Responsibility to Protect
Following the mass killings in Rwanda and the international communities’ failure to act, the UN formulated a new doctrine called Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Its key provision is “Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects states from foreign interference.” Libya is a perfect example of R2P gone haywire. There were hyperbolic reports of atrocities, bloodbaths and massacres. The U.S. invoked R2P. A UN resolution to protect civilians was passed and its authority almost immediately exceeded. NATO embarked on a heavy bombing campaign. R2P quickly morphed into regime change. Qaddafi was assassinated. Hillary Clinton joked, “We came, we saw, he died.” Cheers could be heard in the corridors of power in the West. Today, Libya is a broken, devastated country. R2P, if it is to be effective and have credibility, cannot be selectively applied. Nor can it be used as a cover for big power intervention.
Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He teaches courses in international law and human rights. He is the author of many books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South and The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution.