The Corner

R2P: Tail or Dog?

Following up on my earlier Libya post, it’s interesting to have a look at the foreign-policy chapter of Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, in light of Libya. While he’s careful to cover all the bases and avoid getting trapped in obviously unpopular positions, the chapter as a whole gives pretty clear evidence of Obama’s commitment, not only to Libya-type actions, but to the broader agenda of aid projects and new international legal norms held dear by supporters of responsibility to protect (R2P).

Some of those folks worry that because Libya is dragging on and has exceeded its formal U.N. mandate, it will actually hurt the prospects for future R2P interventions. I hope they’re right, but it seems to me that the opposite is more likely the case. Should Obama be reelected, he will be freer to launch more such interventions.

For the foreseeable future, these sorts of actions are going to blend conventional claims of national interest with the new international norms. Sometimes it’s tough to see which is the tail and which is the dog. You can view Libya as a humanitarian fig-leaf for an anti-Qaddafi action, or as an anti-Qaddafi rationalization for a broader effort to generate new transnational norms. We may have gone beyond the formal U.N. mandate of protecting civilians, but we’ve also done it in a ridiculously inefficient way if our real goal all along was regime change.

In any case, knowing not only who Obama’s advisers are but what Obama himself has written makes a convincing case that Obama is doing his best to advance R2P as best he can in a world of conflicting pressures.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Most Popular

Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More