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Self Determination

  • Date Submitted: 11/26/2012 02:16 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 34 
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Responsibility to Protect – The Case of Libya


Situations such as Libya are always a cause of dilemma for the international community. What causes more harm, engaging or becoming complicit bystanders? When should the UN Security Council sanction military intervention and when should it not? As Gregg Carlstrom wrote, ‘the Libya no-fly zone is either a humanitarian mission or an excuse to meddle, depending on who you ask.’1 This pretty much sums up the debate over the military intervention in Libya. While the West and other supporters of the no-fly zone over Libya call it a humanitarian operation that prevented wider civilian casualties, critics (read China and Russia) on the other hand opine that it would lead to a ‘humanitarian disaster’ and warn against causing civilian casualties through the use of armed force.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) marked the first military implementation of the doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P). It was explicitly invoked in the resolution, which declared that a core goal is ‘protecting civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.’ The resolution, which is based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, gives the Security Council wide-ranging authority to identify and stop ‘threats to peace’ and ‘acts of aggression’. Ramesh Thakur argues that R2P responds to the idealized UN as the symbol of an imagined and constructed community of strangers: we are brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.2 Credibility to the Western operation in Libya is also offered by the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS, 2001), which states that ‘military intervention for human protection purposes is an exceptional and extraordinary measure’ and ‘there must be serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings or immediately likely to occur’ for it to be warranted. Those who support the need for intervention argue that if, in the case of Libya, R2P was ignored, then the...

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