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Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

March 30, 2011

Small Wars Journal, 28 March 2011: There has been a fair amount of debate over Obama’s decision to join Western powers in using force to protect civilians in Libya. Among various refrains is the claim that “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine lacks moral strength if applied selectively.

According to this line of thinking, the international community can’t legitimately go after Qaddafi if it won’t/can’t also go after every other dictator. However, it is important to recall that R2P doctrine, as laid out by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty and acknowledged as a legal principle in several multilateral documents, actually promotes military force for civilian protection not in every case where it might be merited, but rather only in limited circumstances mapping roughly onto just war theory.

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