Thursday, April 14, 2011

Will R2P become a 'European Monroe Doctrine'?

DPTrombly has a post suggesting that, inasmuch as European states will be willing and able to enforce the Responsibility to Protect only within a defined geographic area, R2P will come to resemble a European Monroe Doctrine, with Europe attempting to ensure certain norms of behavior by states within its sphere of influence, i.e., "Sahara, Sahel, Mediterranean rim, and Balkans."

Does the analogy work? I'm not convinced. The U.S., as DPT indicates, relied on Britain's naval power to enforce the Monroe Doctrine for most of the 19th century. And not too long after the U.S. became capable of using its own navy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed in 1904 his famous 'corollary' to the Doctrine which "declared that misgovernment (or 'chronic wrongdoing')" by Latin American governments would be grounds for U.S. armed intervention (Penguin Dictionary of International Relations, 1998, p.337). Applying this principle via his paternalistic pronouncement that "we must teach the Latin Americans to select the right man," Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines into Mexico in 1914 (ibid., p.573).

By contrast, R2P is less paternalistic than the Monroe Doctrine as applied by TR and Woodrow Wilson. R2P's application is limited to four circumstances: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity (see M.W. Doyle, "International Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect," Int'l Studies Review 13:1, March 2011). It is not a question of teaching the inhabitants of country X "to select the right man [or woman]." A leader can drive his or her country into the ground and can be as corrupt as all get-out, but as long as he or she does not engage (or very credibly, by his or her own pronouncement, appear to be right on the verge of engaging) in genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity -- all of which, with the possible exception of ethnic cleansing, have accepted definitions in international law -- the question of R2P does not even arise.

Of course, application of R2P will be selective and considerations of the sort mentioned by DPT will influence the 'selections'. But that does not mean that R2P will be used to legitimize interventions of the kind that Wilson ordered in Mexico. Thus "European Monroe Doctrine" may not be the right description, inasmuch as it may conjure up a history of paternalistic, imperialistic interventions that I think few have any interest in defending or repeating.


hank_F_M said...


Thanks for the link.

I suspect you may be alittle optimistic.

While who can argue with R2P in theory, which after all is a primary responsibility of a government with or without a UN resolution.

I think in practice it will be more of an available justification than a policy

Chapter VII of the UN charter covers enforcement. The Security Council can order an enforcement action to “preserve the peace” 10 votes concurring with no vetoes. Invoking R2P seems to provide a broader justification for an enforcement action than the strict letter of the Charter. Which of course may be good bad or indifferent depending on the circumstances. In the recent Libya vote was there a strict threat to international peace other than the possibiltly the Western Powers would intervene on their own If the Security Council did not pass the resolution authorizing intervention?. It may, as he suggests, be a basis for an European Monroe Doctrine but it is a tool available to all when a justification to intervene is needed.

But when I was looking through the R2P sites I noticed that what did not really get any mention was an R2P against outside intervention.

I am not convinced that in net this will be a positive development, though it could be.

slouchingcolumbia said...

Thanks for your response,

To clarify what I meant, I didn't intend to say that the carving out of a sphere of activity for R2P necessarily has paternalistic or hegemonic aims.

What I meant more would be that, inadvertently, Europe would create a space where certain norms of government behavior and exceptions to sovereign practice would be militarily enforced - obviously the content and context of these norms and exceptions is far less paternalistic or imperialistic than was the Monroe Doctrine.

My point was more to relate the great power/geographic dynamics to the growth and practice of the norm, which I think is genuinely held and exercised, rather than to cast aspersions on humanitarianism as cynical neo-imperialism, which I agree is not a very credible critique.

boxer said...

(not at home computer right now so must be brief)
@hank: I think it's a bit too early to say whether it will be a net positive or not.
@slouchingcolumbia: I take the clarification. However your use of the Monroe Doctrine as a point of reference did seem to me to imply a certain intent to debunk or demystify, for lack of better words. Perhaps I overread.

boxer said...

"boxer" here is LFC. in case that was not obvious.