UN “principle” now guiding US foreign policy & intervention


I’ve told you about the timeline of the US decision to intervene in Libya.  But I’m not sure I was clear on the supposed reason.  So take a moment and read this:

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also said on Thursday that the justification for the use of force was based on humanitarian grounds, and referred to the principle known as Responsibility to Protect (R2P), “a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

“Resolution 1973 affirms, clearly and unequivocally, the international community’s determination to fulfill its responsibility to protect civilians from violence perpetrated upon them by their own government,” he said.

Inside the NSC, Power, Smith, and McFaul have been trying to figure out how the administration could implement R2P and what doing so would require of the White House going forward. Donilon and McDonough are charged with keeping America’s core national interests more in mind. Obama ultimately sided with Clinton and those pushing R2P — over the objections of Donilon and Gates.

Remember that until Tuesday, the consensus around Washington DC was the US would not intervene in Libya.  Obviously UN SecGen Moon’s communication of this new “principle”  (R2P) isn’t something that he thought up that morning.  Apparently it was communicated (and one assumes, agreed upon) well before then and, it would seem, may have played an important part in the decision to participate in a place in which which we have no real national interest at stake.

Read that last paragraph very carefully.  Well, read the whole thing carefully, but you have to ask, what does agreeing with this “principle” mean in the future?

Do we intervene in Sudan or the Congo?  Ivory Coast?  And if not, why not?  None of them, like Libya, put our core national interests at stake.  But all certainly fit the new R2P principle.  How about Bahrain and Yemen?  Nepal?

Instead, what we see here is precisely what the left has decried for years – the US along with others who can afford it and are willing to do it –agreeing to police the world.  However, in this case, it would be at the behest of the UN.  We are agreeing that the UN can determine when and where we commit our military forces simply by invoking this principle.  Invoke R2P and, by our precedent in Libya, we agree to respond.

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No matter what Obama decided to do on this one, he was going to be severely criticized. He’s currently being pilloried from the Right and from the Left. Benghazi was one or two days away from being bombarded by artillery and taken by tanks. Then there would have been the round up and slaughter. And what would everyone have said?

There are those who said that action should have been taken earlier. But Obama did get Arab League endorsement, which was politically as important as getting the UN endorsement. And he got the French to fly the first sortee. Then he got the UN resolution. And then the US used its unique capabilities to take out air defenses required for the no fly zone (pioneered in Iraq under the G HW Bush administration, following the 1991 Gulf War, and continued under Clinton). But the responsibility for continuing the operation is supposed to be handed off to other nations within the next few days.

If Obama sends in US troops, then I’m going to be royally pissed, but, up to the present, it’s really hard for me to determine precisely how he could have done it any differently or any more effectively. Comparisons with Iraq are odious.

Does anyone have any alternative suggestion(s) for how things might have been done any better?

Here are some quotes from British politicians (I think these are constructive, because they are lacking in partisan rhetoric and actually address the crux of the situation):

It’s quite clear the population of Benghazi was under heavy attack. Civilians were being killed in significant numbers (and) an exodus from the town had begun. There was an urgent need to stop the slaughter… If Gaddafi’s attacks on his own people succeed Libya will become once again a pariah state festering on Europe’s border, a source of instability, exporting terror beyond her borders…

A successful outcome is the enforcement of the will of the UN, which is a cease of attacks on civilians. In Iraq, we had been prepared to go into a country, to knock over its government and put something else in place – that is not the approach we are taking here.

We are a generous and compassionate people, but there will no doubt be people in parts of the country – and, we have heard, in parts of this House – wondering if it really needs to be us, now. It is a valid and important question. But… we have to make a judgment about our role in the world and our duty to others. Where there is just cause, where there is reasonable action that can be taken, where there is international consent – are we really saying we should be a country that stands by and does nothing?”

This is not the West imposing its views on Libya. It is the world saying that the people of Libya must be able to set out their views without the government slaughtering them.

[The government must] stick to the terms of the UN resolution to address concerns about an open-ended commitment and the potential for mission creep.

We are concerned the clear wording of resolution 1973 might become clouded – and this whole matter could be a smokescreen or shorthand for regime change, which would be unlawful under international law.

This action is necessary, legal and legitimate. Necessary because of the systematic brutality of Colonel Gaddafi towards his own people, whose only crime is to want the opportunity to have a more democratic form of government and to enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

The fact that this is not just an Arab country but a country with oil is something we have to bear in mind. The kind of legitimacy we might have had in Kosovo is going to be more difficult for that reason.

In terms of delivering safety from the threat of violence for the people of Libya, it is very hard to see how they will be safe from the threat of violence while… Colonel Gaddafi remains in charge of that country.

Many innocent people are going to be killed or slaughtered – whatever word you’re are going to use – because it can’t otherwise be the situation.

It’s easy to get into a war; it’s much harder to end it. When will all those nations that are taking part know what the circumstances are for pulling out and ending the war?

There is… a question of sustainability. We are still in Afghanistan. We do need to get real about what we can and cannot do.

– Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

@ openid.aol.com/runnswim: #1,

Your leap across the Atlantic to England in search of rationalization appears rather desperate, but that’s just my opinion.

You’re quoting a bunch of misguided chaps who, in this the 21st Century, still have a Queen. Let’s start there for credibility and clarity of thought. A Queen and throne whose consolidation of power was accomplished by no less of a tyrant and sociopath than Henry VIII. . . . The term mongrel comes to mind for some reason.

These hapless oafs are hardly a source of wisdom.

Your Lordship Obama has shown no backbone for anything, ever, and he was dragged kicking and creaming into a decision as he was busy packing for Rio and preparing a speech that evidently remains only a landmark in his mind.

Has he made an intelligent statement providing his Administration’s Vision for either Libya or any other country now in revolt against a long list of dictators? Has he articulated America’s objectives in the region? Not much. I doubt if you can’t even state with confidence that he stands with Israel. He does not particularly care, IMHO. He’s not interested.

You’ve demonstrated more interest here on FA in such matters than he has. If you think that the Military should be insinuated in each country where there is a mongrel killing his own people, . . . then state it. Unlike the object of your worship, you’d be taking a stand. That would be refreshing.

@ James:

I’m curious: what would you have done regarding Libya, had you been in the White House? I honestly can’t think of what I’ve had done differently. Maybe not publicly fill out an NCAA bracket. Maybe not go to South America. But regarding the actual actions taken? I truly don’t know how it could have been done differently or done better.

Are you really going to let the tanks roll into Benghazi and the slaughter begin? McCain and Wolfowitz and a zillion others on the Right didn’t think so. And would it have really been better to have a congressional debate over the next few days? While the tanks rolled in? And should we really have unilaterally started a no fly zone a week ago (presuming that it would have been logistically possible, without advance planning?). Without the support of the Arab League, the UN, and NATO? And then WE’d have been the one who broke it (and therefore owned it).

So what on earth could he have done? Other than eschewing the NCAA and South America?

– Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA


“I truly don’t know how it could have been done differently or done better.”

I find this rather disingenuous, but given your ideological leanings, it is understandable.

I won’t delineate it here, but my answer to your question rests in financial and political “Quid Pro Quo.”

Your Worship is too intent on his personal image projected around the world behind the teleprompter, to do anything intelligent. . . . And there’s nothing intelligent being implemented right now by this Administration with regards to Libya. The Commander In Chief is out of commission, holed up deep in the bowels of South America, far from the noise of guided missiles.


So your response to the question of what Obama should have done differently, regarding Libya, is the following:

I won’t delineate it here

It’s hard to continue a conversation so devoid of specificity.

– Larry W/HB


My Bad.

I forgot that dialogue with you is an absolute waste of time – not sure if it’s your incapacities, or simply your purpose. Either way enjoy the vapidity of your ideology.