Skip to main content

The United States and R2P: From Words to Action Browse

The Report of the Co-Chairs of the Working Group on R2P


David Ignatius: So I'm David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post. I want to thank Sara Bloomfield for that wonderful introduction. Just to repeat we have an opportunity this morning to hear about the fruits of a year spent studying the question of how the Responsibility to Protect can become more meaningful and powerful in the world. It was sponsored by three wonderful organizations. I want to repeat them because the work they do is so important: the US Institute of Peace, the Brookings Institution, and the Holocaust Museum. I want to turn to the two co-chairs of the working group who guided this study, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Ambassador Rich Williamson who was America's special envoy to the Sudan during the Presidency of George W. Bush that has a distinguished record beyond that and ask each of them starting with Ambassador Williamson to give this audience a sense of what after a year of study they have concluded about how to make this R2P not just a doctrine but a reality and a basis for action in the world. So Ambassador Williamson, please start.

Richard Williamson: Thank you, David. First I want to thank those of you who were interested in coming here today. I want to thank the three institutions, especially the Holocaust Museum and Michael Abramowitz for being so helpful. I especially want to thank my friend and colleague Madeleine Albright who has been a terrific collaborator on this and other things. I just want to take a slight step back. The United States like other countries first should be driven by a desire for their own national security. That should be the dominant claimant, then other vital interests many of them economic. But what has made the United States different was not only that it was founded on a belief in human rights, but in the last 100 years we have allowed it to animate our foreign policy. And America is best when it allows that to happen. And our interests are served and the world is more secure. When I was up in New York as Ambassador for Special Political Affairs I dealt with peacekeeping and became familiar with what was going on in the Eastern Congo and in Sudan. And I was continually shocked about the capacity of man's inhumanity to man. Then when I was special envoy to Sudan I spent time in Darfur and Chad and South Sudan visiting every time with refugees who had gone through horrific experiences. I came to believe that what President Clinton and Secretary Albright did in responding to the crisis and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo was important not only for that region, for Europe, but for United States and the world. When President Bush joined the consensus for the Responsibility to Protect in 2005, the United States agreed to this concept and I felt it was valuable to try to help strengthen it, which is why I sought out Madeleine to join me in this effort. The Responsibility to Protect isn't the answer but hopefully it can contribute by being an emerging norm that gains greater acceptances by governments to make it easier for the decision makers to do something early when these crises break out. Anyone who has had the privilege and honor of being in the Situation Room with the President wrestling with these sorts of decisions know they are always tough. They are case-by-case. You can't do everything but just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you shouldn't do some things. And the Responsibility to Protect and the implementation of a Genocide Prevention Task Force that Madeleine chaired with Secretary Cohen tried to lay out steps that can be taken to make it easier to give early notice to make a difference. So I think that's why we both believe in R2P - all three pillars - trying to get the United States to have the political will to help lead with others to stop atrocity crimes before they become too horrific and the death despair and agony becomes too great.

David Ignatius: Secretary Albright?

Madeleine Albright: Sara mentioned that it's about to be 100 years since the beginning of World War I. And she quoted Woodrow Wilson. I am a person that was born in Czechoslovakia, a country that came into existence because of Woodrow Wilson and the Fourteen Points and the real ideas of self-determination and that people should live in their own sovereign countries. I left Czechoslovakia during World War II and came to the United States when the communists took over and I wrote a book about what really happened in terms of the beginnings of World War II and what were the warning signs? And one could say, nobody sitting in this room however would say it, is that we didn't know what was happening during the Holocaust. We now know everything that's going on everywhere as a result of information technology and our capability of being more knowledgeable about the internal affairs of other countries. And while what happened with Czechoslovakia from a war-weary England and France led Neville Chamberlain to say "Why should we care about people in faraway places with unpronounceable names?" And that is something that I think echoes in our own approach as we look at the various issues that are out there in the world, trying to figure out when we do know what is going on somewhere whether we should care about people in faraway places with unpronounceable names, and what is the responsibility of the international community - having kept in mind very much what Rich said about what our national security issues are. Is there a way that the international community that was not able to prevent World War I and World War II whether there's something that can be done now to protect those and prevent the kinds of things that lead to examples of never again? So this is a very practical approach. We do understand that it's a difficult concept and we are going to talk about that. And one of the reasons that we wrote the report and we're so pleased that everybody is here - I'm really blown away by the number of people that are here - because we think that it is not a fully understood concept that needs to be seen as part of an international norm that is in the process of evolving and having all of you understand it, and question it and question us, will we hope lead to the evolution and understanding of the concept. And David, thank you very, very much for being here with us. You and I talked about this and I'm very pleased that you -respected is an understatement when one talks about what you are able to do in your writings. Thank you very much.

David Ignatius: I'd like to just stay with the report for a minute so that we give the audience a little flavor of what's new in it, and I want to ask you about two particular aspects that your working group ended up recommending as a way to make these three pillars on which R2P is based. If you don't know the literature the three pillars are: first, every state has a duty to protect its people from genocide, ethnic cleansing; second, the international community has a responsibility to assist states in doing this; and third, in the absence of the first two, countries have to be ready to take action under the charter and this report says we need to implement those three pillars more aggressively but there are two things that caught my eye in your report and I want to ask you about them. Maybe each of you could comment on one. One is greater use of the International Criminal Court, the international organization of legal action that can move early against specific people so that you don't get to the stage where wholesale military intervention is required. And second, the use of technology, the use of these modern technologies that Secretary Albright mentioned to give early warning of disasters that are taking place that might not be understood and make those visible to you and maybe each of you could briefly talk about those two innovative ideas. Ambassador Williamson, maybe you could start with the ICC.

Richard Williamson: Sure.

David Ignatius: And Secretary Albright, maybe you could talk a minute about the monitoring.

Richard Williamson: To me the issue on the ICC is the issue of accountability. I think it's very important and it's something in the last seventy years the United States has taken some leadership in. The United States took the lead in forming the Nuremburg and Tokyo trials after they effectively held some of the worst criminals to account for those atrocities. There was a presumption that this would continue. It got lost. For example, after the Cambodian Killing Fields no one discussed the need for that. But then as the 20th century, the most brutal, the most victims in mankind's history - the pace picked up in the 1990s with Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo. The United States took the lead in helping form the ICTY, ICTR. Also with the Sierra Leone Special Court and others, the ICC is another manifestation. The last three administrations two democrat, one republican, no one sent the ICC up for ratification. There are problems with it. But as our report says it also is a vehicle that sometimes can be very useful to try to get accountability. The US allowed the referral of Darfur to go to the ICC, contributed intelligence to strengthen the case. Later when the African Union was making an effort for a so-called Article 16 to stop that, the US went out, with President Bush's authority, to say we will veto that and that faded away. So I think trying to continue to develop the principle of accountability is important because in the end most of these conflicts are not spontaneous combustion. They are the result of powerful people, either trying to stay in power or get to power and willing to open the gates of hell to do that. Will accountability change it? Maybe some cases. It will make it a more expensive decision. And that's good, just like the R2P concept is not an answer but hopefully is a step forward to ending these types of terrible situations.

David Ignatius: Secretary Albright, do you want to talk a little bit about monitoring?

Madeleine Albright: Well first of all let me just say on the accountability, it's a very essential point but the other is frankly that we've talked about is that the War Crimes Tribunals as well as the ICC is a way to have individual guilt assigned and collective guilt expunged, which then makes it possible for people to deal with teach other. So there are various parts of it and I think that while it's not perfect and there are a number of different ways that people are looking at whether it's an inducement for people to behave well or actually a way for them not to because they don't- there's no immunity and so anything that is new has its issues as it gets worked out, but I'm very glad that there has been an evolution kind of in this whole concept of international norms on it. The monitoring is interesting because what is, first of all, none of this can work without the cooperation of nongovernmental organizations that are on the ground that can really help to provide information very quickly about what is going on. What we do now have the technology is a two-edged sword in many ways in terms of our new societies. In this particular venue, I think it is a very positive one because with people first of all are able to transmit information very quickly through mobile phones which there are many more than landlines in the developing world. And also with photographs that they can take. All the various video equipment that even the simplest places have and the monitoring makes a big difference because then it isn't just kind of hearsay but allows people to know what is going on. It does create a need to act, however. That may be I think from the perspective of this report is positive, but there are those in some places who would prefer not to know. But I do think that it, there has been an entirely new way of knowing what is going on.

David Ignatius: Should readers of your report begin thinking about a world where we have blue surveillance drones over key crisis areas monitoring the possibility of terrible mass atrocities and getting word to people who can act?

Madeleine Albright: We actually do, over Mali, that's what's going on and I happen to think that, if they are used for surveillance, I think is a very important part of this. And I do think the more we know the more equipped we are. We still come down to the question of then what? But I do think also if people begin to recognize that they are being watched, I think that that in itself may be also a help in preventing.

Richard Williamson: Yeah and we've seen George Clooney and John Prendergast's effort with satellites to keep the Sudan border region viewed and it's very helpful I think especially, just to refer to Sudan, when you've got government sometimes both in Juba and Khartoum that won't let international NGOs go there or the U.N. so you don’t have on-the-ground observers. So yeah, it's an additional tool to be used.

David Ignatius: I want to turn to the really difficult question that R2P discussions raise and that is whether and how to act in difficult situations. We might do that by just looking at developments since 2005 when the R2P concept was endorsed at a U.N. World Summit and since then we've had atrocities in Darfur, in Sri Lanka, in Libya, which we'll talk about more in a minute, and most notably recently in Syria. And these have all been difficult problems for the international community to respond to in a decisive way that would stop the atrocities. They are tests of R2P but you'd have to say that they haven't been successful so far so let me ask you to address those tough questions that we're facing in our real world and offer some thoughts about them. Secretary Albright? You want to begin?

Madeleine Albright: Well I think what is important is to go back to as you described the three pillars because I think that people automatically think that we're going to militarily intervene somewhere. The military intervention part is the last step not the first steps. And I think that the areas that have been the most difficult are the ones where not enough attention has been paid early on. Nobody can speak about Darfur better than Rich Williamson and I think that is partially a lack of recognition of various elements on the ground including desertification, movement of a lot of refugees, so I think that we have not seen the early signs. Sri Lanka has been a very long, ongoing, complicated issue where we haven't been able to get any purchase over either side, frankly, whether it's the Tamils or whether it's the government are trying to figure out how to get at it. Where we have been successful and I think it's interesting in terms of Kenya where in the set of elections that took place in 2008 led to a lot of violence and then we were able to figure out how to get some international action in there to try to not only diffuse the violence but also set up a procedure which allowed the next elections to-- and had an international negotiator, Kofi Annan went in in order to do a lot of diplomatic work and then worked in order to not have this happen again. The same as in Cote d'Ivoire where in fact the person that was elected couldn't take office. The guy that was the incumbent didn't want to leave. Again there was international attention to these areas ahead of time and did not require an on-the-ground intervention. And so one of the things that we wanted to point to as success stories are those where the first two pillars are used or looked at and the ones that are failures is where you haven't been able to get in early enough or haven't seen the signs early enough. Which leads to this issue of the Atrocities Prevention Board that does in fact set up a system within our government where some early warning systems then yet transmitted through our government and then into the international community.

David Ignatius: Ambassador?

Richard Williamson: Thank you, I just reinforce some of what Secretary Albright said. I think one of the difficulties with people looking at the Responsibility to Protect is the assumption that you will have robust action right away. And as we try to emphasize, just like the US, if you use Secretary Albright's words, has a large foreign policy toolbox. There is a large toolbox of what can be done to respond to these types of crisis. And the earlier intervention is both the cheapest and least kinetic. And Kofi's role in brokering the post-election with Odinga and others was a good example of it, Cote d’Ivoire a good example of it. I think Libya has a whole bunch of lessons to be teased out but as you know there continues to be a genocide in slow motion in Sudan. There are terrible atrocities in Syria and I'd rather say that just emphasizes why those of us who believe that it's both in our security interest and consistent with our values to stop these spreading atrocities need things like the Atrocity Prevention Board, need things like the commitment of Congress, need things like organizing the bureaucracy of the US government better to respond, and working most importantly with international partners to help us. The real lesson there is just we have to do better and it's going to take a while but progress has been made I believe.

David Ignatius: I just want to push a little bit harder on the question of Syria because that's taking place before the world's eyes right now. We have what appear to be documented allegations of the use of chemical weapons against civilian populations. We have allegations by the government of atrocities committed by the rebels and we have a situation in which the violence, loss of life, potential dissolution of the country move forward every day and despite the heroic efforts by Kofi Annan and his successor Lakhdar Brahimi as the international communities representatives we have no apparent movement toward any diplomatic resolution. And I just would say how should the R2P community view this? Not simply the terrible bloodshed but the political difficulty of dealing with it?

Madeleine Albright: Well I do think it is obviously the most difficult situation that is out there at the moment and decision makers are in fact wrestling with some solution. I have to say I'm trying in my own mind to figure out how we got there. And I do think that a lot of it has to do with what happened in the Arab world generally. And if I might say last winter I was in a meeting. I was having a public discussion with an Arab and I said, "It's the winter so we can't talk about the Arab Spring. We can call it the Awakening." And he got furious at me and he said "That is such an insult. The Arabs haven't been asleep all this time." And I said "So what would you call it?" And he said "Arab troubles." And I said "What about Arab opportunity?" So just kind of those four phrases indicate the different thinking about it. And I don't-- I'm not trying to obfuscate here but I think basically for whatever reasons we didn't fully understand what was happening across the Arab world. That did come as a surprise. I think that needs to be looked at with some clarity and a real objective approach to it. But I believe that what happened in Syria is a part of that. Having met both Hafez Assad the father who was nicknamed the Lion but was more like a mule and his son, Bashar Assad, for whom when I met him I always thought that one and one made two but two and two never made four, so kind of trying out figure out what they were doing. And so there was that issue and then I think, frankly, people's minds were somewhere else and were not if I might say so - it's very hard as a former decision maker to criticize those in office - but basically whether not enough attention was paid. I think that part of the issue here and this is the difficulty of R2P is to analyze whom you're going to help. Who are the people? And part of it has to do with the pillars again because it is the responsibility of a leader of his country, it's usually his, to in fact protect the people in that country. That is the responsibility. To care about the people, the territory and the way of life, so the opposite was happening is happening in Syria. So then I do think the international community, and not the United States but the international community, as a whole has really failed in trying to find the right tools to deal with it. And the US is not the only member of the international community. And that leads to one of the major issues with R2P that I think we have to recognize and that is that it requires the approval of the Security Council. And having been there and done that on Kosovo, where it was clear that in the Security Council that the Russians were going to veto that, we took it out of that cul-de-sac and put it with NATO. And so I do believe that R2P is a very, very good international community approach, but personally I never believe we should get stuck in a cul-de-sac.

David Ignatius: Well said. Ambassador?

Richard Williamson: Thank you. These are really tough decisions made more difficult by the fatigue of the American public as a result of overreach from the Bush administration and the poor events in post-conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would have wished we had been more leaning in on Syria. But if I could I think one of the lessons of Syria is when you don't act, the cost. There has been a bleed with 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, a critical ally, where the king was already suffering with other issues because of the Arab Spring. There has been a bleed with refugees into Turkey and two instances where there actually were missiles filed into our NATO ally, where we have certain treaty commitments if it gets out of hand. Lebanon has been affected; Hezbollah’s involved, Israel is threatened. It's become a proxy war for a rising Shi’a Tehran against the Sunni states, the Gulf States that are friends and allies. And the casualties have gone up. President Obama here at the Holocaust Museum in April discussed how genocide and ethnic cleansing are a national security threat. I think we're seeing that today. Hopefully it will inform smarter people to think through this and also as they weigh difficult decisions keep that in mind because the costs in Syria are tragic for the over 100,000 people who have died and even more who have been wounded. It's a tragedy that's going to be ongoing for a long time and probably a functioning failed state for a while. But it's a tragedy because of US interests that have been compromised and challenged and may yet force us to take action that will be more expensive than if we'd begun a long time ago.

Madeleine Albright: Could I just add I think that the points that Rich made about being tired and I refer back to my opening statement. The British and French were exhausted from World War I and they had lost a whole generation of young people. Their budget was a mess. Their military infrastructure was questioned, and Neville Chamberlain decided that in fact he would do anything for peace. And they made a deal over the heads of the Czechoslovaks with the Germans and Italians and that country was sold down the river. And I think that we need to recognize, and Rich said it, is we are tired from the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. And people feel that we have not paid enough attention to things in this country which I happen to believe. And the question then is how do we have a national discussion about this? Are we in fact in danger of what I've called the inkblot spread of Syria and its longer term effect on our strategic interest. Or do we in fact legitimately spend a lot of time thinking about what is going on in this country? And so I return on the following thing which is, President Clinton said it first and I said it so often it became identified with me - "We are the indispensable nation," which we said at a time that Americans were also tired from the Gulf War and too many years of not paying attention to the United States. There is nothing, nothing in the definition of indispensable that says alone. It just means the United States needs to be engaged, and I think and I deliberately said the international community has failed on this. It is the United States needs to be a part of this but we do not have to respond to this all alone and R2P is not just America in there. And therefore we need to do more in terms of recognizing what the problems are and that it's an international responsibility, and that is where I think we need more action and we need to have a discussion in the United States about what our national interests really are.

David Ignatius: There is a big takeaway in what you both just said that war weariness does not absolve a country's moral responsibility to act. I want to turn to a question that I think is rarely raised in discussions of R2P but is one that has interested me for some years and I'm going to characterize it as the moral hazard problem that goes along with an international commitment that there's a Responsibility to Protect. And by that what I mean is there is something that I sometimes call the power of the weak. By that I mean the ability to start conflicts that you can't finish - hoping, believing that the international committee will come to your rescue when you are at death's door. We have seen bits of this in many countries as you know and I want to ask you how you think sensible people involved in the R2P debate should deal with this question to make sure that this international commitment isn't taken by people to do things that if they had to be entirely responsible for themselves and their communities they might not undertake. Ambassador Williamson?

Richard Williamson: Well, especially as you know there has been a great deal written about the events that led up to NATO's intervention in Kosovo in that context with the Muslim community and the Christian community. I think that you see that in a number of U.N. peacekeeping operations. Slightly different than the initiation of atrocity crimes but it is a challenge. It's case-by-case. It's difficult. There is no one-size-fits-all. Remember Hammerskjöld once wrote when he was asked about U.N. peacekeeping if we should have a permanent force and he said, "Well the challenges are so different case-by-case you need to make each one tailor-made." So I don't think you can come out with a simple rule of how to handle it, but it's something decision makers have to be aware of, and frankly the US has a particular responsibility. When I was sitting in the Security Council and everybody would talk about, and I'm sure Madeleine had this, "We've got to do this. We've got to do that." I'd raise my hand and say, "We?" Because others were volunteering the only country that had the power for lift and other things to make it happen. So there are unique responsibilities and opportunities with our status but I don't think you can have a rule that will fit all. You've got to be aware of it. You've got to be aware of the best way to intervene. You've got to be aware of the need to have other countries involved with you. You need to be aware of the broad participation, but sure, one of the factors is to the extent in some circumstances you might have political minorities. Not ethnic minorities, political minorities who see initiating violence as a way to get the international community to enhance their situation. And let me just say finally we see that in Syria where when there's talk of a conference people try to change the facts on the ground and commit even more intense atrocities to enhance their political position. It's just a reality that decision makers have to be aware of and the United States has a particular attentiveness if we're going to be effective.

David Ignatius: Secretary Albright, what would you say to someone, a political minority that starts a fight they can't finish? Is there a thought you have on that?

Madeleine Albright: Well we've obviously all kind of thought about this, one, when we had to deal with it and then in a more thoughtful academic way. Let me just say that what I find interesting, and Rich as pointed out a lot of the issues, is part of what makes an ethnic group or minority fight normally is that there is something that they have been deprived of within the nation state that they are in. But also then there becomes a dynamic within the group itself as to who is tougher, who is really standing up, who is somebody who is a compromiser or whatever. I think that's the hardest part. And I can only tell you, you mentioned Kosovo, the time that I spent in Rambouillet dealing with the Kosovo fighters, one of whom is now the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, and part of it was the extent to which he was willing to make a compromise on something but some of the other people would say no, no, you're just giving in. So the question is, and I don't know whether this is at all possible, whether there is a bit of a bargain before you ever begin to support X in saying, "I will support you or we will, the international community, but the price of the support is that when you've won you will actually not do the same thing to the people you just defeated." And while we're speaking of Kosovo, they like me there.


David Ignatius: We like you here too.

Madeleine Albright: There is a whole generation of little girls called Madeleine. But the bottom line is-


Madeleine Albright: That I spent a lot of time telling the Serbs what they couldn't do to the Kosovars. I have been back to Pristina and what is interesting to me when I went initially during the bad period, what you saw were the Orthodox Churches that were doing well and the Muslim Churches that were surrounded, the Mosques, that were surrounded by barbed wire. When I went back to Pristina the opposite was true and I said to them, "This is impossible." I spoke in front of the National Assembly and said, "You cannot do to the Serbs what they did to you." The question is whether one could have some kind of a reconciliation discussion before we ever support it. I don't know whether it's possible because the dynamics that you talk about Rich, that somebody for political reasons has to be tougher. And what I regret about Syria is that because it's taken so long, the most extremist factions in many ways now are able to say, "Look, nobody helped us." And so that is the issue, but easier to talk about in theory than practice.

David Ignatius: Interestingly, the main message our Deputy Secretary of State William Burns seems to have delivered on his recent trip to Cairo to the new ruling regime is the need for inclusiveness. Don't try to push the Muslim Brotherhood into prison, underground, out of politics. Be inclusive. I want to conclude with one question and then we're going to turn to the audience for your questions so be thinking. That is what in some ways is a great success for the R2P doctrine but in other ways illustrates its limits and that is Libya. And I'd like to ask each of you to comment on Libya both in the sense that people who were on the verge of annihilation in Benghazi were saved because of intervention, yes, but because there wasn't a responsibility to rebuild built into this doctrine adequately. From every account that I hear and read Libya is really a mess, I mean security, and normal life just don't exist there now. Help us to think about Libya both as a success and as a challenge.

Richard Williamson: Libya was fascinating for many reasons. Among them being it was the first time in the Security Council they actually invoked the words "Responsibility to Protect" in a resolution dealing with this crisis, and then voted to authorize an intervention. Two, we learned or relearned both the effectiveness and limits of our NATO allies in carrying certain things out. But another thing I think we've learned is that in the calculations of getting involved, part of it has to be the post-conflict situation. And whether we're looking at Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya we shouldn't give ourselves very good grades. And you can't come in and walk away and expect magically a society that's been torn apart - or in the case of Libya Balkanized for over 30 years even their military down to platoons were by tribes, never integrated, no civil society - to all of a sudden find a reconciliation. And I think we have to keep learning and getting better, and one of the things I take out of Libya is in addition to the serious discussions and deliberations where the President decided to go forward in March of 2011, I think it was or '10, to support bombing. There probably should have been more discussion of the responsibility when the change happens and hopefully working with local players, the United States and others can help them to start taking a path toward reconciliation. The division, the Balkanization between Benghazi and Tripoli that's been there for centuries is more acute. The violence out in the oil area to the east is worse and we've had instances in the last two months where there have been demonstrations in violence and militias taking over even government buildings in Tripoli. Getting rid of Mr. Qadhafi was not the end story, it was just the end of a chapter and we should have stayed more engaged.

Madeleine Albright: I think that it is fair to say that we live in an unbelievably complicated world where easy answers do not come, and the bottom line is the Libya issue did come up during our discussions and we asked each other was it going to help the R2P concept or hurt it? Because it really was the first time, as Rich said, that it was included in a resolution. I think that I hope the message that comes out of this discussion is that this is just one way that we and all of the international community is trying to look at some kind of tools to help solve increasingly difficult situations. We are living in an entirely different world than the kind I grew up in and the nation-state aspect is more complicated. The existence of a variety of ethnic groups, the different tools that are available, and I also think that it is much easier to sit here representing no one than myself than to actually try to deal with these issues. Because what happens, and both Rich and I have been in the Situation Room, as far as I know you haven't, is that basically you sit there and you put forward issues and argue is this good or bad? What happens often is there are so many people that can tell you why not to do something because this will be this and that will be that, but then you don't do anything and if you are the United States you are damned if you do or damned if you don't. And I think that the question is you have to do case-by-case and the “doability” aspect of it, and you have to think about the unintended consequences of either the decisions you make or the ones you do not. There is no President that ever gets a clean slate. There are the carry-overs on it, and I can assure you that whether I agree with them or not, there is nobody that sits in their offices trying to make stupid decisions. They are trying to look at what the various aspects are and you do get kind of dragged down by saying we'll go in there, but it's going to take a zillion dollars and it will take many years and you still will not have accomplished anything. If there is ever any lesson that I learned, however, we cannot be our normal Americans of saying done it, been there, over. It is not true in the Balkans, it is not true anywhere. And I think that we do need to understand that there is a commitment after whatever. And that the R2P exercise is one of trying to get our heads around whether there is some new way of dealing with this.

David Ignatius: So let's turn to the audience if you would wait we have microphone runners. I see a hand raised there. If you could please identify yourselves, keep your questions short so I don't have to be rude and interrupt. If you have a question for a specific member of the panel please direct it to that person.

Sara Federman: Hi, my name is Sara Federman. I'm a doctoral student studying corporate accountability for mass atrocities, looking at those issues. Secretary Albright, you both can answer, you were talking about the ICC as the criminal court focuses on holding an individual responsible to expunge the collective. And also I feel like the Responsibility to Protect is actually moving us towards a collective accountability towards this rather than saying there are certain individuals responsible for all this. I know this is so complex and I guess I would like to hear what you both have to say about holding the collective more accountable and is there a way to do that that doesn't create cycles of just shame and retribution?

Madeleine Albright: I don't know how to answer that. It's interesting, I hadn't put that together. I do think it's a combination of it. I do think that not everybody - when we say it's "collective," it's collective responsibility by the international community to do something and one would hope a collective way that those who are fighting might think more as a group, but ultimately what we have seen is that often the individual guilt is something that has been a result of “X” political leader thinking that he can do better by whipping up anti-“X”, not just being proud in your own group but curdling into hate of another. So I think it's that combination of the collective responsibility of the community to do something about it, but I do think that one would find individuals, certainly it was true in the former Yugoslavia as well as in Rwanda, of people that were specifically responsible for stirring up the hatred.

Richard Williamson: If I could just comment on that briefly. Again it's somewhat a case-by-case situation. In South Africa, Mandela made a determination. He was negotiating a transition and he couldn't sit across the table from the white apartheid government to negotiate a path to sustainable peace and a new era if there was a threat of harsh justice. So he made a decision that we're going to have a truth and reconciliation commission so victims can record what they went through so they could never be denied. Perpetrators would be identified. And there is a certain punishment in that but he would not set up a court and it's worked. You have victims of apartheid who are now police commissioners, etcetera. My only point is that it is going to have to be case-by-case because I used to be asked by my friends in the ICC and International Justice during my tenure in Sudan about accountability, and I said, “Look, to me it's pretty simple. If you can hold those most accountable and bring them to justice great, but if it's a question of justice for saving lives I'm going to save lives.” And I was involved in getting Charles Taylor out of Sierra Leone because we thought there would be 10,000 that would die in the next few weeks if we didn't during the Bush administration. But these are not easy questions. They can be gray, they can be difficult, and I think when you're talking about other sorts of collective responsibility you have to have those factors in as well.

David Ignatius: I want to call on Martin Indyk from the Brookings Institution, he's one of the co-sponsors of this report, and then the woman who sitting directly behind him in the white sweater.

Martin Indyk: Thank you very much, David. On behalf of Brookings, I want to say how delighted I am with this collaboration of the Holocaust Museum and the US Institute of Peace, and congratulate both Madeleine and Rich and the other members on the Task Force for a really compelling report and a fascinating discussion this morning. I wanted to continue this question of the ICC. In particular in the case of Syria where Assad and his henchmen are so clearly engaged in crimes against humanity and the evidence is manifested and just mounting. And yet the International Criminal Court is not only not engaged in any way but the threat doesn't seem to be used either because the judgment seems to have been made that it won't be helpful in this case, but that the best way is to get them to leave the country and therefore there should be no invocation of the ICC. And I wonder is that a problem more generally that's developing now that precisely the kind of concerns that you mention, Rich in the case of Mandela, begins to vitiate the effectiveness of the ICC?

Madeleine Albright: Let me start but I just think that there have been questions generally, for instance you dealt with Bashir and he's an indicted war criminal and it doesn't seem to have helped to get him out of office. That's one of the things that people have talked about is he then has no kind of incentive to stop because he knows that he's already indicted. I have to say I created a group of former Foreign Ministers when I left office. One of them is Lloyd Axworthy who is here and he can testify to the fact that we I think it was already two years ago that as a group, three years ago, we called on the fact that the ICC should come after Bashar Assad. There were those who argued exactly that this is not a good idea because then he has nowhere to go and could one grant him immunity? But I think that as that has also evolved that has raised these kinds of questions. Is it an incentive or a disincentive? I always find it uncomfortable to talk about the ICC since we actually are not members. I wish we were. And one of the pressures of the international community is always that there are people who take this very seriously and the Canadians always do. They have always pushed. I said this last night, I say it again, the Canadians are the most responsible international citizens. They are always there. But I do think that the bottom line is this is a hard issue to deal with, especially for the way that you've parsed it.

Richard Williamson: First, I want to say to Martin, thanks again for Brookings' help on this. More importantly, I hope the reports are right both for the sake of the Palestinian and Israelis and the US interest, and I wish you Godspeed on your mission, which hopefully you will take up soon.

David Ignatius: Martin, any comment on that?


Madeleine Albright: Been there, done that, right?


Richard Williamson: I think it is case-by-case in the case of Sudan, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor and I had frequent discussions. I was urging him not to go forward with an arrest warrant because I thought it would change the dynamic and Bashir would stay in no matter what because of the alternative. I think he took a very credible position which that wasn't his problem. He was going to follow the law. He went forward with the arrest warrant. I think there was, I have reason to believe there was pressure in Khartoum that may have bet their behavior. Unfortunately by March, 2009 the US let him off the hook. So I think it might have been able to be used in a positive way but instead Bashir's continuing situation in power and travel I think has weakened accountability in the ICC. But I don't mean to cop out. I do think it's a case-by-case. I think it was very, very important that Charles Taylor became the first African head of state who was brought to justice by the Sierra Leone Special Court. I think it had a profound effect on a lot of bad actors. I do think as I went back earlier, you have bad people making decisions to stay or get into power. If there is part of that calculation a high probability that you eventually will be brought to justice, you are increasing the bar slightly and anything to make it more difficult for someone to make the decision to open the gates of hell is a good thing.

David Ignatius: Because we're running out of time I want to collect a couple of questions starting with you and then you, Sir, in the white coat and I recognize one other woman down two seats. Those three and then we'll turn back to our panel for final comments.

Barbara Dellow: Thank you very much. My question is this.

David Ignatius: Please identify yourself.

Barbara Dellow: My name is Barbara Dellow and I'm a mom and I'm a nurse. And my question is this. It occurred to me once that North America has three basic countries, and that if you look at international bodies like the ICC, it comes from the whole world and there are continents like Africa and Europe that have many countries. And I became aware that different countries have different notions of right and wrong, and different ideas of justice. How can we ensure that in international bodies the decision making will be in keeping with the values that we have? And how also can we be assured that the outcomes after an intervention will be respective of the national desires of the home population?

David Ignatius: Good question. Sir?

Greg Stanton: I'm Greg Stanton, President of Genocide Watch. I once served under Secretary Albright. The question I have really is if a nation fails to exercise its responsibilities to protect its own citizens, then who should it be? Who will take over that Responsibility to Protect? You made one really I think very, very trenchant point in one of your statements in which you said, "In Kosovo we did not get caught in the cul-de-sac out of the U.N. Security Council." In other words, other coalitions may be needed and I'm asking that specifically in regard to Sudan and to Syria. Aryeh Neier has suggested that a court be set up, a war crimes court, a crime against humanity court, to try those who are committing war crimes in Syria on both sides. Why aren't we perhaps organizing a coalition of the willing to wait for the planes to land who are bombing the people in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and so forth, and then sending cruise missiles to destroy those planes?

David Ignatius: And madam, finally, down two rows I recognized earlier.

Pauline Baker: Pauline Baker from the Fund for Peace. Sorry for that. My question is an extension of Ambassador Indyk's and that is there seems to be a growing backlash amongst some countries against R2P, first because they think it's an instrument of the powerful in the world to control the weak, but more importantly, I think in terms of the ICC and the resistance to that, particularly in terms of two sitting African heads of state now who have been indicted and the difficult thing of dealing with the Kenyan situation where you have an elected president who is now indicted by the ICC, and that has set off kind of a debate within the African community that this is unfair and unjust and discriminatory. How do you deal with that? And how does R2P become a more universally accepted norm?

David Ignatius: Good so there are three good questions. What rules should prevail in the ICC? Who should act if the U.N. won't? And then finally about the backlash that we're beginning to see against the R2P and any other concluding comments that either of you had, Secretary Albright?

Madeleine Albright: Well let me say it's interesting. All three of the questions and the other points that have been made here really revolve around the fact about what has happened to the international system? Is it a functioning system? And again to refer to my age I went to college sometimes between the invention of the iPod and the discovery of fire, but the bottom line is that I grew up learning about the United Nations system and looking at what the basis of it was, which is the charter of the U.N. that is based on a series of accepted laws and norms in terms of the basic human rights and that we are all the same. I won't go through all that, but basically that we are a system of nation-states. The U.N. is not a world government. The nation-states continue to have the power. But the system in itself as a result of more and more countries that are artificial countries created out of a variety of ethnic groups. The information technology, without going through it all has complete complicated the whole aspect of how the international system works. The existence of non-state actors, a lot of people that in fact interpret the charter in a different way. But I do think that also what I find interesting is looking at what happened in the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st in terms of trying to sort out what new norms might be. I think that clearly there's a lot of evolutionary aspect of this. And on the R2P, I think the questions have a lot to do with who actually, let's presume we agree, that X needs to be done in a particular country, who really carries it out? There are questions as to whether it looks like aggression by white countries against countries that are predominantly black or Christian countries versus Muslim countries. And so there are those particular questions which need to be answered. I happen to believe that it has to be multilateral action, a coalition of the willing of some kind of way that it is not aggression by one particular country. But these are exactly the kinds of questions that need to be asked and trying to sort out what is happening with the international system because it is not the way it was and it has many more players and it's much more complicated, and we do know everything that's going on. So that is why I'm very pleased that we actually had this task force. We asked each other a lot of these questions, and that we have put this on the agenda because people need to see it as an evolving concept that we're going to need help in explaining.

Richard Williamson: Thank you. First with respect to the different views on justice. I teach a course at Northwestern University on US Foreign Policy and Human Rights, and I try to emphasize that every member of the U.N. has agreed to the U.N. charter that does in paragraph 48 of its charter deal with human rights and shared responsibility. Two, they've signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is a pledge. So those who want to try to move away from those standards, and by the way, they were animated more by US values than anything else. As I noted earlier Eleanor Roosevelt was the Chair of the effort, John Foster Dulles as well as seven other international personalities drafted it. So I think you just say you signed up for it. You can't recreate it, change it, distort it. You are going to be held to account to these standards. Two, with respect to protecting if governments fail, I think it was a great moment for America for President Clinton and Secretary Albright when they made the decision they did in Kosovo. It is better to work through the U.N. because of the outreach legitimacy buy-in. But you can't let one country’s own view of its own national interest prohibit action when these sorts of crimes are being committed. Yes, there's different views on the ICC. In fact after Bashir, Bashir had been kind of isolated within the African Union. It was his turn to be chairman, he didn't get it. The only time he ever got unified support in the A.U. was when the ICC did an arrest warrant because A.U. passed resolution to do an Article XVI and lift jurisdiction. I was down in Addis meeting with the Secretary-General of the A.U. and the head of their peace commission, and they said, "You know, if you don't get this Article XVI, thirty-three countries will withdraw from the ICC." I said, "I'm from the Bush administration if happens, have me lead the line.”


Richard Williamson: Look, there's going to be differences. You shouldn't get bogged down. It is difficult work. It's case-by-case, I think as I said earlier we should push back when people selectively are distorting the record of institutions. Most of the African prosecutions went through the Security Council's referrals. They weren't initiated at the Hague, and of course there are African members of the ICC, of the Security Council. Finally let me thank David, but especially let me thank Madeleine Albright not only for her leadership. It's really awakened US foreign policy in Bosnia and Kosovo but also her willingness to join this effort on the report and thank her for being such a good friend.

Madeleine Albright: Can I say this is what it looks like when democrats and republicans cooperate.



July 23, 2013
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum