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About this book

Two leading experts in the field re-examine the traditional understanding of humanitarian intervention in this major new text. The recent high-profile interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria show the various international responses to impending or ongoing humanitarian crises, tracking the development from ad hoc military interventions to a more formalised international human rights regime. This evolution has fundamentally changed the way that states and international society think about, and respond to, atrocities. This textbook charts and explains the transformation, examines the challenges that confront it, and asks whether this new politics can withstand the growing crises in international politics. The human protection system is not perfect, but attempts to reduce both the incidence and lethality of atrocity crimes.

The authors argue that armed intervention alone is rarely sufficient to halt humanitarian atrocities, but must be understood within the wider context of peacemaking, including non-violent action. The requirement for states to intervene is codified in international law, and this raises important practical, political and moral questions for consistent humanitarian action.

Based on the authors' two decades of research, this text is the ideal companion for students of International Relations, taking modules on Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Table of Contents

1. Atrocities and Responses

Abstract
Atrocity crimes are extreme forms of identity-based conflict in which one group deliberately targets another. As such, they are often the culmination of processes that have deep roots within states and societies. There are significant limits to what outsiders can do to prevent them and protect vulnerable peoples from atrocity crimes. What is more, a mode of response prefaced on the use of military force once atrocities occur is likely to provide imperfect protection at best – protection limited to those situations where humanitarian concern, national interest, and prudence converge within those states capable of intervening. Many of the internal conflicts that give rise to atrocity are complex and deep-rooted, not readily susceptible to outside mediation whether because one or more of the parties have embarked implacably on a course of action leading to atrocities – as in the case of Rwanda or Iraq (Islamic State) – or – as in the case of Syria and South Sudan – because a situation is so complex and fraught with danger as to defy easy resolution. It is not for the want of trying that international society’s record of supporting transitions from war to peace is so mixed. The endeavour itself is difficult and fraught with obstacles, its success often determined not by the interveners but by the local actors themselves.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

2. Towards Human Protection

Abstract
Despite the challenges described in the previous chapter, over the past few decades the frequency and lethality of atrocity crimes has declined. Meanwhile, international responses to such violence have become more widespread and more sophisticated. What explains these two phenomena and are they connected? If we accept Steven Pinker’s thesis, this decrease in atrocities may not be surprising, as it could be construed simply as part of a broader historical trend of social change that has prioritized cooperation over war, our ‘better angels’ over our ‘inner demons’. Others claim that more immediate conditions have led to this recent decline in violence, such as the end of the Cold War, an increase in global activism and peacekeeping, and the decrease in civil wars. And there are others still who doubt whether global violence has declined at all.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

3. Protection without Force

Abstract
Humanitarian intervention remains a rarely used option in the repository of measures adopted by international society to prevent, halt, or minimize the perpetration of mass atrocities. Indeed, as we pointed out in Chapter 2, there is growing evidence to suggest that the steady decline in atrocities witnessed in the past few decades resulted in part from the transformation of a narrowly focused politics of humanitarian intervention into a broader (albeit fragmented) international human protection regime comprising a wider range of norms, rules, institutions, and practices. Within this context, the place of humanitarian intervention itself has moved from the centre of attention, displaced by the primacy of vulnerable individuals and groups and questions about the best way of protecting them from harm – questions to which the non-consensual use of force are rarely the best answer. Thanks to the emergence of the international human protection regime, humanitarian intervention is now best understood as existing at one end of a spectrum of measures for human protection, most of which are peaceful and non-coercive. Because humanitarian intervention entails the use of force without the consent of the sovereign state, it is the most intrusive and most controversial of these measures. And because of this, forcible intervention is employed only very rarely. To understand precisely how international society responds to atrocity crimes, and the place of armed intervention within the broader politics of protection, we need to understand these other, less intrusive, measures. That is the purpose of this chapter.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

4. Intervention in Libya

Abstract
On 17 March 2011, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1973, authorizing the use of all necessary means to protect civilians from imminent attack, imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and enforcing the establishment of an arms embargo. Two days later, air forces from France, Canada, the UK, and the USA led a joint action, targeting Libya’s air defences and army. This initial action was soon followed by a summit held in Paris on 20 March, where plans for a broader operation – Odyssey Dawn – were drawn up, bringing in participants from eighteen states and two regional organizations. Renamed Operation Unified Protection on 31 March, the continued military operations against Gaddafi’s regime in Libya were effective in helping to resist the fall of Benghazi, and in doing so preventing a massacre there that appeared to be very imminent. Over the next few months, as the fighting endured a period of stalemate, the bombing of military targets by NATO and its allies precipitated a shift in the rebels’ favour, culminating in forces fighting on behalf of the National Transitional Council (NTC) taking control of Tripoli on 19 August. The last government strongholds fell by October, when Gaddafi himself was captured and killed.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

5. The Problem of Regime Change

Abstract
The use of attack helicopters by the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), operating alongside French forces, to oust Laurent Gbagbo from power in April 2011 and NATO’s decision to interpret Security Council Resolution 1973 – passed a few weeks earlier, in such a way as to permit the use of air power and other forms of assistance to aid the National Transitional Council of Libya in overthrowing the Gaddafi regime – provoked a strong and negative response from some quarters in international society. Several states argued that, as a matter of principle, the protection of populations from genocide and mass atrocities should never entail ‘regime change’. Long-standing critics of humanitarian intervention, Nicaragua and Venezuela, used particularly blunt language to criticize what they saw as the UN’s complicity in neo-imperialist interventionism dressed up in humanitarian garb. Nicaragua complained: ‘Once again we have witnessed the shameful manipulation of the slogan “protection of civilians” for dishonorable political purposes, seeking unequivocally and blatantly to impose regime change, attacking the sovereignty of a State Member of the United Nations [Libya] and violating the Organization’s Charter.’ Venezuela added: ‘It is regrettable that certain countries are seeking regime change in Libya, in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.’
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

6. The Problem of Accountability

Abstract
Over the previous few chapters we have demonstrated that since the turn of the century, the UN Security Council has gradually become more proactive in relation to the protection of civilians from genocide and mass atrocities. This coincides with the emergence of an international human protection regime, including the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). From hesitant beginnings in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Council has gradually moved human protection to the centre of UN peacekeeping, with a majority of its ongoing missions having protection mandates. These mandates were established under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and permit the use of ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

7. Consistency and Complications

Abstract
Should international society aim for consistency of action in situations where it does authorize humanitarian intervention? It is unlikely that consistency of response to such extreme cases where atrocities are perpetrated and peaceful means are inadequate will ever be possible. Nor is it the case that consistency – understood as using the same measures in different cases – is necessarily desirable. Every case is different, and involves different sets of local, national, and geopolitical actors. As such, some degree of selectivity and inconsistency is not only inevitable, it is necessary. In the rare cases where humanitarian intervention becomes a feasible option for confronting impending or unfolding atrocities, its precise character will always be different. The calculus of context-driven demands, political will, and geopolitical dynamics never precisely align across cases, rendering impossible the prospect of consistency. Even if international society were able to guarantee a constant level of political will in all cases, an unlikely proposition given the commitment of states to their decision-making sovereignty, the contextually specific nature of environments where atrocities are committed provokes unique challenges that require carefully tailored responses from a variety of different actors.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin

8. Human Protection in Crisis?

Abstract
Only a few years ago, a flurry of publications proclaimed that international society was finally winning ‘the war on war’; that human societies were becoming ever more peaceful; that international activism in support of peace was having a decisive impact. Over the preceding few decades, both the incidence and lethality of armed conflict had been in steady decline, prompting renewed speculation about the obsolescence of major war. Regions once blighted by armed conflict, genocide, and mass atrocities, such as East Asia, had moved towards sustainable peace. Much of this progress was underpinned by the international human protection regime, described earlier, as a complex of norms, institutions, and practices focused on the minimization of suffering as a result of atrocity crimes and the protection of vulnerable populations. This regime made it more difficult – though not impossible – for actors to achieve their goals by targeting civilians and more likely that international society would impose costs for such crimes and take action to protect the intended victims. It did so by deepening and broadening international society’s engagement with human protection. Where it once focused on humanitarian intervention, now international society adopted a more comprehensive approach, which included a new focus on the prevention of atrocity crimes.
Alex Bellamy, Stephen McLoughlin
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