The Relations Between War And Politics (V)

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

War and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) 

The R2P is one of the most important features of the post-Cold War global politics and IR regarding the relations of the war with politics that was formalized in 2005, which is focusing when the international community (the OUN) must intervene for human protection purposes. The R2P was officially endorsed to the international community by the unanimous decision of the OUN General Assembly as a principle at the OUN World Summit in 2005. This agreement was regulated in paragraphs 138−140 of the documents of this World Summit. There are three crucial decisions with regard to the principle of the R2P:

  • Every state is responsible to protect its own population, in general, that means not only the citizens but more broadly all residents living within the territory of the state from four crimes: a) genocide, b) war crimes, c) crimes against humanity, and d) ethnic cleansing.
  • The international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist states for the sake that they will realize their focal responsibility to protect their residents from the four crimes defined in the first decision.
  • In the case, however, that the state authorities are „manifestly failing“ to protect their residents from the four crimes, then the international community has a moral responsibility to take timely and decisive proper action on a case-by-case basis. In principle, those actions include both coercive and non-coercive measures founded on the Chapters VI−VIII of the OUN Charter.

The R2P was, for instance, invoked in some 45 Resolutions by the OUN SC like the Resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya in 2011. Nevertheless, the R2P principle is directly connected with the principle of Responsible Sovereignty, that is, in fact, the idea that state sovereignty is conditional upon how state authorities are treating their own residents, founded on the belief that the state’s authority arises ultimately from sovereign individuals.

As a very complex principle, from the international community’s viewpoint, it is, however, generally accepted that the mainstream consensus is that the R2P is best understood as a multifaceted framework or a complex legal and moral norm that embodies many different but related components. Regarding this issue, in 2009 the OUN Secretary-General divided the R2P into three pillars, which had important traction in the further discourse:

  1. Pillar I is referring to the domestic responsibilities of states to protect their own residents from the four crimes.
  2. Pillar II regards the responsibility of the international community to provide international assistance with the consent of the target state.
  3. Pillar III is focusing on „timely and collective response“ in that the international community is taking collective action through the OUN SC to protect the people from the four crimes but without the consent of the target state, i.e., its governmental authorities.

Nevertheless, although states did not formally sign up to this structure of the three-pillar approach, they, however, help distinguish between different forms of the R2P action. Among other examples, international assistance in Mali or South Sudan was provided within the framework of the R2P and the consent of the governments of Mali and South Sudan (reflecting the Pillar II action) but the military intervention in Libya in 2011 was done without the consent of the Libyan government (reflecting the Pillar III operation).

‘Pro-democracy’ protesters calling for R2P intervention in Yangon

Nonetheless, the widest justification for humanitarian intervention within the internationally recognized legal framework of the R2P is to stop or prevent the genocide that is seen as the worst possible crime against humanity – the “crime of crimes”. Nevertheless, in the practice, it is very difficult to provide a consistent and reliable “just cause” reason for the international humanitarian intervention within the legal framework of the R2P. This is for the very reason that the phenomenon of genocide is usually understood as a deliberate act or even a planned program of mass killings and destruction. Probably, the most regarded attempt to fix the principles for the international military intervention concerning the R2P is given by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (the ICISS), proposed in 2000 by Canada:

  • Large-scale loss of life. It can be, nevertheless, real or propagated, with genocidal intent or not, that is the product of several causes like deliberate military-police action, state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation (the so-called „failed/rogue state“).
  • Large-scale ethnic cleansing. Actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forcible expulsion, acts of terror, or raping.

Nonetheless, once the criteria for humanitarian intervention are fixed, the further question immediately is on agenda: Who should decide when the criteria are satisfied? In other words: Who has the „right authority“ to authorize military intervention for humanitarian purposes? From the general point of view, accepted worldwide answer to these questions is that the only OUN SC as a global security body is authorized to give „green light“ to the international military intervention (what was not done, for instance, in the case of NATO intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 and, therefore, this intervention of 78 days is a pure example of military aggression on the sovereign state). This conclusion reflects, in fact, the OUN‘s role as the focal source of international law followed by the OUN SC’s responsibility for the protection of international security and peace.

However, one of the crucial problems became that it may be in practice very difficult to obtain the OUN SC‘s authorization for the military intervention for the very reason that exists five great powers with veto rights. Some of them or all may be more concerned about the issues of global power, their geopolitical or other goals, etc. than they are concerned with real humanitarian concerns. Nevertheless, the principles on which the R2P idea is founded recognized such problem by requiring that the OUN SC’s authorization has to be obtained before the start of any military intervention, but at the same time accept that alternative options must be available if the OUN SC rejects a proposal for the military intervention or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time. Under the R2P, these possible alternatives are that a proposed humanitarian intervention should be considered by the OUN GA in Emergency Special Session or by a regional or sub-regional organization (for instance, the African Union). However, in the very practice, NATO is often used in such matters by serving as a military machine that carries out military interventions like in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 or Afghanistan in 2001 and later in keeping the order in those occupied territories.

From one viewpoint, the value of the R2P is still remaining contested especially among the theoreticians of global politics and IR. However, its supporters defend the principle of the R2P for the reason of its seven crucial features:

  • The principle is re-conceptualizing the notion of sovereignty for the very reason that it requires that state sovereignty (independence) is, in fact, a moral responsibility rather than a practical right. In other words, the state has to deserve to be treated as a sovereign by maintaining all international duties including the R2P.
  • The principle is focusing on the powerless rather than the powerful people by addressing the rights of the victims to be protected but not the rights of the state’s authorities to intervene.
  • The principle of the R2P is establishing a quite clear red line, as it is identifying four crimes as the signal for international action and intervention if necessary.
  • The consensual support for the R2P among states is very significant, as such consensus is helping international understandings of rightful conduct, especially what concerns the issue of the „Just War“ in the case of the international military intervention.
  • The principle is broader regarding the operational scope compared to the pure form and understanding of the humanitarian intervention, which is posing a false choice between two extremes: to do nothing or to go to the war. However, it is argued that the R2P is overcoming such simplistic choice by outlining the broad range of coercive and non-coercive measures which in practice can be used for the sake of encouragement, assistance, and, if necessary, force states to realize their responsibility based on the international law and standards.
  • Although it does not add anything new to the international law, the principle of the R2P is drawing attention to a wide range of pre-existing legal responsibilities and, consequently, is helping the international community to focus its attention and responsibility on the real crisis.
  • Concerning the case of Iraq in 2003, the R2P became at least in the eyes of the Westerners important principles in restating that the OUN SC is the primary legal authorizer of any Pillar III use of force. However, the same policy did not work in the case of NATO aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in 1999.

What is a humanitarian military intervention? 

According to the widely accepted academic concept of humanitarian military intervention (the HMI), it is a type of military intervention with the focal purpose of humanitarian but not strategic or geopolitical reasons and ultimate objectives. Nevertheless, the term itself became very contested and extremely controversial that, basically, depends on its various interpretations and understandings. In essence, it is the problem of portraying military intervention as humanitarian to be legally legitimate and morally defensible.

Nevertheless, in practice, the use of the term HMI is surely evaluative and subjective. Nevertheless, some HMIs at least in terms of intentions can be classified as humanitarian if they are motivated primarily by the desire to prevent harm to some group of people including genocide and ethnic cleansing. In practice, we have to admire that in the majority of cases of HMI exist mixed motives for such intervention – declarative and hidden. The evaluation of HMI can be done in terms of pure outcomes: HMI is really humanitarian only if it is resulting in practical improvement in conditions and especially a reduction of human suffering.

There are three deconstructing attitudes regarding HMI:

  • By presenting HMIs as humanitarian, it is giving them a full framework of moral justification and rightfulness, which means legitimacy. The term HMI itself, therefore, is containing its own just as it has to be the intervention that is serving the interests of humanity by reducing death and crucial forms of physical and mental suffering.
  • The term intervention itself is referring to different forms of interference in the internal affairs of others (in principle states). Therefore, the term conceals the fact that the (military) interventions in question are military actions involving the use of force and violence. Consequently, the term humanitarian military intervention (the HMI) is more objective and, therefore, preferred.
  • The notion of the term humanitarian intervention can reproduce significant power asymmetries. The powers of intervention (in practice NATO and NATO member states) possess military power and formal moral justification while the human groups who need protection (in practice in the developing world) are propagandistically presented as victims living in conditions of chaos and Middle Ages. Consequently, the term HMI, in fact, is supporting the notion of westernization as modernization or even, in fact, Americanization.
American soldiers
American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division deploy to fight Taliban fighters in Zabul province, Afghanistan, on June 22, 2006

More precisely, HMI is entry into a foreign state or international organization by the armed forces with the declarative task to protect residents from a real or alleged persecution or the violation of their human (and in some cases minority) rights. For instance, the Russian military intervention in Chechnya in the 1990s was necessary for the reason to protect the rights of the Russian Orthodox minority in the Chechen Muslim environment. However, the legal and political lines of HMI are ambiguous especially in the cases of moral justification for armed incursions in crisis-affected states for the sake to realize some strategic and geopolitical aims as was the case with NATO military intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. All counter-HMI supporters are quoting the Charter of OUN which clearly states that all member states of the OUN shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. However, on other hand, the OUN SC is authorized with specific interventions. The justification of HMI in order to protect the lives and rights of the people still is under dilemmas over when it is right to intervene or when not to intervene. Finally, concerning HMI, the focal questions still remain like: 1) Balancing of minority and majority rights; 2) The amount of death and damage that is acceptable during HMI (the so-called “collateral damage”); 3) How to reconstruct societies after HMI?

In fact, both concepts the R2P and HMI are in direct connection with the concept of human security. The origins of the concept are traced back to the 1994 OUN Human Development report. The report stated that while the majority of states of the international community secured the freedom and rights of their own residents, individuals, nevertheless, remained vulnerable to different levels of threats like poverty, terrorism, disease, or pollution.

The concept of human security became supported by academic scholars as an idea that individuals, as opposed to states, should be the referent object of security in IR and security studies. In their opinion, both human security and security studies have to challenge the state-centric orthodoxy of international security and IR.

To be continued

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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