Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just to be clear about R2P

I've written here before about Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the United Nations policy formalized in 2006 that justifies "humanitarian intervention" if the government of a people is in fact a physical danger to those same people.

If you recall, you might note I've written in favor of the policy. I've been rather associated with the academic side of the debate that was the basis upon which the policy was built, although mostly as a spectator, and that gives one a bit of insight into how it is intended.

That said... seems to be popular to talk about R2P these days in political forums. The Libya Intervention being what it is, it calls a lot of attention to R2P. The upshot of those commentaries seems to be either a contempt for the hypocrisy of how R2P has been applied to date or a manifest fear of R2P being some One-Worlder plot that will eventually be unleashed upon the nations of the Western World.

It has been applied poorly, yes. Consider the agencies (often elements of the U.N.) usually responsible for that application and that should come as no surprise.

But you can throw out the conspiracy theory. There is a far simpler and thus far less politic explanation for R2P. It is an updated form of 19th Century Enlightened Imperialism. It has all the hallmarks of the justification used to stop the Slave Trade, to overthrow despotic rulers, and then to bring some element of Human Rights (like trying to stop Foot Binding in China or forcible Sati (Sutte) in India) or of Education (Imperial German colonial schools in East Africa were unequalled for quality even by modern day standards) or Justice (the implantation of legal systems, Common or Civil, throughout much of Africa, South and East Asia where justice had often been tribal or by diktat of the autocrat).

It has the potential to right wrongs. It has the potential to save lives.

It also has the same potential for abuse that Imperialism had.

Like Aristocracy, Imperialism *may* be a beneficial system. Also like being an Aristocrat, Imperialism is a lot more desirable if one gets to be one of the Great Powers.

R2P is no more, and no less, inherently justifiable that any other form of outside control. It is simply the counter-argument against unlimited sovereign rights being the nature of all recognized States, no matter who (or what party) runs them.

But know it for what it is: the presumption that (we) enlightened people have a justifiable reason for lording over (you) un-enlightened people to prevent (what we consider) barbarous conduct... but one that (we) will exercise at our discretion and convenience, indeed to our benefit or at least to as little material loss as (we) see fit.

That's a presumption that requires ethically perfect conduct by the (we) mentioned.

Something to think about, that.

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