Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Intervention's Realistic Future: Hope for R2P

In the wake of fighting in Iraq, many commentators on U.S. foreign policy are predicting the return of hardcore realism. Yet, in the The Washington Post last week, Robert Kaplan writes that will not be the case:
"This is nonsense. Our foreign policy is about to experience an adjustment, not a flip-flop. Neither political party will support anything else if it really wants to elect a president in 2008. Just look at the dismay in this country over our failure to intervene in Darfur, even given the burden we already carry in Iraq. To be sure, the recent evidence that our democratic system cannot be violently exported will temper our Wilsonian principles, but it will not bury them. Pure realism -- without a hint of optimism or idealism -- would immobilize our mass immigrant democracy, which has always seen itself as an agent of change."
Kaplan continues, "The lesson is not that we won't intervene again. We will, and often. But we will do so with the caution and hesitation shown in the 1990s and only as part of an authentic coalition." When I hear intervention, caution, hesitation and authentic coalition in the same thought, I think R2P. As these foreign policy discussions commence, now's the time to those of us who believe in the power and potential of R2P to advance the cause.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Now, before I go . . .

As of Sunday, I’ll be out of town for a week, with very limited access to the internet, so consider this a week’s worth of entries.

Last week at a ‘Responsibility to Protect’ conference in Chicago, Gareth Evans, President of International Crisis Group and Co-Chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, delivered the keynote address, The Responsibility to Protect: From an Idea to an International Norm.

And, if anyone knows R2P, it’s Gareth Evans. He doesn’t just understand it, he belives in it’s moral implications and the idea that in the end, it all points back at us, all of us:
And the third piece of unfinished business, the biggest of all as always, is the ever-recurring problem of generating the political will to act. We just have to get to the point where, when the next conscience-shocking mass human rights violation comes along, as it inexorably will, the reflex response of both governments and publics around the world, will be to talk immediately about the responsibility to protect, and find reasons to act, not to pretend that it is none of our business.
That is exactly it. We can point fingers all we like at politicians and policy makers, but if we believe in R2P and we really did mobilize around Darfur and Uganda with that demand, it would be invoked. In fact, I don’t see any other way it ever will be, unless civil society stands up and demands action.

And I can't end it any better than this:
When we say that R2P is the responsibility of the international community, that means all of us.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The “big problem in Darfur” and the “prospects for success” in Uganda

The conflict in Darfur remains, at least in the media, the ideal case for humanitarian intervention and the ‘responsibility to protect’. Not so fast, continues Ramesh Thakur.
Before undertaking military intervention, be confident of reasonable prospects for success in the mission. Given Sudan's size and regional geopolitics, this is a big problem in Darfur. By its very nature, including unpredictability, unintended consequences and the risk to innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, warfare is inherently brutal: nothing humanitarian about the means.

The ethic of conviction, which impels us to act, must be balanced by the equally compelling ethic of responsibility, which requires us to weigh moral action against the pragmatism of consequences.

Still, the fundamental question cannot be avoided. Under what circumstances is the use of force necessary to provide effective international humanitarian protection to at-risk populations without the consent of their own government?
There enters the question of the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda. A brutal war that has seen over 30,000 children abducted, 100,000 civilians killed and over 1.5-million people (90% of the entire population of northern Uganda) forced into squalid displacement camps. Conditions are so bad, that 1,000 people have been dying every week.

In northern Uganda, a ceasefire is now in place and peace talks are in motion, yet the camp conditions remain unchanged. The government of Uganda has guaranteed that the camps will be destroyed by the end of the year, so that the entire civilian population can go home.

Then the questions abound. Home to what? And if the peace talks fail? How much longer do we wait to protect the innocent victims of this senseless and ultimately simple conflict? 1 year? 2 years? 5 years?

If the government of Uganda can’t provide enough support to the camps or can’t allow ‘their’ people to go home, what is the responsibility to protect?

The responsibility is clear, and that clarity is in the very first pillar of R2P, the responsibility to 'prevent', “ crisis putting populations at risk.”

The need is clear, so where is the call for R2P in Uganda?

Monday, November 20, 2006

The morality and practicality of R2P

Sure we're giving Eric Posner's thoughts on R2P way more attention than they deserve, but they were picked apart, with balance and depth on Monday by Ramesh Thakur, one of the principal authors of the report 'The Responsibility to Protect'.
The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty was the midwife to "the responsibility to protect" precisely because we recognized "humanitarian intervention" to be an oxymoron. It is not obvious that Posner read our slim report before proceeding to criticize its main conclusions.

In using Iraq to attack the new norm, Posner sets up a straw target. Most ICISS Commissioners argued that Iraq did not meet our threshold criteria; some of us said so publicly in 2003.
End of story.

What's most compelling in Thakur's article is his admission that R2P is far from perfect, but explains that what it does provide is a clear moral accountability for 'intervention'.
The goal of protective intervention is never to wage war on a state to destroy it and eliminate its statehood, but always to protect victims of atrocities inside the state, embed the protection in reconstituted institutions after the intervention, and then withdraw all foreign troops.

Military intervention, even for humanitarian purposes, is a polite euphemism for the use of deadly force on a massive scale. Even when there is agreement that intervention may be necessary to protect innocent people from life-threatening danger by interposing an outside force between actual or apprehended victims and perpetrators, key questions remain about agency, lawfulness and legitimacy.

Based on the pragmatism of consequences as much as legal doctrine, ICISS concluded that there is no substitute for the U.N. as the authorizing agent.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hope Still for an Idealistic U.S. Foreign Policy?

With U.S. citizens increasingly cynical of U.S. involvement in Iraq and a new Democratic Congress, it seems likely there will be a push over the coming years toward a more isolationist foreign policy. While this certainly makes sense with spiraling violence in Iraq, a revert to isolationism would be a great failure to unpack a nuanced analysis of America's possible role in the world. To equate the quagmire in Iraq to possible U.S. leadership in stopping atrocities elsewhere (as done by Eric Posner) will only continue to strip American foreign policy of its moral legitimacy and humanitarian potential.

The Bush Administration's most tragic legacy may be in projecting (without substance) and then deflating hopes for an idealistic foreign policy. Yet, an idealistic foreign policy is possible if built on a clearly-defined framework that incorporates accountability, justice and humanitarian best practices. With such a framework, the U.S. Government could be a leader in stopping atrocities and building peace in Darfur, northern Uganda and other humanitarian hotspots.

What is great needed, especially as candidates for the 2008 presidential election craft their policy stances, is a meaningful and globally sophisticated conversation about America’s role in the world. Can we construct and normalize a framework for U.S. international engagement that projects idealism, protects civilians and promotes human dignity? I would argue that the 'responsibility to protect' provides useful boost to that conversation. The question then, however, is how we build a 'responsibility to protect' culture in the U.S. and elsewhere. This may be the great grassroots challenge for those of us working for build long-term, sustainable mechanisms for international crisis response.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

R2P in Darfur: It's Not All-Or-Nothing

Jean-François Thibault's opinion piece in last Friday's Sudan Tribune does make a compelling case for why now is the time for the UN to intervene in Darfur to protect civilians. Thibault is right that the "responsibility to protect" framework was created specifically to sanction collective action (welcomed or not) when states fail to fulfill the basic responsibilities (namely civilian protection from mass harm) that accompany sovereignty. Darfur could not be a more perfect case of this.

However, Thibault and many other commentators tend to overlook one of the other valuable contributions of R2P: that intervention is no longer all-or-nothing. Effectively responding to mass killing requires action on many levels - financial, economic, diplomatic, information and military. Though the international community may be hesitant on formal military intervention, that doesn't mean they have to remain inactive. In fact, groups like the Genocide Intervention Network have been urging the U.S. to freeze the assets of known perpetrators in Khartoum, impose targeted sanctions on the regime and bolster the African Union forces on the ground.

This is not to say that a UN force is not urgently needed to save lives (it is), but we need to use caution in how we speak of R2P. Thusfar, I would argue, the concept has been over-militarized. A true commitment to the "responsibility to protect" demands action on many levels to 'prevent, react and rebuild.' Perhaps then we might start to consider what a comprehensive R2P agenda/strategy would be for Darfur.

R2P below the 49th parallel

Something is stirring south of border. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is hosting a conference this week with international leaders on R2P, The Responsibility to Protect: Engaging America.
Over the course of the conference, a three-part strategy will be developed to increase America’s commitment to protect populations from mass atrocities. Experts and policy makers will focus on what responsibility to protect means, why it matters and why the U.S. should embrace it; policies for implementation; as well as how to bring the responsibility to protect to the center of national debate.
The ‘windy city’ was also the first city council to pass a resolution that endorses the ‘responsibility to protect’, and Chicago is just getting started.

Friday, November 10, 2006

So, what about consent?

In Friday’s Sudan Tribune, Jean-François Thibault makes his point very clear in ‘Darfur - Failure of responsibility to protect principle’.

His point is this: The tragedy in Darfur is without question; however, the idea that the UN needs Sudan’s consent to intervene is a different issue entirely. And, it’s an issue that's getting shut out of the discussion.
UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which called for UN troops and allows for the use of force, was passed on 31 August. The Resolution “invited” the consent of the Government of Sudan. But it can be argued, as the International Crisis Group did in its recent report “Getting the UN into Darfur”, that it does not formally require that consent.

But, with the May Darfur Peace Agreement all but dead, is it not the right moment for the UN Security Council to move beyond the post-Rwandan rhetoric of “never again” and to start making good on its very responsibility to protect Darfuree civilians by pushing for much more robust measures?

Otherwise, it might become very tempting to say that the Responsibility to Protect was indeed an empty shell, and to admit that we simply do not care about what is now happening in Darfur.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nordic R2P call gets it right

On Wednesday, five humanitarian groups based in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden pooled their resources and have agreed to work together with a ‘Joint Nordic call for protection’, to lobby their governments to fulfill their “responsibility to protect”.

Not only is this vital advocacy, their focus and messaging is near perfect:
All five organisations have committed themselves to presenting a series of demands to their respective governments, covering fields related to all the three aspects of the Responsibility to Protect, such as that they:

- Strongly condemn and never tolerate the deliberate targeting of civilians or any acts of violence and abuses committed against civilians in situations of armed conflict

- Foster prevention as the only reliable means of protection and strengthen their own capabilities in preventive strategies

- Ensure that if prevention fails, the international community will respond collectively to stop genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to protect vulnerable populations.
Time for us here in Canada and the US to get our act together.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

R2P, the Vatican & Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Last week, Archbishop Celestino Migliore delivered the Vatican’s address to the United Nations General Assembly and focused those remarks on a, ”Culture of peace rooted in truth of human dignity”. The archbishop even went on to highlight the ‘responsibility to protect’:
With the 2005 Summit Outcome document, this organization adopted the principle of the responsibility to protect as a practical translation of the exercise of sovereignty and of governance. The responsibility to protect presupposes the capacity and the will to remove threats, to establish relations and mechanisms apt to continue to dissuade humanity from resolving their disputes through the use of force and, to the extent possible, to substitute force with law. The responsibility to protect is intimately linked and directly proportional to the respect for the truth of peace, whether it is a question of deciding to use force in extreme cases, the conduct during and after conflict, military expenditure, the arms trade, disarmament and nuclear proliferation, demographics or the approach to development. To realize peace at the social and political level, the correct relation between truth and peace at the cultural level needs to be reestablished.
Contrast those remarks, with those delivered to the same audience by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in September. After spending a full 10 minutes at the UN justifying Canada’s role in Afghanistan (to Canadians), he quickly, and meekly noted:
Darfur too is a significant challenge – as multinational security efforts are transferred from the African Union to the United Nations. It is also a test of the principle that this body endorsed last year – the Responsibility to Protect. The United Nations has authorized a mission there with a robust mandate. But will the government of Sudan accept it?
So, the best the nation who initiated, supported and gained unanimous approval of the ‘responsibility to protect’ could muster was a query?

I have a query. Why exactly are we so afraid to continue to lead on R2P?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kim Jong Il - The clearest case for R2P?

With the media focus usually on North Korea’s nuclear testing and Kim Jong Il’s penchant for Hollywood blockbusters, what’s often cast aside is the humanitarian crisis that could arguably be the clearest case for the “responsibility to protect”.

Former president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel, former prime minister of Norway Kjnell Magme Bondevik and Elie Wiesel, a professor of humanities at Boston University make a compelling case in Our right to protect North Koreans from their leader:
…we commissioned a report on the failure of the North Korean government to exercise its responsibility to protect its own people.

The evidence and analysis in this report are deeply disturbing. Indeed, it is clear that North Korea is actively committing crimes against humanity — against its own people.

North Korea allowed perhaps 1 million — and possibly many more — of its own citizens to die during the famine in the 1990s. This was caused in part by the government's decision to reduce food purchases as international assistance increased so that it could divert resources to its military and nuclear program.

Hunger and starvation remain a persistent problem today, with more than 37 percent of North Korean children chronically malnourished. And yet North Korea has requested less food assistance from the World Food Program and refuses to let the program monitor food distribution in some 42 of 203 counties in the country.
This is to not even mention the over 200,000 questionable political prisoners in the country and the more than 400,00 people who died in the custody of the North Korean gulag over the past 30 years.

However, with such clear, ‘open’ cases for R2P like Uganda and Darfur, it makes you wonder if the UN Security Council is really going to have the patience to battle North Koreas closed borders or would even be able to turn their attention away form the nuclear question long enough to notice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

To Intervene or Not to Intervene in Darfur?

If there is a live case for the application of "responsibility to protect" today, it must be Darfur. Yet, due to Khartoum's refusal to allow a UN peacekeeping force within its border, the UN Security Council is caught in a stalemate. Meanwhile, violence and systematic rape continue and may even be increasing in Darfur.

This raises a number of questions. First, should activists continue calling for the UN Security Council to override the Government of Sudan's resistance and send a Chapter VII force into the country? And if the UN SC continues to refuse, would a state or coalition of states be justified to take action outside the UN? The ICISS report on R2P insists on 'right authority', vested first in the UN SC; however, the record for the SC is quite poor (see Rwanda). Is Michael Walzer right to say: "If there is no collective response, anyone can respond. If no one is acting, act" (Walzer, 2002). I am inclined to agree if there is some way to compel/judge adherence to the praxis-based norms of R2P, namely the best practices of civilian protection.

However, Chester A. Crocker and J. Stephen Morrison write in today's Washington Post:
The demand by American activists for U.S.-led military intervention to halt genocide in Darfur by the Sudan government and its militia proxies is a utopian diversion that has led nowhere. Their verbal attacks on Khartoum and calls on China and Russia to stop blocking possible UN coercive action may express their frustration but do not make good foreign policy. The Bush administration needs to concentrate on the real choices for exercising U.S. influence and make the achievement of a verifiable negotiated settlement to end Darfur's carnage its top priority. To get there, it will need sustained high-level U.S. engagement using the full weight of America's diplomatic resources, including a serious and creative test of Chinese intentions, during and after the November 3-5 China-Africa summit.
They urge five incremental policy steps: (1) securing a ceasefire, (2) protecting humanitarian relief channels, (3) establishing a robust, hybrid African Union/UN peace operation, (4) beginning to demilitarize armed groups and (5) advancing a Darfur political dialogue. They argue that calls for U.S. military intervention are misguided, and should focus on practical and diplomatic solutions.

Perhaps one of the most important reframes of the R2P paradigm is that "intervention" is not just all-or-nothing. So are Crocker and Morrison right that reacting to Darfur's crisis needs more diplomacy and less chatter about intervention?

R2P Insists on "Reasonable Prospects for Success"

Not to overanalyze Posner's article, but one more point. Even if "humanitarianism" had been a serious intention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the "responsibility to protect" framework, as outlined by ICISS, includes 'reasonable prospects' as a 'precautionary principle' for action. This reads:
There must be a reasonable chance of success in halting or averting the suffering which has justified the intervention, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction.
In the buildup to the Iraq invasion, the U.S. had reports that overthrowing the Hussein regime could spark civil war and new intensified levels of violence. A failure to seriously consider and plan for such consequences has resulted in the current situation. A true "humanitarian intervention" would seriously evaluate the "prospects for success" from the point of view of civilians. It would further prioritize cultivated best practices for protecting civilians and restoring human security.

Humanitarian Intervention NOW in Iraq

The very premise of Eric Posner's Washington Post Op/Ed is wrong; "humanitarianism" or "freeing Iraqis" was clearly an ex post facto justification of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. As was widely and clearly stated by the Bush Administration, the intention for the invasion was two-fold: 1.) that the Hussein regime was developing weapons of mass destruction and 2.) that the Hussein regime had ties to al-Qaeda, and was thus implicated in the 9/11 attacks. We now know both of these justifications were untrue.

Further, the "responsibility to protect" framework makes clear that civilian protection and restoring human security must be the focus of any legitimate humanitarian intervention. In Iraq, such a focus and subsequent best practices were nowhere to be seen.

Posner is right, however, that Iraq has become an anarchic state caught in spiraling sectarian violence, where "the rate at which civilians die has been increasing in recent months." A recent report published by the reputable Lancet medical journal says 655,000 Iraqis have been killed in this war. Given these realities on the ground today, one could easily make a case for humanitarian intervention NOW in Iraq to protect civilians.

I know such a line of reasoning is political infeasible today, however it shows the fault in Posner's arguments. Just like traditional thinking, he analyzes intervention from the perspective of the intervener, not the point of view of communities suffering atrocities. The new "Responsibility to Protect" framework shifts that lens to focus on those needing support and succor. As Gareth Evans, chair of the ICISS, writes, "The searchlight is back where it should always be: on the duty to protect communities from mass killing, women from systematic rape, and children from starvation."

Humanitarian intervention in Iraq?

In an article that originally appeared in the Washington Post, Eric Posner leads us to believe that Humanitarian intervention usually makes matters worse. And the glowing example to make his point? Iraq. No, that’s not a typo.
More than 40,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rate at which civilians die has been increasing in recent months. Many thousands of innocent Iraqis have been detained, and some have been abused by American troops. Many others have been tortured or killed by Iraqi police. Yet, if the United Nations were to have its way, the Iraqi debacle would be just the first in a series of such wars — the effect of a well-meaning but ill-considered effort to make humanitarian intervention obligatory as a matter of international law. Today Iraq, tomorrow Darfur. Civilians suffer in all wars, but the suffering of Iraqi civilians in this war is particularly unfortunate because one of the main justifications for the war was humanitarian: to rescue suffering Iraqis from a tyrant.
For starters, humanitarian intervention was never a pre-invasion justification for going into Iraq. It was a sober, and well spun, after-thought as the original agenda of the attack (connection to 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction) was slowly proving to be nothing but a litany of lies.

Humanitarian intervention can and should only be called such when it is the sole justification for going in, in the first place. You can’t intervene for humanitarian reasons, after you’ve already intervened. Sorry, but that’s not moral intent, that’s an excuse and a cover-up for failure.

He then continues down the Iraq road:
Saddam Hussein was an especially bad tyrant, and Iraqi civilian casualties attributable to the U.S. intervention do not yet equal what he was able to accomplish, albeit over a longer period. The Kurds and many Shiites are better off. And many Iraqis continue to think that the war was worth it, according to polls. But polls do not reveal the opinions of dead Iraqis.
Polls also don’t reveal the opinions of the over 800,000 Rwandans killed in 1994. And that is who the humanitarian intervention debate is, and should be focused on.

There’s no doubt that intervention can be a slippery slope, yet that’s also why the first of the three pillars of the new ‘responsibility to protect’ is to ‘prevent’. The idea is to lead with diplomacy, not with a loaded gun.

Our Responsibility to Protect

The ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) received unanimous approval at the United Nations World Summit in the fall of 2005 and was then passed by the UN Security Council in a resolution on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. This landmark approval is now being hailed as the UN’s solution and unwavering commitment to intervention for humanitarian reasons.

On paper at least, we’ve now committed to the idea that with sovereignty, comes responsibility; a responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

R2P and the preceding International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) was to be the answer to the question, “How should we respond to the inaction and muddled intervention in Kosovo (1999), Bosnia (1995), Rwanda (1994) and Somalia (1993).”

Here’s how it reads in the approved 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. The questions remains, how will it play out, if at all?
Excerpt on the ‘responsibility to protect’ from the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, which was adopted by the General Assembly on October, 24, 2005.

138. 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.

139. 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 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 manifestly fail 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.