"responsibility to protect" (R2P) doctrine outlines the conditions in
which the international community is obligated to intervene in another
country, militarily if necessary, to prevent genocide, ethnic
cleansing, and other atrocities. Despite its noble goals, the United
States should treat the R2P doctrine with extreme caution.
a doctrine that compels the United States to act to prevent atrocities
occurring in other countries would be risky and imprudent. U.S.
independence— hard won by the Founders and successive generations of
Americans—would be compromised if the United States consented to be
legally bound by the R2P doctrine. The United States needs to preserve
its national sovereignty by maintaining a monopoly on the decision to
deploy diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, political coercion, and
especially its military forces.
are ongoing efforts to legitimize the R2P doctrine within the United
Nations and other international forums. The R2P doctrine is being
advocated by certain organizations that do not necessarily consider the
best interests of the United States as a priority. International
organizations such as the United Nations and international
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the World Federalist
Movement and the Open Society Institute promote R2P in the interest of
a nebulous "international community," not in the interests of the
United States or its citizens.
the United States intervenes in the affairs of another nation, that
decision should be based on U.S. national interest, not on any other
criteria such as those set forth by the R2P doctrine or any other
Origins of the R2P Doctrine
intervention by one sovereign nation into another for humanitarian
purposes has long been a controversial topic. In the wake of the
tragedies in Rwanda and Srebrenica during the mid-1990s, the Canadian
government—at the urging of then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan—
launched an initiative to set forth principles for when and under what
conditions such an intervention would be justified. To this end,
Canada announced in September 2000 the formation of the International
Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) to "foster a
global political consensus" for preventing and responding to future
incidents of mass killing and ethnic cleansing.
The ICISS Report.
In December 2001, the ICISS issued a comprehensive report, The Responsibility to Protect. Its two key provisions may be summarized as follows:
- National governments are responsible for preventing large-scale losses of life and ethnic cleansing in their own populations.
the event that a national government is unable or unwilling to prevent
such atrocities, the international community, acting through the
United Nations, has a responsibility to act and protect the suffering
population, with or without the consent of the recalcitrant government.
The first of these provisions is already widely accepted. To date, 140 nations
have pledged to protect their respective populations from genocide
under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide: "The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether
committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under
international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish."
If a national government fails to protect its own population from
genocide or other atrocities, the R2P doctrine holds that the
government effectively forfeits its sovereignty and negates its
ability to raise the principle of nonintervention to prevent other
nations from intervening to protect the vulnerable population.
second key provision of the ICISS report purports to create an
obligation for nations to act to prevent atrocities not only within
their own borders, but also in other nations. Specifically, the report
states that the international community has a responsibility to
intervene in another country with military force to stop:
scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or
not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state
neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation" or
scale ‘ethnic cleansing,’ actual or apprehended, whether carried out
by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape."
A New "International Norm."
The R2P doctrine is the latest example of an attempt by certain actors
in the international community to create new "international norms" to
comport with their particular view of how nations should behave.
Often, when there is a perceived need for a new international norm,
certain members of the international community—usually international
NGOs, government representatives, U.N. officials, and other
activists—will gather at a conference for the purpose of "discovering"
and/or developing the new norm.
These groupings meet to determine what the new norm should entail,
write reports, convene conferences, and build networks. They may
ultimately call for a convention of national governments to draft a
multilateral treaty to memorialize the new norm.
activities of the ICISS and certain NGOs clearly fit this pattern of
norm-creating behavior. The ICISS report announces the discovery of a
new "emerging guiding principle" that military intervention to thwart
humanitarian atrocities should be recognized as an obligation of the
there is not yet a sufficiently strong basis to claim the emergence of
a new principle of customary international law, growing state and
regional organization practice as well as Security Council precedent suggest an emerging guiding principle—which in the Commission’s view could properly be termed "the responsibility to protect."
The report continues:
present purposes the point is simply that there is a large and
accumulating body of law and practice which supports the notion that,
whatever form the exercise of that responsibility may properly take, members of the broad international community of states do have a responsibility to protect both their own citizens and those of other states as well.
of the R2P doctrine will likely not be satisfied if the international
community merely recognizes R2P as a "guiding principle." The
long-term effort is to build consensus within the international
community that the guiding principle is worthy of official recognition
as a norm that should be memorialized in a multilateral treaty.
Proponents may posit that the new norm should be anointed by the
"international legal community" as recognized customary international
law—a status that would legally bind the nations of the world to behave
in a certain manner even in the absence of a treaty.
R2P advocates point to existing international law as the basis for
creating the R2P doctrine. Specifically, the ICISS report claims that
the R2P norm is contemplated—if not already recognized and
legitimized—by several existing international agreements and treaties,
natural law principles; the human rights provisions of the UN Charter;
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights together with the Genocide
Conventions and Additional Protocols on international humanitarian law;
the statute of the International Criminal Court [ICC]; and a number of
other international human rights and human protection agreements and
the fact that many nations have not ratified these particular
agreements appears unimportant to the ICISS. For example, the United
States has ratified neither the statute of the International Criminal
Court nor the Additional Protocols on international humanitarian law.
Yet R2P advocates apparently expect the United States to recognize and
adopt a new international norm that is partially based on these
treaties and protocols that it has already rejected.
Legitimizing R2P Within the International Community
activists have agreed on the proper framework and content for a "new"
norm, they often set about to legitimize the norm throughout the
In the years since December 2001, when the ICISS report was released,
R2P proponents have successfully integrated the doctrine into key U.N.
documentation and have established coalitions and networks of
international NGOs to pursue recognition of the doctrine.
Recognition of R2P at the United Nations.
In September 2005, the world’s leaders met at the United Nations for a
"world summit" to make commitments to one another in the fields of
development, collective security, human rights, and U.N. reform. The
principles agreed upon by the world leaders, including the United
States, were set forth in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.
advocates successfully inserted the two key provisions of the ICISS
report into the text of the Outcome Document. Thus, by accepting the
Outcome Document, the international community has made the following
commitments regarding the R2P doctrine:
individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from
genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including
their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept
that responsibility and will act in accordance with it….
international community, through the United Nations, also has the
responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other
peaceful means…to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes,
ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the [U.N.] Charter, including Chapter VII
[the basis for the use of military force]…should peaceful means be
inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect
their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
crimes against humanity.
sum, the international community’s current position, as set forth in
the Outcome Document, is that all nations have a collective
responsibility to protect the populations of other nations against
acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities. Moreover,
the international community, especially the nations that sit on the
U.N. Security Council, "are prepared" to use military force, pursuant
to Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, to end those atrocities. For its
part, the Security Council subsequently reaffirmed the R2P principles
set forth in the Outcome Document in a 2006 resolution dealing with
the protection of civilian populations during armed conflict.
new norms at the United Nations is also accomplished by creating
special U.N. working groups and offices dedicated to the development of
the norm. U.N. special advisers, special envoys, and other "special"
offices have been created in the past to develop issues and norms
ranging from climate change to "sport for development and peace."
R2P doctrine is traveling along the same path. On December 12, 2007,
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon created a new assistant
secretary-general position, Special Adviser on the Responsibility to
Protect, and appointed Professor Edward Luck of Columbia University to
fill it. As the special adviser, Luck’s primary responsibility "will be
conceptual development and consensus building, to assist the General
Assembly to continue consideration" of the R2P doctrine. Luck will
help the Secretary-General "develop proposals, through a broad
consultative process, to be considered by the United Nations
only three paragraphs of almost 180 paragraphs and 40 pages of the
Outcome Document address the R2P doctrine. Yet it was deemed necessary
to create a new assistant secretary-general position for the sole
purpose of promoting the R2P doctrine.
Advocacy in the International NGO Community.
R2P advocates have launched a worldwide effort to convince the
international community to recognize and accept R2P as a universally
example, in February 2008, a coalition of international NGOs that
includes Human Rights Watch and the World Federalist Movement teamed
with such sponsors as George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to launch the Global
Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the City University of New
The Global Centre will "serve [as] a catalyst for moving the
responsibility to protect from principle to practice." It "will
conduct, coordinate, and publish research on refining and applying the
R2P concept" and "serve as an information clearing house and resource
for governments, international institutions, and non-governmental
organizations leading the fight against mass atrocities."
other international groups have networked with the Global Centre to
advocate for R2P around the world, including the Asia–Pacific Centre
for Responsibility to Protect in Thailand, the Kofi Annan International
Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana, the Norwegian Institute for
International Affairs, and the Fundación para las Relaciones
Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior in Spain.
Another group—the R2P Coalition—focuses on advocating R2P in the United States. Based in Illinois, the coalition’s mission is:
convince the American people and its leaders to embrace the norm of the
responsibility to protect as a domestic and foreign policy priority,"
- "To convince our political leadership that the U.S. must join the ICC," and
convince our political leadership to empower the UN and the ICC with a
legitimate and effective deterrent and enforcement mechanism—an
International Marshals Service—a standing international police force to
arrest atrocity crimes indictees."
R2P Coalition hosted a series of conferences in 2007 and convinced
several local governmental entities—such as the City and County of San
Francisco—to pass resolutions endorsing the R2P doctrine.
The World Federalist Movement.
Perhaps the most active R2P proponent on an international scale is the World Federalist Movement (WFM). 
The WFM is an international NGO that "seek[s] to invest legal and
political authority in world institutions to deal with problems which
can only be treated adequately at the global level."
The WFM launched Responsibility to Protect–Engaging Civil Society
(R2PCS) to "raise awareness of [the ICISS report] and to build a
network of non-governmental organizations…that support these principles
and subsequently seek their adoption by governments and regional and
WFM devotes a Web site to describing its efforts—supposedly taken at
the request of the Canadian government—to reach out to the global NGO
community to promote the R2P doctrine.
For instance, the WFM promoted the R2P doctrine at the 2003 meeting of
the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The World Social Forum
is a summit of tens of thousands of anti–free market and
that are collectively "opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of
the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to
building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships
among Humankind and between it and the Earth." Its annual meetings are scheduled specifically to counter the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
the 2003 World Social Forum, the WFM "held a seminar on the
Responsibility to Protect, distributed thousands of copies of basic
information materials and the ICISS Report, took advantage of
speaking opportunities on other panels to discuss the Report, and
mentioned it from the floor of many seminars."
U.S. Policy and the R2P Doctrine
wholly accepted as official U.S. policy, the R2P doctrine would greatly
expand U.S. obligations to prevent acts of genocide around the world.
More important, adoption of R2P would effectively cede U.S. national
sovereignty and decision-making power over key components of national
security and foreign policy and subject them to the whims of the
U.S. government, as a party to the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), is
currently obligated to prevent acts of genocide that occur within U.S.
The Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987 (the Proxmire Act),
the legislation implementing the Genocide Convention, was signed into
law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
The Proxmire Act defined the crime of genocide as an act committed
"with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part,
a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group." The new law even
criminalized the act of inciting another person to commit an act of
genocide. Importantly, U.S. enforcement of these criminal offenses was limited to acts committed in the United States.
However, adoption of the R2P norm would obligate the United States to prevent all
acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes even if they occur
outside of the U.S. Such an obligation would impose unique
responsibilities. As the world’s preeminent military force, the United
States would have to bear a disproportionate share of the R2P
international commitment. In the event that acts of genocide and ethnic
cleansing occur, the vast majority of nations in the international
community could reasonably plead military inferiority on each such
occasion, leaving the United States to bear the brunt of any
intervention. Most members of the international community could also
plead poverty, again leaving the United States to fund the
intervention. Even if the intervention is funded through the United
Nations system, the United States would still pay an unequal share of
Current U.S. Policy.
The current U.S. position on the R2P doctrine was set forth in a letter
from former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton to other
members of the international community in the run-up to the 2005 World
Summit. Ambassador Bolton’s letter made it clear that the United States
was skeptical of creating a legal obligation requiring one nation to
intervene in another:
note that the [U.N.] Charter has never been interpreted as creating a
legal obligation for Security Council members to support enforcement
action in various cases involving serious breaches of international
peace. Accordingly, we believe just as strongly that a determination as
to what particular measures to adopt in specific cases cannot be
predetermined in the abstract but should remain a decision within the
purview of the Security Council.
With reference to the R2P text that was included in the Outcome Document, Ambassador Bolton stated:
would like to make changes to make clear that the
obligation/responsibility discussed in the text is not of a legal
character…. We do not accept that either the United Nations as a
whole, or the Security Council, or individual states, have an
obligation to intervene under international law.
that position, Ambassador Bolton’s letter made the following statement
regarding what the United States was willing to commit to in relation
to the R2P doctrine:
For its part, the United States stands
ready to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner,
through the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and,
as appropriate, in co-operation with relevant regional organizations,
should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities be
unwilling or unable to protect their populations.
current position of the United States, therefore, is that, while it
"stands ready" to take collective action to prevent genocide and ethnic
cleansing in another nation, it rejects the notion that it is legally obligated
to intervene to prevent such atrocities. This position is in harmony
with the U.S. commitment in the Outcome Document in which the United
States, as a member of the world community, agreed that it was
"prepared to take collective action" to protect vulnerable populations.
While hardly a renunciation of the R2P doctrine, the current U.S.
position falls well short of committing to a legal obligation to act.
Future U.S. Policy.
Of course, this is no guarantee that the U.S. position will not change
when a new Administration comes to power in January 2009. Of the three
remaining presidential candidates, all have made statements in favor
of humanitarian intervention in general or the R2P doctrine
example, when asked in a presidential candidate questionnaire about
R2P, Senator Hillary Clinton (D–NY) responded that the United Nations
should take steps to "operationalize" the R2P doctrine and stated:
President I will adopt a policy that recognizes the prevention of mass
atrocities as an important national security interest of the United
States, not just a humanitarian goal. I will develop a government-wide
strategy to support this policy, including a strategy for working with
other leading democracies, the United Nations, and regional
Barack Obama (D–IL) was more circumspect in his answer to the same
questionnaire, stating only that "[t]he Responsibility to Protect is
an important and developing concept in international affairs and one
which my Administration will closely monitor."
John McCain (R–AZ), while not specifically mentioning R2P, has
repeatedly stated a willingness to use military force to prevent
atrocities in other countries:
supported humanitarian intervention in order to stop genocide in
Kosovo. I wish that the U.S. had acted—with force if necessary— to stop
genocide in Rwanda. In neither of these places were America’s vital
national security interests at stake, though our national values were.
Murder in Kosovo and genocide in Rwanda demanded intervention.
Senator McCain also stated:
continues to offer the most compelling case for humanitarian
intervention. With respect to the Darfur region of Sudan, I fear that
the United States is once again repeating the mistakes it made in
Bosnia and Rwanda.… My administration will consider the use of all
elements of American power to stop the outrageous acts of human
destruction that have unfolded there.
neither Senator McCain nor Senator Clinton has explicitly recognized
the existence of a legal obligation to intervene in another country
where atrocities are occurring, both have characterized the prevention
of genocide as a U.S. national interest, although they apparently
disagree on whether or not it constitutes a national security interest.
genocide, war crimes, and other atrocities will always be incompatible
with American values, the McCain and Clinton statements raise the issue
of whether preventing genocide and ethnic cleansing would necessarily
constitute a vital U.S. national interest. In some situations, acts of
large-scale ethnic cleansing in some remote nation may indeed affect
U.S. national interests.
the real question is whether or not the United States should obligate
itself through an international compact to use its military forces as
the rest of the world sees fit in cases of genocide and ethnic
cleansing. Accepting such an obligation would arguably empower other
nations to judge whether U.S. national interests or national values are
at stake. That begs the question of who will decide whether the United
States must commit its limited resources—including its military
forces—to prevent atrocities occurring in a foreign land. The R2P
doctrine is designed to take decision making on these crucial issues
out of the hands of the United States and place it in the hands of the
international community, operating through the United Nations.
the United States consented to such a doctrine, it would effectively
surrender its authority to exercise an essential, sovereign power.
First Principles and National Sovereignty
United States must not surrender its independence and sovereignty
cavalierly. The Founding Fathers and subsequent generations of
Americans paid a high price to achieve America’s sovereignty and secure
the unalienable rights of U.S. citizens. The government formed by the
Founders to safeguard American independence and protect individual
rights derives its powers from the consent of the governed, not from
any other nation or group of nations.
achieved its independence by fighting a costly war, America’s Founders
approached permanent alliances and foreign entanglements with a fair
degree of skepticism. President George Washington, in his 1796 farewell
address, favored extending America’s commercial relations with other
nations but warned against extensive political connections.
Washington well understood that legitimate governments are formed only
through gaining the consent of the people. He therefore placed a high
value on the independence that the United States had achieved and was
rightfully dubious about involvement in European intrigues.
to national sovereignty is the right to make authoritative decisions on
foreign policy and national resources, particularly the use of the
nation’s military forces. Many of the reasons why America fought the
War of Independence against Great Britain revolved around Britain’s
taxation of the American people without their consent and its practice
of "declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all
Once America gained control of its revenue, natural resources, and
industry and had formed a government separate and apart from any
other, the Founders would not have compromised or delegated its
prerogatives to any other nation or group of nations. Washington
rightly warned his countrymen to "steer clear" of such foreign
influence and instead to rely on "temporary alliances for
R2P doctrine strikes at the heart of the Founders’ notion of national
sovereignty. The Founders would have deplored the idea that the United
States would cede control—any control— of its armed forces to the
caprice of the world community without the consent of the American
people. Washington stated that the decision to go to war is a key
element of national sovereignty that should be exercised at the
discretion of the American government:
detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a
different course. If we remain one people under an efficient
government, the period is not far off…when we may choose peace or war,
as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
U.S. interest, guided by justice and exercised with the consent of the
American people, must remain the standard for making decisions of war
and peace. The interest of the international community, which is
guided by its own collective notion of justice and without the consent
of the American people, should not serve as America’s barometer,
especially when placing the lives of U.S. military men and women in
The United States cannot rely on world opinion, as expressed through an
emerging international norm such as R2P, to set the proper criteria for
the use of U.S. military force. The commitment to use force must be
made exclusively by the U.S. government acting as an independent,
sovereign nation based on its own criteria for military intervention.
sum, the R2P doctrine does not harmonize with the first principles of
the United States. Adopting a doctrine that binds the United States to
scores of other nations and dictates how it must act to prevent
atrocities is the very sort of foreign entanglement against which
Washington warned us. The United States would betray the Founding
Fathers’ achievement of independence and sovereignty if it wholly
acceded to the R2P doctrine.
Additional R2P Impracticalities
addition to the corrosive effect that the R2P norm, if wholly adopted,
would have on U.S. national sovereignty, other aspects of R2P are
impractical and collectively fatal to the doctrine.
the R2P doctrine, if the United States decides on its own that acts of
genocide or ethnic cleansing require intervention, the procedural hoops
set forth by the R2P doctrine would prevent the U.S. from acting
expeditiously. Additionally, the "precautionary principles" scattered
throughout the R2P doctrine would significantly hinder the combat
operations of any U.S. armed force ultimately committed to such a
Assignment of Authority to the United Nations.
When a crisis or other major world event endangers a U.S. national
interest, the United States must have the ability to take action as it
sees fit. In the event that the United States determines that
atrocities in a foreign land must be stopped, the R2P doctrine would
restrict the ability of U.S. armed forces to respond swiftly by
requiring the United States to clear a series of barriers and defer to
the judgment of multilateral bodies.
the R2P doctrine requires the United States or any other nation seeking
to end genocide to ask the U.N. Security Council for permission to
intervene. Indeed, the ICISS report states that the Security Council
should be the "first port of call" and that there is "absolutely no
doubt that there is no better or more appropriate body than the
Security Council to deal with military intervention issues for human
The Security Council’s failure to act in Rwanda and Srebrenica— the
very situations that gave rise to the ICISS effort—is apparently of
even if the Security Council fails to act, the R2P doctrine does not
free the United States or any other nation to act. Instead, it suggests
that authority for military intervention must be sought either from the
U.N. General Assembly or from regional or sub-regional organizations.
U.S. national interest—not the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. General
Assembly, or any other regional organization—should dictate the use of
U.S. military force as well as the imposition of economic, political,
and diplomatic sanctions. Whether that interest is best pursued through
the U.N. Security Council, through NATO, in ad hoc "coalitions of the
willing," or completely alone is for the President, the Congress, and
the American people to decide. History shows that most nations decide
to use their military forces based, first, on their own interests;
second, on the interests of their close allies; and last, if at all, on
the interests of an undefined "international community." The United
States should not submit to a doctrine that would make it the
perennial exception to that historical trend.
Operational Flexibility vs. Precautionary Principles.
Even if surrendering control of America’s armed forces to the will of
the world community were acceptable, the U.S. military could not
operate effectively under the R2P doctrine.
committed to a military operation with all of its attendant risks, U.S.
armed forces must be allowed the operational freedom to create the
conditions to succeed. However, the R2P doctrine espouses a
"proportional means" limitation to the rules of engagement that would
likely hinder the success of a military intervention. Specifically, the
ICISS report suggests that the "scale, duration and intensity of the
planned military intervention should be the minimum necessary to secure
the humanitarian objective in question." In other words, any intervening armed force may act only to end genocidal acts and ethnic cleansing—and go no further.
a combat environment is rarely so predictable. Some situations would
require the total destruction of the forces perpetrating the genocide
or the overthrow of the government providing command and control. Yet
the ICISS report states that "[t]he effect on the political system of
the country targeted should be limited…to what is strictly necessary
to accomplish the purpose of the intervention."
Several instances of genocide and ethnic cleansing in recent history
have occurred with the complicity and active involvement of a national
government and its armed forces. It is unrealistic to mandate that a
military intervention limit its effect on the political system and its
leadership while stopping genocidal crimes. It is likewise naïve to
believe that government forces that are complicit in genocidal acts
would cease and desist from committing atrocities after a military
intervention has ended and the intervening troops are withdrawn.
addition, the R2P doctrine demands that "all the rules of international
humanitarian law should be strictly observed" in the event of a
There is, however, widespread debate over certain crucial aspects of
that law. For example, there are major differences of opinion regarding
the classification, treatment, confinement, and trial of certain
classes of enemy combatants. The use of certain weapons, such as
cluster bombs and land mines, is also disputed. The R2P’s requirement
of strict observance of the law of armed conflict is therefore
unachievable because there is broad disagreement on what "strict
observance" would entail.
Protecting American Sovereignty
the recognition of the responsibility to protect doctrine in the 2005
World Summit Outcome Document, as well as the continuing efforts by
certain actors in the international community to promote and
operationalize R2P, the United States should clarify its position on
its national sovereignty and the criteria for the use of its armed
To that end, the United States should:
its current official position, as set forth in Ambassador Bolton’s
letter regarding the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, that the R2P
doctrine does not create a binding legal obligation on the United
States to intervene in another nation for any purpose.
that the United States need not seek authorization from the U.N.
Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly, the international
community, or any other international organization to use its military
forces to prevent acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other
atrocities occurring in another country.
its decisions to intervene in the affairs of other nations—including
punitive economic, diplomatic, political, and military measures—on U.S.
national interests, not on criteria set forth by the R2P doctrine or
any other international "test."
ongoing efforts by certain actors within the international community to
operationalize and otherwise promote the R2P doctrine in the United
States, the United Nations, the international NGO community, and other
- Reject the notion thatthe R2P doctrine is an established international norm.
United States should take no comfort from the fact that, as a party to
the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, it has committed itself only to
being "prepared to take collective action" to end atrocities or that
the ICISS report represents the obligation to prevent atrocities as a
mere "responsibility." R2P advocates are attempting to achieve
worldwide consensus that the international community has an obligation
to intervene, with military force if necessary, in another country to
prevent acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities. R2P
proponents may not be satisfied with anything less than a multilateral
treaty—a United Nations Convention on the Responsibility to
Protect—that creates binding legal obligations on its signatories.
United States should therefore continue to treat the responsibility to
protect doctrine with grave skepticism. The independence won by the
Founders and defended by subsequent generations of Americans should not
be squandered, but rather should be safeguarded from furtive
encroachments by the international community.
by maintaining a monopoly on the deployment of diplomatic pressure,
economic sanctions, political coercion, and military forces will the
United States preserve its national sovereignty. Acceding to a set of
criteria such as those set forth by the R2P doctrine would be a
dangerous and unnecessary step toward bolstering the authority of the
United Nations and the international community and would compromise
the consent of the American people.
is Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center
for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.