« Romney and Kolob | Main | Iraq aids Syria (yet another US policy win) »

08 October 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I have come to distrust R2P. I increasingly think that it is usually used as a mere fig leaf to rationalise interventions otherwise unpalatable. I do not trust in the purity of the motives of the people using the R2P crowd's arguments and language.

The general idea, and I simplify for brevity, is that R2P supersedes national sovereignty because there are crimes against humanity being committed, on a scale that supersedes national sovereignty. Almost by it's very definition, R2P is an absolute exception.

It is probably a decent thing to do to intervene in a hell hole like genocide era Rwanda, where the exceptional criteria are certainly met - but honestly, no intervention justified based on R2P so far has been in a situation as severe as that.

There also is the real prospect that R2P, just like COIN, is a growth industry.


Brigadier Ali,

Thanks for your comments on the assaults on state sovereignty and the sanctity of borders.

It is broader than just attacking failed States. Global Guerrillas has an excellent article on “Protesting Capitalism's Crisis”.


He points out that all Western Nations are “Hollow States”; unable to protect its citizens from the ravages of capitalism run amok. Enron was a sign of our future; “Let’s blackout California to make money.” Today we are in a perpetual war against Islam to further fatten the Elites’ portfolios. Last weekend Dexia, a French Belgium Bank, was rescued. There will be no haircuts for wealthy investors; taxpayers again are taken to the cleaners.

In truth, the super rich, multi-national corporations and their political handmaidens have co-opted the democratic governments with the use of Marketing and Psychological Operations for their own gain. History, as we knew it, is dead.

FB Ali


I would regard R2P as one of those academic fig leafs that are trotted out to provide some cover of respectability for actions by states that are of questionable morality. But they hardly ever act as initiators of such acts. For example, the Yoo memorandum did not ‘allow’ the CIA to use waterboarding; it would have done it anyway because it thought it necessary. The memo provided some ex post facto cover. Similarly, if a state (or group of states) feels that it serves its interest to intervene, and that it can get away with it, it will do so, R2P or no R2P. Its apologists can later trot this out to justify the action.

As for the US practising R2P (alone or with NATO), it is going to meet Russian and Chinese resistance. They got burnt by abstaining on the Libya SC resolution, when the “protection of civilians” was rapidly extended to include regime change. They are going to veto or oppose such interventions (as they did in the case of Syria).

I’m not sure whether a possible, even likely, economic collapse in the future will discourage interventions or increase them, as a means of securing needed resources.

The Twisted Genius

Brigadier Ali,

I agree that R2P is an academic and legalistic fig leaf. Russian and Chinese resistance to R2P, as you mentioned, has effectively stopped efforts to give a UN seal of approval to R2P. However, it will still be used to paint international interventions and aggressions as moral obligations. And it will be used by think tanks and national security industries as a revenue stream... at least until the next lucrative fad comes along.

Economic collapse may see more blatant cross border wars to seize resources, especially water, but military adventurism such as our invasion of Iraq and never ending war in Afghanistan will just not be worth it.


FB Ali-

Very much a thought-provoking post.

Just a few questions: First, are we not talking about "warfare" and not "war"? You use the terms interchangeably in your post but are they different concepts? War is the political instrument of organized violence of one political community at odds with another. Warfare is the utilization of the means of war for a particular epoch which is in turn influenced by the political conditions/characteristics of the entities involved.

Naval warfare is "without boundaries" and submarine warfare as practiced first in the First World War, expanded the dimensions possible even further. Could we see a parallel between the submarine of 1914-18 and the drones of today in that the machine/instrument achieves a level of autonomy which could endanger/run counter to the very political interests it is meant to serve?

Submarines at the time were considered "terror weapons", are drones by their very characteristics also "weapons of terror"?

Finally does not the employment of drones attack the legitimacy of the state the US is supposedly wishing to support? The basis of state legitimacy being its monopoly on the use of legitimate violence within its borders? By condoning the use of drones over its territory targeting its own citizens, does not the host state become by definition a "failed state"?

FB Ali


I think I used the two terms (war and warfare) discriminatingly. Space constraints prevented me from dealing with each separately.

The development of military robots will, in the future, create a new type of warfare, in which machines do the fighting and killing (and ‘dying’) instead of humans. To that limited extent, the development of this kind of warfare could be welcomed.

What I expressed concern about was the new type of war that these machines would make possible. Hitherto, the achievement of any significant results through military power required the exercise of considerable force across national borders, which also could not be concealed. The availability of highly capable, potent machines would tempt powerful countries to apply significant force against others without overtly violating borders, even secretly. This would invite a response in kind, if not degree, from states and even non-state entities.

If such a type of war were to become prevalent, it would tear up the present international order, and force even powerful countries to become ‘security states’.


When one state harbors a group which attacks a second state, what is the attacked state entitled to do by way of retaliation?

Is the second state limited to declaring war on the first state or can they simply attack the offending non-state actor directly despite the violation of the first state's sovereignty involved? After all, the harboring state is either unable or unwilling to use their asserted sovereignty (purported monopoly on the legitimate use of violence within their borders) to control the use of violence by the harbored group.

FB Ali

To get an idea of how fast this future is approaching, see:



"Had Iraq any significant popular insurgency during that period, no doubt the US would have tried to aid it."

Iraq had an insurgency; in fact a two-sided one - Kurds and Shiites. The US let Saddam suppress the Shiite rebellion, and only then protected the Kurds.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad