Mike Abramowitz: Thank you very much, Peter, for that kind introduction. Id like to thank Humanity United, Brookings, for being our host, and also the United States Institute of Peace. Im Mike Abramowitz, and I direct the program on genocide prevention at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Its particularly gratifying to be working, once again, with USIP and a new partner, Brookings, on a new project on the responsibility to protect. Over the next year, a working group thats going to be chaired by Ambassador Williamson and Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be exploring how well the concept of R2P has worked in practice and what we can do to build the political will necessary to help implement this consequential norm.
A key part of this project will be education for the public and policymakers about this concept, which I would argue is still relatively unknown among the population and even among policymakers. Even six years since its adoption at the 2005 U.N. World Summit, this remains a very unknown concept. And even those who know something about the issue and about the subject often get the issue wrong and mistake R2P as simply an excuse for humanitarian military intervention, and it is much more than that.
The responsibility to protect rests on three very significant and weighty pillars. One, that it is a primary responsibility of states to protect their own populations from four very serious crimes: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.
Two, the international community is responsible for assisting states in meeting those responsibilities. And, three, the international community has a responsibility to take timely and decisive action in cases where a state has manifestly failed to protect its own populations from these crimes.
Now, since 2005, as Peter alluded to, weve any one of a number of potential R2P situations from post-election Kenya in 2007 to Darfur to Kyrgyzstan last year and the Ivory Coast this year. But I think its fair to say that no case has focused more attention in recent years on the concept of responsibility to protect than Libya. After all, the United Nations Security Council invoked R2P in Resolution 1973 authorizing military action in Libya. And we have seen a very vigorous debate since then about the wisdom of this move. Massive atrocities may or may not have been averted in Benghazi as a result of the intervention by NATO. It depends on who you ask.
Then, there are those who ask why Libya and not Burma, Tibet, Sudan substitute many other countries. And has the military coalition thats operation in Libya stretched far beyond the terms of Resolution 1973, moving from a civilian protection mandate to a mission of regime change?
Perhaps most of all, we want to know has responsibility to protect been a useful concept in the Libya case and solidified political support around the world for this norm or have we reached the high-water point for R2P? Has this concept been discredited?
We have a terrific panel today to help answer these questions. And I expect that during the question-and-answer period, we will perhaps expand the discussion to other issues like Syria or Sudan, but Id like to focus first on Libya.
And Im going to turn first to Manal, who is just back from Benghazi in the last week, where she spent, I believe, a week. And Id like to just ask her to open up the discussion by giving us a little bit of a first-hand report on the situation on the ground. And specifically, Im curious if you can give us any sense of -- from the people that youve talked to -- whether they believe that the intervention that has been authorized -- you know, what role did that have in heading off massive atrocities?
Manal Omar: I think Ill reflect on some of the conversations that I had in Libya, and they were very scattered, so Ill try to make it as flowing as possible. But there was two very competing emotions. One emotion is the excitement and the euphoria that Benghazi is to a certain extent free. Its liberated. The way they refer to other cities, like Misurata, like Tripoli, is in terms of the besieged cities versus the free cities, and the fact that the NATO intervention is what allowed Benghazi to be free.
Theres a very strong acknowledgment consistently that the reason why Benghazi has the opposition and is able to operate is due to the fact that the NATO intervened, and also an acknowledgment that they could have been Zawiyah. They could have been Tripoli, and that theyre very grateful that that wasnt their fate.
Every time that you had a gathering there and all over -- I mean, I think one of the things that are very telling in terms of what was happening is the graffiti and the signs and the banners that were all across the city, which was consistently, Libya is one body, but Tripoli is the heart. You know, Remember the people in Tripoli. Just a constant reminder that Benghazis considered the lucky ones, because they benefited mainly from their intervention.
Almost everyone I spoke to, which included conversations by phone and through Skype with some of the rebels in Tripoli, are extremely excited about the intervention. There is a very strong redline for most people -- no boots on the ground. They feel that the rebels are very capable, that the rebels can carry out, that they will be able to, you know, take out the Gaddafi regime. But there were also questions in terms of what will help and when the financial mechanisms will come into place, because now theres a sense that time is running out.
The biggest question people would ask me is how are we wiling to go with right to protect, and for them, it was hard for them to draw that line between regime change and protection of civilians. For them, its one. You cant keep Gaddafi and expect people will remain safe. The moment that the international community starts to shift vision away from Libya, then Gaddafi will come in and, you know, Benghazi might then suffer the atrocities that it avoided.
So that was a very clear line that they want to be the people at the forefront. They want to have their rebels really take over and be the ones who lead to Gaddafi being replaced. But theres also a clear link that they need the air bombing in the international community to continue.
The other thing was a (inaudible) protection, even within Benghazi and in terms of mainly the IDPs who are going into the cities, but also on the border of Tunisia. And that was a big question, primarily was coming out in the form of minorities in terms of whats going to happen down the line, but even more so in terms of women and the use of rape. So the question was also would the international community support -- and it goes back to some conflict prevention down the line. Theres a fear of the tribal implications after and what type of reconciliation will take place.
Libyans are very excited that the opposition was able to unite under the NTC. Theres a lot of hope within the NTC, although there internally are questions about how to hold them accountable. They do see that as a way of preventing and that there is a single voice representing the Libyan opposition through the National Transitional Council.
And theres also warnings that, you know, the further and the more prolonged the intervention is with Gaddafi still in power that there is an eminent humanitarian crisis that really hasnt struck quite yet, but can easily emerge, particularly in terms of food security.
Mike Abramowitz: Can I ask you did -- in terms of your conversations in Benghazi, you know, you see different reports back here about, well, mass atrocities were not imminent. This was just a figment of Western powers to authorize regime change. What is your sense from having been there about what would have happened if there had not been an intervention?
Manal Omar: Its hard to say about Benghazi, but if you look at other areas, like Zawiyah, if you look at some of the streets in terms of some of the neighborhoods surrounding Tripoli, I mean, there is clear indication of mass atrocities that would have then been replicated in Benghazi. And I think the stronger sense is people within that area feel that it was avoided, but also that theyre not out of the dark. So there is a very strong feeling that any time that the intervention or the international community, again if they were to shift attention away, that Benghazi can suffer the same fate as Zawiyah or some of the other areas that have had mass atrocities.
And I think that its, you know, coming back to the use of rape as a tool of war, I think that has been the biggest fear. And most of the people that I interviewed who took their families to the borders; it was the fear of rape over the fear of death. So, you know, weve had a hard time in terms of verifying what the numbers are or how much it has been used. But that has definitely been one of the things that most of the Libyans are very afraid of is that that would become, you know, something that they would be subjected to.
Mike Abramowitz: Just one final thing before we turn to Rich. Do the people there have any sense of the durability of Gaddafi, how weakened has he been by the air strikes? I mean, you see continuing reports of defections from his regime. Im not sure that the people in Benghazi would have the best sense of that, but they obviously are talking all the time with their friends back in Tripoli. What did you pick up?
Manal Omar: The biggest sense is every conversation that I had was -- and this was ongoing even before I went to Benghazi -- was next week Gaddafi will fall. And its interesting that that momentum hasnt fallen. So, you know, when I spoke to people three weeks ago or a month ago and they were telling me, you know, and in one week, Gaddafi will fall, they had the same level of enthusiasm last week when they said it again.
So there is a very strong sense that its eminent. Weve heard reports of him being in an infirmary, burnt. You know, weve heard reports of him -- of course, the rumors of him leaving. You know, theres a very strong sense. Most people in Benghazi do not believe hell ever leave. They feel that it is a war to the end. And again, that goes back to the question they have for the international community is how far will you stay to make sure that he does end up, you know, leaving in one form or another.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. So lets turn to Rich. You have served in multiple administrations in very senior foreign policy positions. And youve dealt over your illustrious career with other cases of mass atrocities, particularly in Sudan. How do you believe the world has handled Libya from a diplomatic perspective? And specifically, I want to ask you, do you think that the responsibility to protect concept has proved a useful tool for forestalling mass atrocities in Libya?
Richard Williamson: Well, first, Mike, thank you. Peter and Humanity United, thank you. I do think its the first time Stephen Colberts ever been cited at Brookings, so thats a first -- and Brookings and Holocaust Museum.
I think the first thing I want to do a predicate -- a quote from Professor Michael Barnett from George Washington, whose recent book is Empire of Humanity. And he writes, Humanitarianism presents itself as having accomplished the impossible, a form of governance that has ethical purity. But the idea of humanitarianism without politics was always a contrivance maintained by those who wanted to practice their particular kind of politics in a world of states. Politics, and a lot of it, is required if humanitarians are to remove the causes of suffering, and even if they intend to stay out of politics, their actions have political effects.
So Id like to comment on Libya in the context of R2P. First, the obvious, that R2P brings into sharp focus the tension between idealism and realism. Jim Baker and Henry Kissinger had an op-ed after Libya where they had one line saying, But its okay in Libya, but basically said, You should be very cautious. I quote, Our values impel us to alleviate human suffering, but as a general principal, our country should do so militarily only when a national interest is also at stake.
I, myself, would align more with a quote from Kissinger at the time that Peter Robin passed away where he said, Its a false dichotomy. You need realism to take your steps, but you need idealism to know where youre going. And I think R2P is in that tradition. But the political cross-currents are apparent in R2P and in Libya.
Finally, I want to say as always the case in these kinds of situations the paradigm is clear, the narrative straight, and events inevitable only when you look through a rearview mirror. At the time, theres conflict, theres confusion, theres compromise and theres uncertainly. All of us whove had a chance to serve in government know thats a constant state. And so Im going to raise some concerns about how we have gone about Libya, but it is not because of a desire to criticize as much as I think this event is significant and teases out many lessons we have to learn going forward.
As you mentioned, R2P was driven from the impulse of never again from the Holocaust killing fields, Rwanda, etc. In Kenya 08, after the election, we saw Kofi sent there in a diplomatic mission, which was successful. As you cited, in Ivory Coast, we saw a combination of empowered international community diplomacy as well as a green light for some coercive force.
And its important in R2P that were building to capacity of this concept, and that theres a menu of options. And this goes to Mikes comment about what the impact of Libya will be on R2P, which is, of course, uncertain. But even when you have a case of atrocities -- one of the four crimes committed -- you have a menu of steps -- diplomatic dialogue, diplomatic isolation, sanctions, etc. -- before you rise up to military action.
First question is, is Libya an R2P situation? You alluded to that in your question earlier. And I want to quote from Steve Chapman, a syndicated columnist, Remember when a crusading president, acting on dubious intelligent, insufficient information, and exaggerated fears took the nation into a Middle East war of choice. That was George W. Bush in 2003, invading Iraq, but its also Barack Obama in 2011 attacking Libya.
The point is there are legitimate questions. Human Rights Watch documented 233 who had been killed at the time of the U.N. Security Council resolution. And the administration is taking the position of treating the evidence against Gaddafi as too self-evident to discuss.
Gaddafi provided a moral clarity in his own comments, saying to his own people, Come out of your homes. Attack the opposition in their dens. He called the protestors cockroaches and rats, which evoked the hate radio in Rwanda. Benghazi did have 700,000 people there. I dont think anyone credibly can say we thought that 700,000 in Benghazi were going to be wiped out. Thats not what he had done elsewhere.
So its an open question. Having said that, I was among 38 former government officials that signed a letter a week before President Obama acted urging him to go with a no-fly zone. So my point is only we probably should learn a lesson of trying to get better evidence and thatll come back to you later.
How are we doing? First, the regional groups did call for action, which was an important step. As has already been cited by Mike, the Security Council Resolution 1973 did refer specifically to R2P. Two, its good that this is not unilateral, that its not only NATO, or at least eight countries in NATO and Qatar and others are both for its legitimacy and for its political viability abroad and here. C, the immediate objective of stopping the assault on Benghazi was successful. But, D, three months later, after thousands of air strikes, wars messy reality continues.
I recognize that if, in the end, the end isnt too far away, and its successful, the litany of missteps, mistakes, and misery will be forgotten. But I think its worth reflecting on them nonetheless. First, we had a U.S. position that Gaddafi must go early. And then we went to seek a resolution that was less than U.S. policy, which had to deal with just protecting civilians. But that U.S. policy was stated that Gaddafi must go, and one thats been repeated and one thats clear the president is lobbying others to join, clouds the R2P picture in ways that are not helpful.
Second, I think in looking at this U.N. Security Council resolution, we should look at the context. In France, President Sarkozy had bet wrong in Tunisia. He was still with Ben Ali till he took off in the plane. There was blowback in France, so, to some extent, he was motivated by over-correcting. France and Britains national interests were greater than ours in Libya.
And my own personal view from experience at the U.N. Security Council to try to draw the distinction that some cases have U.N. Security Council resolutions and some dont is a disingenuous canard. You get not difficult resolution through the Security Council unless the U.S. makes it a major political and diplomatic effort, which we clearly did in Libya. Im not suggesting that we should be in Syria or other places, but the distinction the administration has drawn, I think, is not necessarily useful.
And part of not having a better case with the evidence and part of not engaging both the American people and Congress more is the theater we have going on now with the War Powers Act on Capitol Hill. But far more troubling to me is that only 26 percent of likely American voters say we should continue military action in Libya. And a lesson that should be learned from the last administration is you cannot prosecute these actions -- even circumscribed ones -- without keeping American support. And there has not been significant effort by those in support of this to do so. And its somewhat distressing when even Dick Lugar is writing op-eds about the failure of the president to consult.
And Ive already mentioned the adequacy of the mandate and the consistency. But I also say one of our lessons has to be that we must be more realistic, both in the context of the mandate, but also realistic about the U.S. military role, which Sarah can speak to more than I can. But while conceptually, its nice to hand off to NATO, you only had eight countries in NATO on board. Most of those countries capacities are not robust. And the two robust countries are running short of munitions, which says something about the extent to which you can you have a policy invest U.S. military support and take a backseat.
You cant go everywhere. I personally have no problem with it. I fall back on the Tony Blair argument that just because you cant do everything doesnt mean you cant do some things. And when you have terrible atrocities, you should be compelled to act if you can.
Micah Zenko at CFR made a statement early on that I just want to repeat, The trouble is, although we are prepared to do something and pull out the most impressive kit in the U.S. toolbox military power, we arent actually willing to get involved at the level required to win. Does this do more harm than good? And I think thats the question in Libya.
My hope is that all these challenges with whats happened in Libya dont diminish R2P but become a platform to learn and strengthen it. But I do want to quote David Rieff who said, For those of us who feel that R2P was just a warrant for war, our fears have been vindicated. And I think that should inform us in the future and also inform how we prosecute this now.
Let me be clear, I applaud the impulse that drove this action. I recognize that its very difficult. Yes, mistakes have been made, but they are always made. The key is to prevail in lessons learned. And I do think the importation of never again should still compel us to give meaning to the responsibility to protect.
Mike Abramowitz: Thank you, Rich. All right. Im going to turn to Sarah to conclude the panel.
And youve been working on a very interesting and important project for the past several years, which is to help the U.S. military become better prepared, essentially, to handle these kinds of potential mass atrocity situations or actual mass atrocity situations. So Id like to just ask you what has the Libya crisis revealed to us about the international military capacity to deal with these types of crimes?
Sarah Sewall: Great, okay. Well, Sally Chin -- whos in the audience today -- and I have been work with Dwight Raymond on the Mass Atrocity Response Operations Project for some time. And we were rather oddly, I guess, in Europe meeting with NATO officials and meeting with AFRICOM officials at the time of the Libya resolution being passed. So I think I can authoritatively say that despite our best efforts, as of this moment, the U.S. military has not thought a lot about intervening in mass atrocity. And I think its fair to say that this was evident in the Libya response.
But I think that we are at the threshold of a very interesting moment where we have the opportunity to do what Rich was inviting us to do, which is to try to think critically, but constructively, about what we can be learning, both at the political level and in terms of the military mechanics.
And there are two really different sets of problems that probably need to be desegregated for the purposes of discussion, but that ultimately have a synergy where they affect one another as we think about either United States or a Western response to mass atrocity.
And I couldnt agree with Rich more about the politics of the matter, and its really inescapable. If I step back and I ask myself where is R2P, pursuant to your question at the outset, sort of what is the status of this norm; its clearly a very fledging, emerging norm that still means different things to different people. And it clearly was useful in framing the debate about intervention in Libya.
But I think we need to recognize that because it is an emerging norm, and because people do have different views of what it means and what it requires, we shouldnt expect the execution or the realization of this norm right now to be everything that we would hope it to be. In other words, this is a work in progress, inevitably. And so the question is Richs question, is what works about the way this has unfolded. What doesnt comport with the way I understand, you understand, R2P, the way it has unfolded? And what do we need to learn and what do we need to fix?
And so to start with this initial question about the politics and the political level, I think its clear to me that we have several questions that we need to unpack based on this experience that Im not convinced I can answer now. And one of them is: is it really possible for a political process to carry out an operation that is confined very narrowly to the purpose of protecting civilians? And as I ask the third question, Ill try to come back with why I think thats complicated.
But what weve seen in a variety of military interventions over the course of the last decades is that its very easy to start out with one justification for use of force that hides another justification that started out with one explanation or motivation for use of force that somehow transmogrifies through the process of consensus-building to be something different from what the originators of the idea intended. So there is an inherent tendency for mission creep or mission dilution or mission negotiation that happens, the process youve tried to articulate and then implement war that we have to be very respectful of and very wary of.
And then the second question is really getting to sort of the David Rieff argument about cloaked imperialism, which is -- I understand that many of those who argued most strongly for intervention in the case of Libya were motivated by humanitarian concerns. And you can debate, you know, the existence of a pure humanitarianism. And you can talk about the firewalls against politics. But the reality is that those were very sincere motivations.
I can also see how people from the outside, particularly people from a non-Western perspective who have been suspicious about R2P can, by virtue of the mission conflation at best that has occurred with regime change versus civilian protection, see this as more evidence of imperialism, you know, masquerading as humanitarian response. And so thats something that we have to take seriously, those of us who believe that there is a place for humanitarian response.
But the third piece just has to do with the very difficulty of the means of military intervention. And, you know, if you think about the way we have gone about executing the Libya operation, it is very similar to the way we have executed other air operations. Whether they were the initial stages of Operation Desert Storm, whether they were the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, whether they were the initial stages of Operation Allied Force, there is a Western way of using air power when you are barred from using military forces on the ground, at least temporarily, that has its own logic and its own impetus.
And guess what it looks a lot like? Regime change, major combat operations. It doesnt look, resemble, smell, taste, feel like humanitarian protection. And thats, in essence, what Secretary Gates and what Chairman Mullen were trying to say when they were raising questions about the no-fly zone. But the timing of that was that the political debate had already moved beyond that, and that was not a question that we could think about. We could not think about the inherent tensions between the military disadvantage of a protection strategy, which in its purist form is defensive, and the way that the West, and particularly, the United States, likes to fight its operations, which is efficient, which is offensive.
And so theres an inherent tension when you talk about using military force on behalf of protective purposes that we will have to live with and reconcile and dissect very carefully, think very carefully about now after Libya has revealed this.
Now, all of this is to say that this is the beginning of a very fruitful discussion. And I couldnt agree more that history will probably tell us which questions we focus on and which questions we just dust under the rug. But there are some really helpful things going on.
I think one of the most exciting things for us as part of the MARO Project has been the realization among the military apparatus that you dont necessarily get to choose your uses of force and that while you may be against humanitarian intervention; this is not the only potential candidate for humanitarian intervention. And this was an operation that I think its fair to say caught the U.S. military by surprise for which it has no doctrine, for which it has no tactics, techniques and procedures. And it is one that, to use that U.N. parlance, is now seizing the imagination of the American military and of some of its partner militaries.
And I think thats helpful, and Im optimistic that we can do learning and thinking in the future across military and civilian lines so that the conversations about potential interventions in future crises will have a very different character, will have a different knowledge base, will have a greater understanding of unintended consequences, second and third order effects in the inherent political complications that arise from military intervention.
And I dont think that answers the question of the threshold for decisions about applying R2P. I dont think that answers the question about international division of labor for how R2P should be operationalized. But I do think that we are now confronted, those of us who have watched and hoped for responsibility to protect, to become a more meaningful guide for international politics, we can see in full relief, its enormous complications and gray areas. And we now can grapple with a deeper level of understanding in precisely that nexus.
Mike Abramowitz: Let me just ask you one follow up, if I may. You spoke at a couple points in your answer to the idea that the U.S. military is unprepared tactically, strategically in terms of doctrine to deal with these mass atrocities situations. Can you just -- for those of us who arent experts in the military -- give just a quick example of like what youre talking about and, you know, maybe either in the Libya context or another context. Just to kind of put a little bit of flesh in what youre talking about?
Sarah Sewall: Well, sure, I mean, at the simplest level, when AFRICOM was confronted with the need to plan for this kind of an operation, they didnt have the equivalent of a concept of operations or a functional plan of any kind to work from. Typically, if you are confronted with a crisis, you say, Hm, which box does this fit in? Is this a counter-insurgency? Is this a major combat operation? Is this a non-combatant emergency evacuation? I go and I pull my document off the shelf, and I get a sense for what the generic requirements are, what I should be thinking about, how I should be planning. Maybe theres even a skeletal plan that I can adapt to the specifics of this airfield, these combatants, etc. Theres nothing like that from a mass atrocity response. Theres peacekeeping doctrine.
Mike Abramowitz: Yes.
Sarah Sewall: Right? And theres rescue civilians doctrine. But theres nothing for this really murky gray area that has such unique operational attributes.
Mike Abramowitz: Right. And given the history of the --
Sarah Sewall: And its complicated.
Mike Abramowitz: And given the history of the past 20 years with Rwanda, Darfur, etc., its astonishing that, that would not be part of the toolbox. Is this because the U.S. military does not want to do this or because the U.S. military just has too many other very real responsibilities and things that they have to do that this is just -- in the priority list, it just is low down on the priority list. Whats your explanation now that youve really dived into this for --?
Sarah Sewall: Well, Im not going to speak for the U.S. military. But what I can say is that its very helpful that the Obama Administration has in its national security strategy, in its quadrennial defense review, and in its guidance for the employment of forces, which was just issued, reiterated the need for the U.S. military, specifically for the combatant commands, to be thinking about responses to mass atrocity as part of their responsibilities as war fighters.
Mike Abramowitz: Great. Okay. Manal, do you want to add something?
Manal Omar: Yeah, I just wanted -- if its okay --
Mike Abramowitz: Sure.
Manal Omar: In terms of why in some sense the Libyans feel that the situation is different and also how they were able to build on the experience of Tunisia and Egypt. And I guess thats the first place that I would start is that there is a sense that the political transformation thats taken place is regional, not just through a national lens of just Libya. And the feeling is, you know, people were very much watching the international community to see what they would do to support people on the ground.
I think the other thing is, is, you know, the sense from Libyans is that there was no doubt that Gaddafi would use all means necessary to wipe out any opposition, even the smallest indication of opposition. I think his rhetoric proved that as well, his history of rhetoric moving beyond rhetoric.
And I think the final thing is, is that there was actually a counterpart. And again, thats something that Libyans will point out both in the form of governance that there was a National Transitional Council. Whereas, you know, the region sees the 2003 intervention in Iraq very differently than they see Libya, because they feel that there was no counterpart. The interim governing council that was formed was actually formed by the CPA, by the coalition, whereas the NTC was formed on its own. But beyond governance, theres rebels on the ground. So, you know, people really view it -- and I think its true regionally -- as a partnership rather than NATO or the Western alliances taking the lead. Whereas in Iraq, it seemed to be a very unilateral one-sided intervention.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. You know, we have about a half an hour to ask questions. I think what Im probably going to do is I think we have a lot of probably, I suspect, good questions in this audience.
Before I turn to the audience, though, I want to anticipate one question by putting Rich on the spot, because one thing that did not come up in this conversation was any discussion of the International Criminal Court. And so, of course, now Gaddafi is -- his arrest is being sought by the Prosecutor Ocampo. If you want to ease him out of power, its probably going to be difficult to do when hes scheduled for a court appointment in The Hague.
This is an issue youve dealt with a lot, especially in the context of Sudan. Can you just give us a little taste of your thinking about whether that intervention by Ocampo has been a useful contribution to ending this crisis?
Richard Williamson: I think the whole question of transitional justice and accountability is a difficult one. Ill put my cards on the table at the beginning of my comments. I was involved in getting Taylor out of Liberia. To me, it was simple. Save ten to thirty thousand lives. Delay accountability, you save the lives.
Having said that, I think accountability is important. The progression of international accountability is positive. But it was the referral of Libya to the ICC where the opportunity to make decisions about its wisdom or lack of wisdom in trying to secure Libya is made.
Ive had many discussions with Ocampo in the context of al-Bashir. My view was it was better not to go for an arrest warrant, because it gave him fewer options. That you could go for people just below him to increase the leverage. I think in Libya, if youre Muammar Gaddafi, you know figure, I will stand till the last person I can have killed around me before Ill leave. And it strikes me as thats not a healthy situation if youre trying to save lives and have a humanitarian impulse in what youre doing.
But let me emphasize, its not easy. These are judgment calls. The principal of accountability and no impunity is important, which is why once al-Bashir had an arrest warrant referral, ironically George Bush was the strongest supporter of the ICC to stop an Article 16 suspending jurisdiction. The question for the politicians and policymakers is before that referral, because once the referral is made, the prosecutors job is to follow the law. And in many of these cases, like Libya, we know where thats going to end up.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. All right. Thank you, Rich. So as I said, I think we have about 25 minutes for questions. I think that there are friends from Brookings that have microphones back there. Well try to get to a couple of questions, collect them, get our panelists to answer, then do another round. So this gentleman right here first.
Dick Rowson: My name is Dick Rowson. Im with the Council for Community of Democracies. Id be interested in what the panel members think is the possible connection between R2P and the right of people to have democratic governance thereafter. Does one lead to the other? Are there implications regarding democracy and human rights in the R2P concept? Other than simply protecting against violence from outside, are there rights of a democratic and human rights nature?
Mike Abramowitz: This gentleman right here. Did you raise your hand? Yeah.
Mark Zaurov: Hi, my name is Mark Zaurov. Im a Fellow at the Holocaust Museum. Now, my question about R2P and the fact that people might sometimes question peoples purposes for becoming involved in a country also relates to peoples questions as to why were not involved in Syria. And the U.N. decided not to get involved with Iran. But countries have decided to ignore their policies.
So why is there this inconsistency in countries like Iran or Syria? There doesnt seem to be a standard approach to how to deal with this sort of unrest that we see in other countries. So any thoughts as to why theres this inconsistency?
Mike Abramowitz: All right, good. And over here, Joel.
Joel Charny: Joel Charny from InterAction. I actually have a similar question. I mean, in Sri Lanka in 2010, 50,000 people were killed by the Sri Lankan government as they pursued the war. And its just this sheer -- I mean, Im just really struggling with R2P as a doctrine because of the sheer impossibility in the real world of applying this standard with any kind of consistency.
So, you know, 233 people were killed at the time of the Libya intervention. Theres a fear of possible atrocities. Yet, when 50,000 Sri Lankans were murdered, its like its not even a topic of discussion on the world stage.
So, I mean, its in a way, an impossible question. But how do you get a sense of what the criteria are and get the political will to apply this thing with any kind of equity whatsoever?
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. I think maybe we should stop there. And theres clearly a desire for an answer on this issue of consistency of application. Why Libya? Why not Syria? You know, why Ivory Coast? Why not Sri Lanka? Who wants to take a first shot at that? The diplomat, you want to --
Richard Williamson: Yeah.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay, and then Sarah.
Richard Williamson: The undiplomatic diplomat. First, I think you have to -- lets look at the human rights question. Look at the Universal Declaration. Eleanor Roosevelt got it adopted by part saying, These are just aspirations. Dont worry about it too much.
But the impact over the 60-plus years is that those norms have deepened. Theyve used by refuseniks and countries to challenge their own governments for their hypocrisy, has guided not only a great deal of international action, but drafting of constitutions and transitional countries, etc.
On human rights, you can constantly say that the standards are not met, that were hypocritical, that the Human Rights Council of the U.N. fails. I plead guilty or agree with all that. Nonetheless, its been a huge contribution to deepening respect for human rights and helped in many, many instances.
I think in R2P, you have two tracks. One is developing an entrenched norm where there is general agreement on what it means. And that, just like with the Universal Declaration, is going to take a long, long time. The second is we are going to face situations in the short-term -- and Mike cited many of those of the last ten years -- where decisions are going to have to be made of how to act. And youre looking at a toolbox, and youre looking at this to help guide us.
There will be, just like in human rights generally, inconsistency, disappointments. But for those who believe in the importance of those values and believe those values should animate U.S. foreign policy furthermore, hopefully, we continue to make progress.
My own view on R2P is hopefully, as Sarah said, from this range of interpretations, we can start to develop a greater consensus on what the obligations are. But the reality is politics take affect. And I mention and that in the context of Libya where certain of our friends had greater immediate political needs or desires, whatever, than we did.
And in Sri Lanka, one of the great ironies is one of the great reluctant countries on R2P was India, but India twice specifically cited the R2P doctrine when they thought it served their purposes with Sri Lanka. Well, thats politics. But I do think theres a moral imperative to this. And hopefully we can get smarter at it.
And I guess my goal is not that were going to be able to do anything. But when theres an earthquake in Haiti, the question isnt, Are we going to respond? Its, How much? And we may or may not be adequate, but the questions differ. And my hope is that in R2P the question will be in these imminent situations when the four atrocity crimes designated are beginning to happen, the question in that policy room, whether its the oval office or Paris or wherever, is how are we going to add, not whether or not it should concern us.
Mike Abramowitz: Sarah, you want to take a shot?
Sarah Sewall: So for the first question, I think its important to remember that at least in theory, R2P is agnostic as to form of government. R2P is about the safety of persons. So if theres a benign dictatorship that does nothing to trigger R2P, theres no rip for regime change by outside forces to come in and impose democracy. And I think we conflate R2P with democracy at our peril.
In terms of the question about the inconsistencies in application of even the rhetoric about R2P, which is to Joels point, even the rhetoric. Absolutely fair. And I think the answers are, as Rich said, but also just more pointedly, they were in President Obamas speech. I mean, what the president said -- the president did not say, I believe in R2P, and Im going to embrace R2P and carry it out everywhere. The president said, There were a unique set of circumstances in which I felt it was appropriate to act. Those circumstances included -- and one of those circumstances was this threshold trigger issue. One of those circumstances where, absolutely, the evidence was very weak in terms of relative atrocities across the globe -- 233 and potential for far more. Well, you know, look around to your point.
But the tension there, of course, is that all the R2P advocates want to push R2P toward prevention so that its not toward response. And to do prevention, you have to act before bad things happen. So thats a huge conundrum weve got to get our heads around in terms of thinking about what it means to put political viability behind the R2P concept.
But look at the other factors that the president talked about. He said, to Richs point, you know, We had allies that really wanted to do this. Right? At some point, its not just the things that the U.S. wants to do that the U.S. ends up doing. At some point, there is a collective responsibility, even if you think about it in very mercantile terms in terms of responding to contributions that others have made to US adventures and Afghanistan and Iraq.
So other states, who we depended on for other reasons really wanted this operation to happen. There was this international and regional consensus. I think, frankly, people were almost caught by surprise by how quickly they got this consensus. I think they didnt take that moment to sort of pause and say, Okay. What does this then really mean, in part, because we hadnt been thinking about it before, at either the political level or at the military level.
But then the last piece -- and this gets to my earlier comments I hope reinforces them -- which is that the president said this was a low-cost solution. So the president was convinced this was just a little support role, just a little assist. He didnt anticipate it was going to trigger this huge war powers set of accusations. He didnt think it would still be going by now, I would venture to guess. This was supposed to be a supporting role.
And, you know, people like to talk about the dogs of war. Once unleashed, theyre very unpredictable. This is a good case about be careful what you wish for, because military power is very imprecise, highly uncertain, and really volatile. And to do it in a supporting role, where youre not controlling, but you are vital, is an even more awkward and less predictable role. And so this notion that one can be a little bit pregnant with the military implementation of the responsibility to protect is, I think, one of the lessons that we -- a warning sign that we need to really take into account in thinking about future interventions.
Mike Abramowitz: Manal, do you want to add --
Manal Omar: No.
Mike Abramowitz: -- anything?
Manal Omar: Ill just add briefly in terms of, you know, when the Middle East basically takes double standards for granted when talking about international communities. And I think most of the people are saying, At this time, its in our favor, so theres a general happiness, although, there are examples in terms of Syria. And most people in the region will talk about the Bahrain. So the inconsistencies are noted. Theres absolutely no attempt by Libyans or Middle Easterners to justify it. But theyre saying at least now its tipping in the case of Libya in our favor.
I think the other question in terms of R2P and democracy -- I want to share a conversation that we had in Benghazi. And this included senior members of NTC. They were talking about various scenarios post-Gaddafi. And one person mentioned monarchy and said, you know, We want to bring back the monarchy. And people jumped up and said, No, no, no, no. This is about democracy. And then they stopped for a moment and said, Well, actually, its not. Thats a fair game. This is about freedom of speech and freedom of debate. So if you think its optimum, bring it on. You know, explain why you think monarchy is an important asset to explore or particular type.
So I thought that that was interesting that, you know, their first instinct was, Yes. This is about democracy. But then their second instinct was like, no. This is about the ability to debate and to present different scenarios forward. And that was one of the scenarios that they did indeed debate.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. We have some -- lets go to the back of the room. Way in the back, that lady back in the back row.
Mary Stata: Hi. Mary Stata with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. And Im curious to hear your thoughts about the role that the AU can potentially play in leading a negotiated settlement, in particular, as the AU was not one of the regional organizations that did support a no-fly zone before it was enacted.
And certainly Gaddafi has had some close relationships with various African heads of state. And I certainly would then assume that they could play a really powerful role in rationalizing with him and continuing to build that relationship.
Mike Abramowitz: Ok. I saw this gentleman right here, and then the gentlemen next to him -- those two.
Michael Lund: Thank you, Michael Lund, Management Systems International. Ambassador Williamson alluded to the other options in the U.N. Charter and so on, diplomatic engagement either formal or good offices sanctions and so on. I wonder if any of you could shed a little more light, provide information about the extent to which such non-military, lets call them, options were tried, by whom, and whether they made nay progress either before the military engagement or subsequently.
Second questions a factual question, is anybody tracking the number of causalities as a result of the events, either because of the war itself, non-combatants and combatants or behind the lines in Gaddafi territory.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. And -- yeah, sure.
Leon Weintraub: Thank you. Im Leon Weintraub, University of Wisconsin Washington Semester in International Affairs.
Id like to ask about an assertion that I believe the intervention, as its been described, may have, in fact, discredited the doctrine of R2P. As originally, you described it, Mr. Abramowitz, it was the responsibility of the states to do it and then the international community to help and then the possibility to react. It didnt seem there was much that central part, the second role, the responsibility to help the local government didnt seem to be pretty shallow. And, as a matter of fact, someone had mentioned the intervention of former Secretary General Annan. And kind of where, in fact, it was very strong, very protracted, and, in fact, we didnt have to go to a third element.
And I would even compare to a non-Security Council endorsed intervention. That was the bombing of Kosovo, which was done by NATO without Security Council support when there was extensive support by the extensive efforts by the OSCE by other actors to deal with Milosevic. And I feel they did go the extra mile to get the local government to accept its responsibilities and then went into bombing. It seems that central element or the second element of the three steps was almost ignored. And this may have lent support to the argument that this is just imperialism in disguise.
Mike Abramowitz: All right. Well, I certainly think that in the case of Libya, I think three months before; there was a debate about the Libyan intervention. This would not have been on anyones, you know, possible regions where there was a threat of mass atrocities. That came up very quickly. And so I think -- but I take your point that one of the reasons that that was -- has been a lot of controversy about that is because the first two pillars were really skipped to get to the third pillar. I think thats a fair point.
But Id like to ask the panelists if they have any reactions to those questions. You have a question about the AU and its role. We have a question about whether non-military options were tried, which goes to your question too. Also something about tracking casualties. Do we know the casualties? And then also, well, another question really about the fact that we failed to try non-military options before turning to -- so maybe well just start from Manal. And then well just go here.
Manal Omar: In terms of tracking casualties, I dont know if -- I know that CIVIC which is an organization that generally tracks casualties in terms of civilians and do so in Iraq and Afghanistan had a trip out to Benghazi, and Im assuming that, that would have part of their mandate. But I wouldnt be able to confirm that. But I know that they were in Libya. So that would be the first place I would check.
In terms of the question of the AU, I think that the African Union has a very strong influence on Gaddafi, but there is a question -- and again, more from the Civilian side -- where they actually trust to be an honest broker. And the sense is that the -- a lot of the heads of African states are very close to Gaddafi in place of being an neutral and honest broker, perhaps with the exception of South Africa. People were excited about the trip and felt that there might be some results. And also when people are referring to post-Gaddafi era, theyre talking about the Truth in Reconciliation Procedure in South Africa. So maybe that one country is where Ive seen positive references. But generally, theres a lot of mistrust with other African states.
Mike Abramowitz: Okay. Rich?
Richard Williamson: Three points. First with respect to the African Union, its not one of the more effective regional groups. Its got a big membership, a huge diversity of situations, and they do not have a record of robust action. Having said that, they certainly should be a platform thats engaged in Libya and other places. And at times, its been useful.
Second, with respect to the three pillars, the first pillar, of course, is a sovereign states responsibility to protect its own people. The second pillar is to try to help a state develop the capacity if it doesnt have it. And I would say this is something that Ed Luck, up at the U.N., the Assistant Secretary General who works on this with Ban Ki-moon has done a good job to kind of move the ball forward in trying to develop ways to give assistance. And its one of the things the U.N. can facilitate fairly well.
But the third pillar is intervention, and that goes to the question that was asked about the menu. And because of the speed, because I think of what was seen as the imminent threat and because of the unique circumstances of Muammar Gaddafi, there was a not much done. It does not appear to have had much done in this regard.
One reason you were able to get such quick area and regional consensus is nobody, nobody, liked Gaddafi. And some because he had a lot of money to pass out, stayed quiet, but it didnt matter what capital you were in, in a discussion with senior officials, they would say, And by the way, whats that guy up to now?
So on the one side, I think its one reason why you were able to get that consensus quickly. But the other side is there werent that many influential personalities that he would probably listen to. Though, I would have liked to have seen more effort, if nothing else, to give more credibility to the more robust steps taken.
Finally, I tried to raise issues that concerned me about how Libya might affect R2P. And discredit may be too strong a statement, but itll create extra challenges as we move down this path. Kenya -- I mean, it goes back to the politics and individual. Odinga in Kenya, I met with him about a year before the election. He was in his early 60s. Hed cut a deal with the president. The deal was, okay, well go together. But after two years, youll step down, and I get to step up. The president busted the deal. His support was in regional ethnic groups. And he did everything short but to say to me, So if they steal this election, Im going to cause trouble. This wasnt a surprise.
And then the election was stolen. And the U.S. supported the stolen election. And so there was violence. I dont think that diminishes the contribution Kofi made and the U.N. made, because you needed a way to get out of the mess. And the fact that in Kenya it was unconstitutional to basically say, Okay. The guy who didnt really win stays president. But we dont let him have any power. And we create a prime minister and give him the power, because hes the guy that really won, its worked. It stopped the ethnic killing. That doesnt keep me up at night. But the transferability of these examples is not perfect given the different situations.
And finally, theres an African saying that you dont create a path by designing it, but by walking through the elephant grass and wearing it down. And thats what were doing. And were going to screw up. And were going to do not-so-well sometimes, or as Sarah, I think, correctly said theres a lot of different senses of what R2P means. I hope were mindful of the precedent-setting nature. And finally, and most importantly, I hope we learn.
Mike Abramowitz: Sarah?
Sarah Sewall: Just a quick comment on the civilian casualty question. One of my other hats is -- longer hats -- for about ten years, Ive been working on the question of civilian casualties tracking and trying to prevent civilian casualties. Its a very different kettle of fish from R2P mass atrocity prevention.
And one of the ironies and one of the reasons why I have such sort of profound respect for the use of force is that it inevitably pits civilian death against civilian death. Its a very costly tool to use on behalf of humanitarian goals and one that cant be undertaken lightly.
So I think its probably true that no one in the U.S. military is tracking civilian casualties in Libya today. But I would guess that someone at NATO is trying to keep a rough count. I think it will be a little bit like Kosovo, where we can find out after the fact what happened, because there are functioning hospitals, there is a system of records that will be kept. In the allied force air campaign, we were able to actually get all of the autopsy reports for the victims of the air war.
But it was the central humanitarian critique of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo was that some 500 civilians were killed in the name of humanitarian intervention. And that will be a critique that will be levied post facto against Libya to the extent that its not already.
And its just another one of the reasons why both the prevention side of R2P is so very important, and, B, why we really have to take the military options development very seriously at both the level of political decision makers and military implementers in order to ensure that we try to reconcile the ends and means of R2P as much as is humanly possible.
Mike Abramowitz: You know, were going to have one more round of questions. I wanted to just go to a question that hearkens back to the question of consistency that was raised by some of the people in the audience, which is that the issues that we have been talking about today have been largely these kind of fast-moving crises, you know, where sort of like a Rwanda situation, but less, you know, where youve got military developments and something comes up very quickly.
But, of course, we also have a whole set of cases which we havent really discussed today, which are these long-term situations in which there are governments that are basically at war with their own people and some say -- I mean, the two that come to my mind are North Korea or Burma. You could arguably put Darfur in there too, which, you know, there was obviously a lot of concern when the atrocities were first perpetrated there. But now that has kind of drifted into sort of a longer-term humanitarian crisis, its kind of off the table.
Im just wondering whether any of the panelists think that there is anything that R2P has to say about those types of situations. And if not, is that also a chink in the armor of R2P? Id ask that anyone who wants to take a crack at that.
Sarah Sewall: I think its definitely a chink in the armor of R2P. Wherever governments are abusing the basic human rights of their citizens, that is a situation in which one can plausibly invoke R2P arguments. But for all the reasons that we just talked about, there are going to be a few takers in most of those situations. And its going to be the odd constellation of interests and willingness thats going to lead to action.
Mike Abramowitz: You know, Rich, youve coined a word that youve used several times, which is slow-motion genocide. I dont know if you coined it or -- you use it all the time. But what are your observations about this?
Richard Williamson: Well, Im going to hearken back to the question about human rights in democracy and our values. Even if you cant do something -- for whatever reason, political, capacity, resources -- doesnt mean you shouldnt speak out.
Now, in the 60s and 70s, even through most of the 80s, no one in halls like this in the Brookings Institute thought the Soviet Union was going to collapse or the captive nations were going to be freed, but the U.S. spoke out and said they should be free. I think at the very least, we should do that, and theres certainly questions about the softer voice about the ongoing atrocities in Sudan that is disquieting over the last couple years or that we have not been more forceful, at least rhetorically, in asserting our commitment on a moral level and on a values level in Burma and North Korea.
So my own sense is that we have to recognize the resource limitations thats what the politics will bear, what capacities you have, but that doesnt mean its irrelevant to speak out. And I think its something that we have been very inconsistent through administrations. But because of my involvement in Sudan, Im particularly disappointed in the much quieter accommodating voice toward Khartoum in the last two years.
Mike Abramowitz: So we have a few more minutes. Let me take two or three quick questions if you can keep it short, cause I want to get everyone out of here by 2:30. This gentleman, then there and there. And then well just call it a day. So try to be brief.
Don Braum: Im Don Braum from the Office of Coordinative Reconstruction and Stabilization, State Department. Ms. Omar, youve just been back from Libya and the focus, of course, of R2P and the Security Council resolution has been on protecting civilians from Gaddafis forces.
But if we were to suddenly find ourselves waking up tomorrow morning with Gaddafi gone, thered be a period of two or three days there perhaps of ultimate chaos where scores could be settled, whether they be inner-tribal or opposition forces going against those who supported the regime.
So to what extent do you sense that there has been already retribution and atrocities committed not by Gaddafis forces, but by the rebels themselves? And were they to come to power and sweep in Tripoli, to what extent would that continue and, in fact, escalate? And should -- for all of the panel -- the international community now be considering assembling a force to interject to put on the ground in a very short period of time to prevent that from happening, a MARO type intervention? Thank you.
Mike Abramowitz: The lady back there.
Jennifer Welsh: Hi, Im Jennifer Welsh from the University of Oxford. I just wanted to note that the way in which R2P was invoked in the Libya resolution was very particular. To go back to the point you made at the beginning, the resolution only references the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect their populations. It doesnt refer to the responsibility of the international community.
And theres a reason for that, that the attempt to enshrine that in the resolution was never going to generate a consensus. And it goes back to Sarahs point about the degree to which this norm is contested. Where there is agreement, is that its not about protecting or allowing democracy, but that its protection from four very specific crimes. And that is all that was able to generate a diplomatic consensus in 2005.
My question for the panel is does this articulation of R2P in terms of crimes create some very difficult dilemmas for us? And Im just going to very quickly, cause I know were out of time, suggest three.
One is to the former ambassadors comment, he said, Were not doing enough to win. I would suggest if youre using the framework of crimes, its not about winning. Its about punishment. Its about something else. And that suggests very different modes of operation for military forces.
Secondly, your actions are aimed at individuals. Its individuals who commit crimes, perpetrators. And so you inevitably get into what weve seen with the ICC. So I would suggest while we might want to say we should avoid these kinds of arrests, if R2P is articulated through crimes, we are going down a road whereby we would be trying to deter individuals through threat of prosecution and be engaging in actions directed at individuals, which is going to make peace and diplomacy much more different. And so I think those unintended consequences is something we should all be thinking about when thinking about the evolution of the principal.
Mike Abramowitz: You know, I think Im going to just cut the questions off there, cause were pretty much out of time. And those are two very weighty issues that were just raised. So Im going to give each of our panelists an opportunity to say something in conclusion. Manal, why dont you go ahead?
Manal Omar: Okay. I guess I get to start again. Ill focus in on the question in terms of -- which is very much part of the debate in Benghazi -- on people are very well aware in terms of, you know, Tripoli falls, what happens next? The scenarios that are being debated are from Gaddafi uses chemical warfare to he decides to leave, so all kinds of different scenar