Anne-Marie Slaughter on the case for R2P in Syria:
Last week the Carnegie Corporation, the Stanley Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation sponsored a terrific conference on the next decade of R2P. Panel members discussed the pros and cons of R2P interventions to date and what we might expect in the future. During the question period after the second morning panel, former International Criminal Court Prosecutor and current International Crisis Group President Louise Arbour said that she agreed with Gareth Evans’ (the former Australian foreign minister and a member of the original commission that gave rise to R2P) analysis that the preconditions for an R2P intervention in Syria were not met. Arbour said that, in terms of the magnitude of the crimes being committed in Syria (over 5,000 deaths, destruction of opposition towns) and the lack of effective alternatives other than force, the threshold for an R2P intervention was met. But she said an intervention in Syria failed the third criterion, whether intervention would do more good than harm.
I disagree with Arbour’s assessment, if in fact the conditions I spelled out above could be met. But that’s not the point. She made the further point that if the international community is NOT going to intervene, then R2P includes the responsibility to tell protesters on the ground that help will not be forthcoming, so that they can make their own plans accordingly. Arbour is right. But then the U.S., Turkish, and other governments saying that Assad’s fall is “just a matter of time” must be prepared to answer the question posed by protesters in the picture below honestly: “we won’t be coming.” But then we must also be prepared to face the consequences. In a recent Al Jazeera report, the source of the photo at the top of this page, reporter Zeina Khodr quoted one opposition figure as saying that Syria will descend into “endless chaos.”
Photo: Protesters in Syria / Al Jazeera English