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Reader Riposte: Evans, R2P and Libya

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COMMENTS

30 March 2011 13:00

Daniel writes:

While I would agree with some of the technical points made in this article, I am not sure whether here again, like in Tony Bubalo's and Sam's contribution about Libya and R2P, the big picture, and the big idea, of R2P gets lost: namely to actually prevent a national 'leader' to assassinate its own people, or part thereof at a very precise moment in history. The question at such moments for those (politicians) making these incredibly difficult decisions is not whether he/she should take a half-measure (Andrew Farran), or should analyze all possible alternative outcomes into the distant future (Roggeveen, Bubalo).

The choice is simply either I do something to the extent possible at this very moment despite  all constraints and within the limits of the possible, or else I do not go beyond strong words and handwringing losing thus all present, and future credibility to appeal to principles.

Obviously Institutions like the internationally acclaimed Lowy Institute (Bravo for breaking into the World’s Top 100 Political Blogs, we'll soon see you going further up, I am sure) are here to raise critical questions and engage in robust Monday-morning quarterbacking (a beloved expression in the USA, but unknown in Oz, if I am not mistaken) but, sorry to be blunt, what I have seen so far in the Interpreter in critical comments re. R2P in general and its application in the case of Libya in particular, strikes me as nitpicking over a decision (to intervene) which we all know was not only desirable but absolutely essential, if we want to continue pretending that our countries also stand for some values, and not just naked, narrowly defined self-interests.

I continue to believe that the moral question  behind  R2P, borne out of countless bitter historical lessons, and not just the consequences in particular cases, deserves a robust hearing and discussion. Another example of how pernicious nonintervention is, also in the long term, is demonstrated at this very moment in Syria: As I have written before, had R2P existed some 30 years ago and Assad the elder taken to task for killing 20’000 of his own people in Hama, his son might reflect twice before repeating the same (ok, not quite yet) under the eyes of an international audience which cannot pretend, as it was possible then, not to know and not to have the instruments to interfere.

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