third pillar intervention based on rational foreign policymaking that accounts for political and operational risks, domestic and international opinions, and material and reputational costs. Yet it is equally important to address the interaction of these national interests: state behavior and preferences are not determined in a unilateral political vacuum, which means that collective, multilateral dynamics must shape the inconsistent and problematic implementation of R2P. The rationale of comparative power that lies behind fears and accusations of imperialism, violations of sovereignty, and objectives of regime change warrants special attention if this concept is to be thoroughly decoded through the realist lens.

R2P functions on a more profound level by upsetting relative security in a zero-sum game of power between states. Lake’s and Powell’s strategic-choice approach is critical to understand this dynamic: the focus is placed on the effect that the interaction of states has on institutions of international cooperation, as the ability of each actor to further their ends is directly related to the behavior and abilities of other actors.[149] Recalling the aforesaid fundamentals of realism, states that are in constant pursuit of their interests inevitably define their national preferences based on long-run regime security, which is defined in terms of power relative to that of other states.[150] In a fiercely competitive international system, power can only be defined against weakness, and vice versa. If a state gains more power, it acquires a comparative advantage over its peers, while if one of its peers gains more power, it is placed in a comparative disadvantage that decreases its regime security. A zero-sum game emerges because any gain or loss of power, or security, by one state is balanced by a corresponding loss or gain of power by the others, always in relative terms.

This dynamic leads to the question: can R2P help a state achieve that comparative advantage? Or, more importantly, can it help states place their rivals in a comparative disadvantage? The answer to both of these questions is ambivalent, due to the important consideration of which states actually possess the power and capacity to implement the third pillar. The disproportionate capacity of the most powerful states to shape global norms and project military might naturally generates opposition by other powers, which are always at risk of becoming comparatively weaker.[151] States with the potential to undertake major R2P interventions abroad encounter the suspicion and opposition of those who would suffer from a potential institutionalization of such power projection under the agenda for civilian protection.[152] As a result, the dimensions of institutionalization and persistence/durability that Krasner identifies as characteristic of institutions are hotly contested in the case of R2P: behavioral compliance and its normative viability are both cloudy prospects at the moment.[153]

Domestic affairs, foreign policy objectives, culture-specific definitions of sovereignty, and historical legacies thus define full or partial acceptance or rejection of R2P on a case-by-case and state-by-state basis.[154] Adherence to the concept legitimizes R2P through the operative process of internalizing an external, international standard.[155] The stance of a government towards the application of the third pillar is inextricably tied to the effect of an intervention on its regime security and relative power. This deliberation depends on many factors pertaining to the target and the intervening actor(s) in an atrocity crisis somewhere in the world.[156] The negative consequence of this reality is that civilian protection is framed against an ephemeral and negatively biased burden of proof encouraging non-engagement. This burden could perhaps explain why R2P suffered from “buyer’s remorse” expressed by several states early on in its development.[157] In practice, states interpret it less as an opportunity to save vulnerable populations from atrocity crimes and more as an opportunity for their rivals, or themselves, to make relative gains of power and upset system stability.[158] A perverse collective action problem under multi-agent game theory thus arises, whereby successful cooperation cannot be normalized.[159] At the same time, states wish to strengthen their reputations as another form of security by projecting a law-abiding image of themselves and upholding ius inter gentes, the system of laws that governs relations between sovereigns that are equal and derive their legitimacy by consenting to that system.[160] For this reason, objections regarding the third pillar largely concern how states judge the behavior of their peers as appropriate or not when sanctioned under R2P.[161]

In this context, the reactions of other states towards the decision to intervene are just as important as the decision itself when it comes to functionalizing R2P. Instead of examining again specific cases based on the application of R2P, it is more pertinent to look at the behavior of specific states and groups of states towards specific cases, namely Russia, China, and Brazil. The paradigm of military and political dominance of Western powers over international institutions reasonably generates opposition, which is fueled by security concerns and realpolitik ambitions.[162] The broad range of reactions, especially the plethora of negative ones, towards the agenda for civilian protection mostly concern the projection of concentrated Western power.[163] After more than a decade, it has become clear that R2P will not be transformed into a tool as extreme as a so-called “interveners’ charter,” yet its implementation still remains a battleground where states fight for international influence and national security.[164]

This key role of the observer-critic can be principally attributed to Russia and China, the two global leaders in the UNSC that do not belong in the Western bloc.[165] Both powers expressed strong skepticism and reservations during the inception of R2P, arguing that the WSO only committed the UNGA to further discussion and deliberation about a concept that was not ready to enter the UNSC Chamber.[166] When R2P’s big Libyan moment came in 2011, the Russian and Chinese delegations abstained from the resolution that authorized intervention; reportedly unconvinced about the necessity to use military force and doubting the motives of a potential campaign, they later decried its agenda as dedicated to regime change after the operation had begun.[167] This campaign has retrospectively been translated by some into a “win” for the West in the zero-sum game with a complete lack of accountability for NATO, leading both Russia and China to refuse to repeat themselves when the crisis in Syria erupted in 2012.[168] Vetoing a series of resolutions to impose punitive measures on the Syrian regime, they doubted Western motives and emphasized the need for domestic reforms and political dialogue without questioning the legitimacy per se of international intervention with humanitarian objectives.[169] Russia also condemned the political motives behind the French third pillar intervention in Côte d’Ivoire and questioned the legality of that operation.[170] This is not to say that the dispute over R2P is framed along a ‘West vs. rest’ line; when Russian officials defended the intervention in Ukraine and the resulting annexation of Crimea under such humanitarian language, China and other powers opposed their argument for the very same realist security reasons since they oppose Western actions.[171] Meanwhile, China’s strong opposition to foreign interference in its domestic affairs and its aspirations to responsible superpowerdom fuel its consistent reservation towards R2P; in response to Libya, an article in the People’s Daily that year emphasized the importance of avoiding “external imposition of political solutions.”[172]

Many governments beyond the P5 have been vocally skeptical of any sort of intervention with humanitarian objectives ever since the emergence of the Blair-Clinton doctrines of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the 1990s. Many analysts justify this approach given the interventionism that these states have faced in the past.[173] A BRIC member, Brazil, has spearheaded revisionism regarding R2P: the “responsibility while protecting” is an alternative interpretation that focuses on the actions and jurisdiction of the state that decides to take up the international community’s responsibilities to protect civilians.[174] During the 64th Session of the UNGA in 2009, countries including Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe attacked the concept.[175] A controversial moment during this occasion saw Noam Chomsky blast the US, Britain, and other Western powers, accusing them of hypocrisy and a colonial agenda behind their inconsistent intervention in humanitarian emergencies.[176] India and South Africa are also wary of potential infringements upon their sovereignty through the ruse of responsibility. As I have argued so far, the inconsistency of its application may partly give credit to the view that R2P provides a mechanism for Western states to expand their influence, and thus comparatively decrease the security of other states.[177]

The realist showdown over R2P, which approximates a multilateral game theory scenario gone wrong, forces intervening states to become more reticent about taking action if it is in their interests and makes them completely unwilling to do so if it is not. When they do act, they strive to undermine the gravity of their actions by emphasizing their selective and exceptional nature.[178] In virtually every one of the aforementioned cases of third pillar invocation, states have avoided justifying intervention using legal terms, not only to prevent other states from using the same argument against them, but also to portray their foreign policy as complying with acceptable standards of state behavior and responding to a sui generis, unique situation.[179] Following the backlash against the ‘humanitarian intervention’ proclamations of Western powers in the 1990s, states have become so aware of the ‘audience costs’ of the foreign policy commitment and risks involved in R2P intervention that consistent action under the third pillar is often paralyzed. Characteristically, President Obama justified the 2011 intervention in Libya with reasons that were cautiously confined and tailored only to this case.[180] The EU has, in turn, appropriated aspects of this argument to justify its responses to events in the North African and Middle Eastern regions ever since.[181] It should therefore come as no surprise that no explicit mention was made in the relevant UNSC resolution to the international community’s “responsibility to protect” and no clear relationship was established between the military campaign to protect Libyan citizens and the third pillar under the framework of R2P.[182]

In this climate, the P5 have avoided setting precedent of any kind with regard to intervention even when R2P has been applied, signaling in good faith to their peers that they abstain from interpreting and defining the meaning of protection and peace through force in the interests of stability.[183] At the same time, viewing R2P as yet another screw in the realist toolkit raises questions about free-rider behavior. Such behavior could manifest as political penetration of other states with the purpose of influencing the deployment of military power in a way that advances home interests.[184] In this scenario, the third pillar becomes a specie of political commodity, an ephemeral option that must be kept secret and downplayed in the hope that benefits will be reaped from abroad, very much like a covert operation reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Looking at the broader realist picture, it becomes easier to believe that it is not in any state’s security interests to normalize the implementation of R2P and amend its selective, inconsistent application. Keohane summarizes this dynamic in his pivotal work After Hegemony: “Actors may fail to cooperate even when their interests are entirely identical.”[185] Yet framing this challenge as a collective action problem is perhaps misleading, as all states would not benefit from a unanimous legitimation of R2P in practice in the same way that not all states benefit from its ongoing failures. The proclaimed path to a world where atrocity crimes have been completely eliminated through international action may be premised upon assumptions that run counter to the deepest instincts of the Westphalian state for future security and survival.[186] Inferring that a conflict of interests exists across the table due to ongoing disputes poses the risk of a dangerous simplification: national foreign policies are highly prone to incompatibility based on shifting geopolitical and economic factors, yet the desire for security is fixed and shared.[187] The result is the present controversy surrounding the implementation of the third pillar within an international system in a realist ‘state of war,’ with the main challenge being the relativity of security.[188] States may be unable to reach a consensus on R2P because a fixed consensus is actually undesirable and therefore unachievable.[189] It may be cynical or even deterministic to assert that there will always be Libyas and there will always be Syrias as natural outcomes of the interaction of state preferences, but the belief in the independent agency of national foreign policy may be overestimated.[190] The element of agency in strategic choice, such as the implementation of the third pillar, arises under collective institutions carrying shared meanings that may be partly unconscious and involuntary, owing to the structural and systemic dynamics of the international regime and the importance of maintaining a balance of power that is functioning and sustainable.[191] This reality escapes the moralism and legalism present in the debate over R2P as representative of liberalism in IR theory and casts doubt over the concept’s viability.

Conclusion

This theoretical and empirical study demonstrates that R2P functions as a foreign policy choice that is best understood through the lens of realism in IR theory. The susceptible liberal underpinnings of this concept, along with its challenging legal ambiguity, have undermined its humanitarian character and generated skepticism, uncertainty, and confusion about its interpretation. In 2001, the ICISS presaged the real challenge with the following question: “But can the fact that effective international action is not always possible in every instance of major humanitarian catastrophe ever be an excuse for inaction where effective responses are possible?”[192] The answer is definitely negative, and the double standard of inconsistency is by all means and measures preferable to complete inaction when it comes to saving human lives.[193] Achieving a state of complete disinterestedness, in which moral humanitarianism would exclusively and completely replace the relativity of power, is an unrealistic and practically impossible prospect. As evinced by this analysis, the competitive pursuit of state interests and the constant interaction of national preferences result in the inconsistent application of R2P against a negative burden of proof that favors non-engagement and a lack of accountability.[194] The positive euphoria of the liberal internationalism and solidarism that followed the end of the Cold War appears to be retreating, leaving behind an updated yet still traditional model of Westphalian sovereignty.[195]

Nonetheless, by accepting and embracing the realism inherent in state behavior, the debate surrounding R2P can shift from cyclical disputes about its precise legal status to practical questions about its implementation. As discussed above, R2P risks delegitimation due to a variety of factors, including its legal and institutional ambiguity, its discretionary nature, the legalism and moralism of its commentators, and, most importantly, its realist appropriation and inconsistent application by states. The ongoing normative dialogue’s counterproductive character concerning the third pillar echoes the words of Keohane about how liberalism, and in this case institutional liberalism, “is incomplete as an explanation[,] can become normatively myopic, [and] can backfire as a policy prescription.”[196] Yet these shortcomings do not make its objectives unattainable or inherently incompatible with the nature of states: realist and liberal interests can and often do coincide, as case studies like Libya and Côte d’Ivoire illustrate. Through the interactive process of state interests that define if and how R2P is applied, successful incentive mechanisms could lead states to cling to international institutions rather than unilateral self-help.[197] As Kenneth Waltz argued, “[t]hrough a variety of causal mechanisms, structure shapes and shoves states to do certain things.”[198]

In order to combat the culture of impunity and address as many cases of atrocity crimes as possible, it is vital to decode this structure and begin an exploration of realist methods to incentivize foreign policymaking in the service of past, present, and future victims of atrocity crimes.[199] This investigation forms only the first step in this process: understanding how the current structure of the international system is shaping the problematic behavior of states towards this agenda. Following steps should address how to equitably cooperate under that structure in order to elicit change in state behavior and minimize number of victims of atrocity crimes. Potential paths moving forward could include the regionalization of certain aspects of R2P to facilitate third pillar intervention, the establishment of incentive mechanisms to maintain uninterrupted rather than ad hoc cooperation under the complementarity principle, and the cultivation of punitive reputational mechanisms that mobilize international civil society against inaction.[200] Yet such prospects to normalize R2P seem to be in a race against time, as many policymakers, scholars, and analysts already claim that the agenda will not survive the impact of the Syrian crisis.[201] In the current state of affairs, the inconsistent application of R2P is a risk to its legitimacy and viability, and consequently the prospect of one day addressing the majority, if not the entirety, of humanitarian emergencies involving atrocity crimes

 

 


Bibliography

“President Clinton talks with ‘Late Edition’.” CNN.com. 20 June 1999. Date Accessed: October 28, 2017. URL: http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/06/20/clinton.transcript/.

Al-Rodhan, Nayef R. F. Symbiotic Realism: A Theory of International Relations in an Instant and an Interdependent World. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction, 2007.

Annan, Kofi A. ‘We the peoples’: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. New York, NY: United Nations, 2000.

Armstrong, David, Farrell, Theo, and Lambert, Hélène. International Law and International Relations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Basaran, Halil Rahman. “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect.” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 38, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 195-212.

Bellamy, Alex J. “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on.” Ethics & International Affairs 24, no. 2 (2010): 143-169.

–––, and Williams, Paul D. “The new politics of protection? Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and the responsibility to protect.” International Affairs 87, no. 4 (July 2011): 825-850.

–––. The responsibility to protect: a defense. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015.

–––. “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten.” Ethics & International Affairs 29, no. 2 (Summer 2015): 161-185.

Bosco, Giorgio. “The responsibility to protect.” Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali, Nuova Serie 80, no. 1 (January-March 2013): 59-68.

Chen, Zheng. “China and the responsibility to protect.” Journal of Contemporary China 25, no. 101 (2016): 686-700.

Chesterman, Simon. “‘Leading from Behind’: The Responsibility to Protect, the Obama Doctrine, and Humanitarian Intervention after Libya.” Ethics & International Affairs 25, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 1-7.

Chomsky, Noam. “Statement by Professor Noam Chomsky to the United Nations General Assembly Thematic Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect.” Statement, 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY, July 23, 2009.

Clark, Ian. Legitimacy in International Society. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Deng, Francis M., Kimaro, Sadikiel, Lyons, Terrence, Rothchild, Donald, and Zartman, I. William. Sovereignty as Responsibility: Conflict Management in Africa, First Edition. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1996.

Doyle, Michael W. “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect.” International Studies Review 13, no. 1 (March, 2011): 72-84.

Espada, Cesáreo Gutiérrez, and Hortal, María José Cervell. Nacimiento, Auge y Decadencia de la Responsabilidad de Proteger. Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares, 2014.

Finnemore, Martha, and Sikkink, Kathryn. “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change.” International Organization 52, no. 4 (Autumn 1998): 887-917.

Freyberg-Inan, Annette, Harrison, Ewan, and James, Patrick. Introduction to Rethinking Realism in International Relations: Between Tradition and Innovation. Edited by Freyberg-Inan, Annette, Harrison, Ewan, and James, Patrick. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

Gowan, Richard. “EU-UN Cooperation: From Safe Altruism to Reluctant Pragmatism” in Stop Mass Atrocities: Advancing EU Cooperation with Other International Organizations. Edited by Peral, Luis and Pirozzi, Nicoletta. Rome, Italy: Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2013.

Griffiths, Martin. Rethinking International Relations Theory. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Hajjami, Nabil. La Responsabilité de Protéger. Brussels, Belgium: Éditions Bruylant, 2013.

Hardin, Russell. Collective Action. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press for Resources for the Future, 1982.

Hehir, Aidan. “The Permanence of Inconsistency: Libya, the Security Council, and the Responsibility to Protect.” International Security 38, no. 1 (Summer 2013): 137-159.

Holmes, John. “Responsibility to Protect: A Humanitarian overview.” Global Responsibility to Protect 6 (2014): 126-145.

Hurd, Ian. After Anarchy: Legitimacy and Power in the United Nations Security Council. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Hurrel, Adnrew. “Emerging Powers, Diverse Values and the Changing Character of International Society” in “Responsibility to Protect”: nuovi orientamenti su intervento umanitario e ordine internazionale. Edited by Lavenia, Vincenzo. Macerata, Italy: edizioni università di macerata, 2015.

ICC-OPT Group of Experts. Informal expert paper: The Principle of complementarity in practice. The Hague, Netherlands: International Criminal Court, 2003.

Independent International Commission on Kosovo, The Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000.

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP). “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect” in The International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). ICRtoP. Date Accessed: October 29, 2017. URL: http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/about-rtop/related-themes/2416-icc-and-rtop.

International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The Responsibility to Protect. Ottawa, Canada: International Development Research Centre, 2001.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. 75 UNTS 287.

International Court of Justice (ICJ). North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Federal Republic of Germany v. Denmark; Federal Republic of Germany v. Netherlands). ICJ Reports 1969, 20 February 1969.

–––. ‘‘The Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Serbia and Montenegro).’’ Judgment, 26 February 2007.

International Law Commission (ILC). Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts. 2001.

International Law Commission (ILC). ‘‘Third Report on Responsibility of International Organizations by Mr. Giorgio Gaja, Special Rapporteur.’’ A/CN.4/553.

Keohane, Robert O. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

–––. “Hobbes’s dilemma and institutional change in world politics: sovereignty in international society” in Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World. Edited by Robert O. Keohane. London, UK: Routledge, 2002.

–––. “International liberalism reconsidered” in Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World. Edited by Robert O. Keohane. London, UK: Routledge, 2002.

–––. “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism.” International Relations 26, no. 2 (2012): 125-138.

Krasner, Stephen D. Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Kuperman, Alan J. “Rethinking the Responsibility to Protect.” The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 10, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2009): 19-29.

Lake, David A., and Powell, Robert. Strategic Choice and International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Luck, Edward C. “Sovereignty, Choice, and the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Responsibility to Protect 1 (2009): 10-21.

Mayer, Susan E. “In Our Interest: The Responsibility to Protect,” in Responsibility to Protect: The Global Moral Compact for the 21st Century. Edited by Cooper, Richard H., and Kohler, Juliette Voïnov. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Orford, Anne. International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Roff, Heather M. “Covert Actions and the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Responsibility to Protect 7 (2015): 167-189.

Šimonović, Ivan. “The Responsibility to Protect.” United Nations Chronicle 53, no. 4 (February 2017): 18-20.

Tacheva, Blagovesta, and Brown, Garrett Wallace. “Global constitutionalism and the responsibility to protect.” Global Constitutionalism 4, no. 3 (2015): 428-467.

Thakur, Ramesh. “The Responsibility to Protect at 15.” International Affairs 92, no. 2 (2016): 415-434.

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 9 December 1948, United Nations, Treaty Series 78.

–––. Note [transmitting report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, entitled “A more secure world: our shared responsibility”]. 2 December 2004, A/59/565.

–––. 2005 World Summit Outcome: resolution / adopted by the General Assembly. 24 October 2005, A/RES/60/1.

–––. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (last amended 2010). 17 July 1998.

United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. “Mandate.” United Nations. Date Accessed: November 4, 2017. URL: www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/office-mandate.html.

United Nations Secretary-General (SG). Implementing the responsibility to protect: report of the Secretary-General. 12 January 2009, A/63/677.

–––. A vital and enduring commitment: implementing the responsibility to protect: Report of the Secretary-General. 13 July 2015, A/69/981–S/2015/500.

–––. Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Accountability for Prevention: Report of the Secretary-General. 10 August 2017, A/71/1016–S/2017/556.

United Nations (UN). Charter of the United Nations. 24 October 1945, 1 UNTS XVI.

Walt, Stephen M. Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy. New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2005.

Waltz, Kenneth N., “Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Reply to My Critics” in Neorealism and its Critics, Keohane, Robert O. (ed.), New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986.

Weiss, Thomas G. “Military Humanitarianism: Syria Hasn’t Killed It.” The Washington Quarterly 37, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 7-20.

Wendt, Alexander. “Anarchy Is What States Make of It.” International Organization 46, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 391-425.

Ziegler, Charles E. “Contesting the Responsibility to Protect.” International Studies Perspectives 17 (2016): 75-97.

 

Endnotes

[1] International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), The Responsibility to Protect (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001).

[2] Halil Rahman Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect,” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 38, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 195; United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), 2005 World Summit Outcome: resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 24 October 2005, A/RES/60/1.

[3] Throughout this paper, I adhere to the use of the term ‘atrocity crimes’ as summarizing the four forms of violence identified in the WSO: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Alex J. Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on,” Ethics & International Affairs 24, no. 2 (2010): 144; Susan E. Mayer, “In Our Interest: The Responsibility to Protect” in Responsibility to Protect: The Global Moral Compact for the 21st Century, eds. Richard H. Cooper and Juliette Voïnov Kohler (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 44.

[4] UNGA, 2005 World Summit Outcome, 30.

[5] United Nations Secretary General (SG), Implementing the responsibility to protect: report of the Secretary-General, 12 January 2009, A/63/677, 2; Zheng Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect,” Journal of Contemporary China 25, no. 101 (2016): 688.

[6] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 143; United Nations Secretary General (SG), Implementing the responsibility to protect (2009), 2.

[7] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 195.

[8] Giorgio Bosco, “The responsibility to protect,” Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali, Nuova Serie 80, no. 1 (January-March 2013): 63.

[9] Alex J. Bellamy and Paul D. Williams, “The new politics of protection? Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and the responsibility to protect,” International Affairs 87, no. 4 (July 2011): 827.

[10] United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, “Mandate,” United Nations, Date Accessed: 4 Nov 2017, URL: www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/office-mandate.html.

[11] Alex J. Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten,” Ethics & International Affairs 29, no. 2 (Summer 2015): 168.

[12] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 207.

[13] Ivan Šimonović, “The Responsibility to Protect,” United Nations Chronicle 53, no. 4 (February 2017): 18.

[14] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 161.

[15] Simon Chesterman, “‘Leading from Behind’: The Responsibility to Protect, the Obama Doctrine, and Humanitarian Intervention after Libya,” Ethics & International Affairs 25, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 1.

[16] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, XI.

[17] United Nations Secretary-General (SG), A vital and enduring commitment: implementing the responsibility to protect: Report of the Secretary-General, 13 July 2015, A/69/981–S/2015/500, 122.

[18] Ramesh Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15,” International Affairs 92, no. 2 (2016): 423.

[19] Martin Griffiths, Rethinking International Relations Theory (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 13-4; Annette Freyberg-Inan, Ewan Harrison, and Patrick James, introduction to Rethinking Realism in International Relations: Between Tradition and Innovation, eds. Annette Freyberg-Inan, Ewan Harrison, and Patrick James (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 9.

[20] Michael W. Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect,” International Studies Review 13, no. 1 (March, 2011): 83; Ian Hurd, After Anarchy: Legitimacy and Power in the United Nations Security Council (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 7; Aidan Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency: Libya, the Security Council, and the Responsibility to Protect,” International Security 38, no. 1 (Summer 2013): 150.

[21] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 203.

[22] Chesterman, “Leading from Behind:” 1.

[23] Robert O. Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism,” International Relations 26, no. 2 (2012): 133.

[24] Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 5.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 43, 72.

[27] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 197; Nabil Hajjami, La Responsabilité de Protéger (Brussels, Belgium: Éditions Bruylant, 2013), 28-33.

[28] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 197.

[29] Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 687; ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, XII.

[30] John Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect: A Humanitarian overview,” Global Responsibility to Protect 6 (2014): 128.

[31] “President Clinton talks with ‘Late Edition’,” CNN.com, 20 June 1999, Date Accessed: 28 Oct 2017, URL: http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/06/20/clinton.transcript/; Alan J. Kuperman, “Rethinking the Responsibility to Protect,” The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 10, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2009): 20.

[32] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 80; The Independent International Commission on Kosovo, The Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000), 4.

[33] Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 130.

[34] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 16.

[35] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, XII.

[36] UNGA, 2005 World Summit Outcome, 30.

[37] United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 9 December 1948, United Nations, Treaty Series 78: 280.

[38] Ibid., 282.

[39] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 161.

[40] International Court of Justice (ICJ). ‘‘The Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Serbia and Montenegro).’’ Judgment, 26 February 2007. 221.

[41] Ibid., 225.

[42] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 287, 35.

[43] United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (last amended 2010). 17 July 1998. 5, 8.

[44] International Law Commission (ILC), Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, 2001; International Law Commission (ILC), ‘‘Third Report on Responsibility of International Organizations by Mr. Giorgio Gaja, Special Rapporteur,’’ A/CN.4/553, para. 10.

[45] United Nations (UN), Charter of the United Nations, 24 October 1945, 1 UNTS XVI, 9.

[46] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 166.

[47] Bosco, “The responsibility to protect:” 59.

[48] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 147.

[49] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 158-9.

[50] Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 128.

[51] Ibid., 130.

[52] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 149.

[53] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 77; Griffiths, Rethinking International Relations Theory, 173.

[54] David Armstrong, Theo Farrell and Hélène Lambert, International Law and International Relations (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 69; Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 72.

[55] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 92.

[56] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 75.

[57] ICJ, Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Serbia and Montenegro, 223.

[58] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 77.

[59] Griffiths, Rethinking International Relations Theory, 5.

[60] Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 125.

[61] Kuperman, “Rethinking the Responsibility to Protect:” 19.

[62] Francis M. Deng, Sadikiel Kimaro, Terrence Lyons, Donald Rothchild, I. William Zartman, Sovereignty as Responsibility: Conflict Management in Africa, First Edition (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1996), 4.

[63] Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 126.

[64] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 14.

[65] United Nations Secretary General (SG), Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Accountability for Prevention: Report of the Secretary-General. 10 August 2017, A/71/1016–S/2017/556, 12.

[66] Griffiths, Rethinking International Relations Theory, 27.

[67] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 88.

[68] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 202.

[69] Ibid.: 203.

[70] United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Note [transmitting report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, entitled “A more secure world: our shared responsibility”], 2 December 2004, A/59/565, 57.

[71] Blagovesta Tacheva and Garrett Wallace Brown, “Global constitutionalism and the responsibility to protect,” Global Constitutionalism 4, no. 3 (2015): 428.

[72] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 162,

[73] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 67.

[74] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 203.

[75] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 160; Tacheva and Brown, “Global constitutionalism and the responsibility to protect:” 428; Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 162.

[76] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 158.

[77] Anne Orford, International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 25; Chesterman, “Leading from Behind:” 4.

[78] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 144.

[79] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 210.

[80] Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 144; Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15:” 422; Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 202.

[81] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 208.

[82] In customary international law, certain actions are undertaken by states as legal obligations. The concerned state must feel that it possesses a legal duty that forces it to comply with an objective rule, regardless of the resulting action’s habitual nature or frequency. International Court of Justice, North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Federal Republic of Germany v. Denmark; Federal Republic of Germany v. Netherlands), ICJ Reports 1969, 20 February 1969; Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 83.

[83] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 195.

[84] Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (Autumn 1998): 890.

[85] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 161.

[86] UN, Charter, 3.

[87] Ibid., 9.

[88] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 148; Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 73.

[89] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 148.

[90] Krasner, Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy, 3.

[91] Edward C. Luck, “Sovereignty, Choice, and the Responsibility to Protect,” Global Responsibility to Protect 1 (2009): 15-6.

[92] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 9.

[93] Throughout this paper, I repeatedly employ the term “humanitarian” when discussing the objectives of R2P as they entail saving human lives, alleviating suffering, and protecting the human rights of vulnerable populations. However, I clearly distinguish between R2P and ‘humanitarian intervention’ and avoid conflating the two in line with the ICISS’s opinion:

“1.39 The Commission recognizes the long history, and continuing wide and popular usage, of the phrase “humanitarian intervention,” and also its descriptive usefulness in clearly focusing attention on one particular category of interventions – namely, those undertaken for the stated purpose of protecting or assisting people at risk. But we have made a deliberate decision not to adopt this terminology, preferring to refer either to “intervention,” or as appropriate “military intervention,” for human protection purposes.

“1.40 We have responded in this respect to the very strong opposition expressed by humanitarian agencies, humanitarian organizations and humanitarian workers towards any militarization of the word “humanitarian”: whatever the motives of those engaging in the intervention, it is anathema for the humanitarian relief and assistance sector to have this word appropriated to describe any kind of military action. The Commission has also been responsive to the suggestion in some political quarters that use in this context of an inherently approving word like “humanitarian” tends to prejudge the very question in issue – that is, whether the intervention is in fact defensible.” ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 9.

[94] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 196.

[95] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 143.

[96] Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15:” 418.

[97] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 73; Bosco, “The responsibility to protect:” 65.

[98] SG, Implementing the responsibility to protect (2009), 23

[99] Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 132.

[100] Charles E. Ziegler, “Contesting the Responsibility to Protect,” International Studies Perspectives 17 (2016): 76.

[101] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 157.

[102] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 74.

[103] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 79.

[104] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 199.

[105] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 74.

[106] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 199-200.

[107] The following quote by Professor Robert O. Keohane ideally grasps the value of examining the implementation of R2P through the lens of IR theory instead of purely legal and normative frames.

“[L]egalism that ignores power and interests misattributes causality and limits adaptation to change. Because of this misattribution of causality, it may generate excessive attention to legal issues when more basic political and interest-based problems may need more urgent attention; and its constraints on adaptation may inhibit creative and flexible diplomacy. When structures of interests and power are coherent and stable and favor democracy, legalism may be quite benign; but when interests and power are changing rapidly, an excessive focus on law can divert attention from more basic problems.” Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 133.

[108] Thomas G. Weiss, “Military Humanitarianism: Syria Hasn’t Killed It,” The Washington Quarterly 37, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 13.

[109] Heather M. Roff, “Covert Actions and the Responsibility to Protect,” Global Responsibility to Protect 7 (2015): 172-3.

[110] Krasner, Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy, 238.

[111] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 11.

[112] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 77.

[113] Ibid., 78.

[114] Kenneth N. Waltz, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Reply to My Critics” in Neorealism and its Critics, ed. Robert O. Keohane (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986), 343.

[115] Krasner, Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy, 7.

[116] Alex J. Bellamy, The responsibility to protect: a defense (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015), 133.

[117] Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 62.

[118] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 154.

[119] Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 131.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 79.

[122] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 157-8; Weiss, “Military Humanitarianism:” 17.

[123] Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 695.

[124] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 199.

[125] Ziegler, “Contesting the Responsibility to Protect:”

91.

[126] For instance, in the past ten years, approximately 16,500 Somalian civilians have been killed and 1.9 million have been displaced. Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 150, 155, 159; Šimonović, “The Responsibility to Protect:” 20.

[127] Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 136.

[128] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 165.

[129] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 151.

[130] Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15:” 424.

[131] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 151.

[132] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 81; Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 141.

[133] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 174.

[134] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 200; Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 174.

[135] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 156; Bellamy and Williams, “The new politics of protection:” 826, 846.

[136] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 200.

[137] Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 687.

[138] Bellamy and Williams, “The new politics of protection:” 828, 831, 835.

[139] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 152.

[140] Weiss, “Military Humanitarianism:” 13.

[141] SG, Implementing the responsibility to protect (2009), 27; ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, XIII.

[142] Šimonović, “The Responsibility to Protect:” 19; Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 157.

[143] In the words of the ICC, the principle of complementarity allows the Court to “exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so, including where they purport to act but in reality are unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceedings. The principle of complementarity is based both on respect for the primary jurisdiction of States and on considerations of efficiency and effectiveness, since States will generally have the best access to evidence and witnesses and the resources to carry out proceedings. […] As a matter of principle, the complementarity regime applies even in the event of a Security Council referral. Articles 17 and 19 do not indicate any exception for Security Council referrals. Although the Security Council has enforcement powers under the UN Charter when acting under Chapter VII (Articles 25, 41, 103), these powers relate primarily to States, and not directly to international institutions such as the ICC. Moreover, the [Rome] Statute explicitly contemplates and addresses the interaction of ICC procedures and Security Council actions, including the extent to which procedures are affected by a Security Council action (Article 13, 16, 18). For example, the Statute specifies that the Article 18 notification procedure does not apply for Security Council referrals, whereas no such suspension is stipulated for Articles 17 and 19, raising a clear e contrario inference.” ICC-OPT Group of Experts, Informal expert paper: The Principle of complementarity in practice (The Hague, Netherlands: International Criminal Court, 2003), 3, 21.

[144] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 171.

[145] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 76.

[146] Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 129.

[147] Roff, “Covert Actions and the Responsibility to Protect:” 174-5.

[148] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 144; ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 36.

[149] David A. Lake and Robert Powell, Strategic Choice and International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 3-4.

[150] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 74; Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 697.

[151] Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15:” 422; Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 127.

[152] Kuperman, “Rethinking the Responsibility to Protect:” 27; Krasner, Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy, 228.

[153] Krasner, Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy, 56.

[154] Ziegler, “Contesting the Responsibility to Protect:” 76.

[155] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 150; Ian Clark, Legitimacy in International Society (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007), 210-19; Hurd, Legitimacy and Power in the United Nations Security Council, 7.

[156] Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 679.

[157] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 145, 153; Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 173.

[158] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 130.

[159] Keohane, After Hegemony, 65.

[160] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 54.

[161] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 178-9

[162] Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 135.

[163] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 201-2.

Keohane, “Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism:” 134.

[164] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 177.

[165] Bellamy, The responsibility to protect: A Defense, 115.

[166] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect––Five Years on:” 154.

[167] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 202; Bellamy and Williams, “The new politics of protection:” 843; Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 127; Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 692; Ziegler, “Contesting the Responsibility to Protect:” 89.

[168] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 179.

[169] Ibid., 168.

[170] Bellamy and Williams, “The new politics of protection:” 835.

[171] Bellamy, “The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten:” 176.

[172] Chen, “China and the responsibility to protect:” 687, 694.

[173] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 79; Weiss, “Military Humanitarianism:” 10.

[174] Holmes, “Responsibility to Protect:” 127.

[175] Weiss, “Military Humanitarianism:” 8.

[176] Noam Chomsky, “Statement by Professor Noam Chomsky to the United Nations General Assembly Thematic Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect,” Statement, 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY, July 23, 2009.

[177] Ziegler, “Contesting the Responsibility to Protect:” 89, 93.

[178] Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 202.

[179] Chesterman, “Leading from Behind:” 3.

[180] Chesterman, “Leading from Behind:” 5.

[181] Gowan, “EU-UN Cooperation: From Safe Altruism to Reluctant Pragmatism,” 24.

[182] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 147.

[183] Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 154; Orford, International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect, 141.

[184] Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan, Symbiotic Realism: A Theory of International Relations in an Instant and an Interdependent World (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction, 2007), 102; Stephen M. Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy (New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2005), 195; Robert O. Keohane, “Hobbes’s dilemma and institutional change in world politics: sovereignty in international society” in Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World, ed. Robert O. Keohane (London, UK: Routledge, 2002), 77-8.

[185] Keohane, After Hegemony, 65.

[186] Mayer, “In Our Interest: The Responsibility to Protect,” 43.

[187] Russell Hardin, Collective Action (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press for Resources for the Future, 1982), 1-3.

[188] Doyle, “International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect:” 74.

[189] Bellamy and Williams, “The new politics of protection:” 826.

[190] Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15:” 416; Lake and Powell, Strategic Choice and International Relations, 74.

[191] Rodhan, Symbiotic Realism, 97; Armstrong et al., International Law and International Relations, 125.

[192] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 6.

[193] Weiss, “Military Humanitarianism:” 8.

[194] Hehir, “The Permanence of Inconsistency:” 159; Basaran, “Identifying the Responsibility to Protect:” 202.

[195] Andrew Hurrel, “Emerging Powers, Diverse Values and the Changing Character of International Society” in “Responsibility to Protect”: nuovi orientamenti su intervento umanitario e ordine internazionale, ed. Vincenzo Lavenia (Macerata, Italy: edizioni università di macerata, 2015), 149.

[196] Robert O. Keohane, “International Liberalism Reconsidered” in Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World, ed. Robert O. Keohane (London, UK: Routledge, 2002), 57.

[197] Keohane, “Hobbes’s dilemma and institutional change in world politics,” 71; Alexander Wendt, “Anarchy Is What States Make of It,” International Organization 46, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 414-5.

[198] Waltz, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” 343.

[199] Kofi A. Annan, ‘We the peoples’: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century (New York, NY: United Nations, 2000), 46.

[200] International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP), “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect” in The International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), ICRtoP, Date Accessed: 29 Oct 2017, URL: http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/about-rtop/related-themes/2416-icc-and-rtop.

[201] Gowan, “EU-UN Cooperation: From Safe Altruism to Reluctant Pragmatism,” 27; Cesáreo Gutiérrez Espada and María José Cervell Hortal, Nacimiento, Auge y Decadencia de la Responsabilidad de Proteger (Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares, 2014), 116.

Comments are closed.

YRIS is a student publication, and Yale University is not responsible for its content.