Monday, January 21, 2008

It's Realpolitik, Stupid

Warren Hoge offered a grim assessment in Sunday's New York Timesof the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, popularized in UN circles:

"Three years after the United Nations adopted a groundbreaking resolution to help it intervene to stop genocide, even longtime supporters of the rule acknowledge that it has not helped the organization end the violence in Darfur.

The General Assembly resolution, approved in 2005, held nations responsible for shielding their citizens from mass atrocities and established the right of international forces to step in if nations did not fulfill this new "responsibility to protect."

The United Nations has tried to take the lead in Darfur, the crisis-ridden region in western Sudan. But it has been stymied by the failure of major member states to fulfill promises to support action and by the intransigence of the Sudanese government.

In addition, countries with advanced militaries have not come forward to answer United Nations appeals for the sophisticated aviation and logistics assistance that the force needs.

Darfur, in short, has shown that there is a great difference between gaining acceptance for a working theory and making the theory work."

Well, duh. No one who lobbied for the R2P thought that simply having the norm codified would lead to its non-selective implementation. New rules aren't simply magic bullets. Historically, genocides have been stopped where a powerful state with the means and motive (usually ulterior) stepped in.

But to say the R2P doctrine hasn't ended the slaughter in Darfur is to mischaracterize what was gained in 2005. R2P was never meant to end genocide itself. It was meant to legitimize such efforts when and where they happened to occur. It was meant as a response to China and Russia in Security Council deliberations, who have historically argued against any right of intervention in the internal affairs of states.

Judging by the fact that these countries now routinely abstain, rather than block, resolutions to try to 'do something' in places like Darfur, I'd say R2P is having an effect. That more isn't being done isn't for lack of international legitimacy. It is for lack of true political will.

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