Against a ‘responsibility to protect’ in foreign affairs


And the problems of withdrawal or “exit strategy” are not necessarily less complex in humanitarian interventions than in regime-change invasions such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan — the length and human cost of which have been criticized by many of the leading advocates of the responsibility to protect. Take Rwanda: When would a responsibility-to-protect force have known it was safe to leave Hutus and Tutsis alone together?

The Clinton administration experienced precisely this problem in Somalia, taking a limited Bush 41–administration effort to open humanitarian-relief channels, turning it into an exercise in nation building, and ending the operation in failure after the death of 18 service members in Mogadishu. Clinton-administration policy in Somalia is perhaps the closest parallel to the current situation in Libya: It looked easy, and it turned into a humiliating debacle for America and its president. Let’s be blunt. The question comes down to this in every case: How many dead Americans is it worth to you?

April 18, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 7

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