Right or responsibility to protect
There is definitely a huge difference between “right” and “responsibility,” and whichever one is used in opening the abbreviation “R2P,” which officially stands for “Responsibility to protect.” While “right” connotes some sort of “privilege” to be the big brother of others, “responsibility” implies a humble humanitarian effort in solidarity with the aggrieved.
When and if international law is not based on supremacy of law but rather on the supremacy of the mighty, there can be no meaning in discussing the scope of such a decision. Way back at its entry into the jargon of international diplomacy during the World Summit in 2005 – days when there was no “spring” to shape certain regions according to some designs – there was a global consensus on the matter. R2P operations were to be carried out in trouble spots to provide safe space for the operations of some global agencies such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund, as well as the Red Crescent/Red Cross.
That is, the operations were carried out in days when R2P was not accepted as the right to intervene in countries militarily, devastate the entire infrastructure, kill the top executives and install people there were at least equally wild but more obedient to the people that contracted them. NATO was definitely not an international gendarmerie force to reinforce the designs of the West on the rest of the world.
However, R2P cannot be a political tool to rearrange the globe according to the wishes of the powerful or the mighty one. It is a global humanitarian solidarity scheme for the defense of the fundamental right: The right to life.
Look at pre-2005 R2P operations. In most cases, the international community was late in addressing some very acute problems, such as in the attack of Saddam Hussein on Iraqi Kurds, which included the use of chemical arms on Halabja and resulted in over 500,000 refugees fleeing to Turkey. Through global consensus, a no-fly zone was imposed on northern Iraq, which effectively provided U.N. agencies space to operate in the area and security for Iraqi Kurds.
The Rwanda genocide and the terrible Bosnia War with Srebrenica were, of course, bleeding wounds on the conscience of the West, not only for the French, Italians or the Dutch. And this was, of course, not necessarily because of any role they played or because of any complicity in the crime but rather because of the failure to stop such genocidal gross crimes against humanity. Yet, there was a global consensus when international action was taken.
“Operation Libyan Crude” paralyzed, if not shattered altogether, the R2P concept. It was not just the Russians and the Chinese, who in fact tacitly approved the military intervention with their abstention on the Libyan resolution but later cried that they were cheated, but many people in the West as well that realized that the Libya operation not only killed Col. Gadhafi but seriously impaired R2P as well.
R2P should indeed be applied rigidly against only four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. R2P cannot be a tool to be arbitrarily used to oust dictators.