Of all of the rationales being given for why the U.S. should take military action in Syria in response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack on its own people in Damascus, the one that is the most troubling is the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine. Promoted at the United Nations, this doctrine compels nations to intervene to prevent atrocities.
James Carafano, one of the nation’s leading experts in defense and homeland security and director of The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, in an article listing the top 5 reasons not to intervene in Syria, explains the dangers of being influenced by the R2P doctrine:
1. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is not adequate justification for direct military intervention. This dangerous doctrine, promoted at the United Nations, undermines U.S. sovereignty by arguing for an obligation of nations to intervene.
Heritage’s legal expert on sovereignty matters, Steve Groves, explains:
a doctrine that compels the United States to act to prevent atrocities occurring in other countries would be risky and imprudent. U.S. independence—hard won by the Founders and successive generations of Americans—would be compromised if the United States consented to be legally bound by the R2P doctrine. The United States needs to preserve its national sovereignty by maintaining a monopoly on the decision to deploy diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, political coercion, and especially its military forces.
There are plenty of other reasons to resist President Obama’s urgent plea for the U.S. to intervene militarily in the Syrian crisis. But using the “responsibility to protect” rationale — tugging on the emotional heartstrings of the American people by showing us the pictures of those who died from sarin poisoning, should be seen for what it is. A manipulative tactic much like those used to further domestic socialism programs and policies. After all, they insist, “we’re all in this together, therefore, we are all responsible for everybody’s problems.”
The U.S. should be supportive of humanitarian efforts undertaken by individual nations, but it is not in our national security interests to utilize our military for such an endeavor.
I would hope the American people see through this manipulation and reject the R2P doctrine as an inadequate justification for military intervention. Congress should do the same when they reconvene to take up the president’s request for authorization to attack Syria.
But will they?