Arguing Matters

The Responsibility to Protect and the Case of Libya

In: Global Responsibility to Protect
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  • 1 University of Queensland
  • 2 University of Queensland

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This article analyses international negotiations over the 2011 Libyan crisis during the short weeks between the start of the uprising and the passage and implementation of un Security Council Resolution 1973. We make two arguments: first, following Risse, we demonstrate how and when argumentation around the humanitarian norm of protecting civilians mattered in these debates; second, we show that failure on the part of the supporters of the intervention on humanitarian grounds to maintain consistent and genuine argumentation in relation to that mandate is a key factor in explaining the subsequent lack of agreement about collective action inside the Security Council. We conclude that the lesson that arguing mattered in relation to Libya has been insufficiently appreciated, but needs to be better understood in order to facilitate the future traction of the RtoP norm in international negotiations.

  • 3

    Thomas Weiss, ‘RtoP Alive and Well after Libya’, Ethics & International Affairs 25/3: 287–292 (2011).

  • 4

    Alex Bellamy, ‘Libya and the Responsibility to Protect: The Exception and the Norm’, Ethics & International Affairs 25/3: 263–269 (2011).

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  • 6

    Aidan Hehir, ‘The Permanence of Inconsistency: Libya, the Security Council, and the Responsibility to Protect’, International Security 38/1: 137–159 (2013).

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  • 7

    Jeremy Moses, ‘Sovereignty as Irresponsibility? A Realist Critique of the Responsibility to Protect’, Review of International Studies 39/1: 113–35 (2013), pp. 133–34.

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  • 10

    Luke Glanville, ‘The Responsibility to Protect beyond Borders’, Human Rights Law Review 12/1: 1–32 (2012), p. 2.

  • 11

    Alex Bellamy, ‘The Responsibility to Protect–Five Years On’, Ethics & International Affairs 24/2: 143–169 (2010), p. 145.

  • 13

    Ibid., p. 51.

  • 14

    Ibid., p. 46.

  • 16

    Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin, ‘The Promise of Institutionalist Theory’, International Security 20/1: 39–51 (1995).

  • 18

    Ibid., pp. 3–6.

  • 19

    Ibid., pp. 8–9.

  • 22

    Risse, ‘Global Governance and Communicative Action’, p. 298.

  • 23

    Risse, ‘“Let’s Argue!”’, p. 9.

  • 24

    Ibid., p. 8, citing Schimmelfennig, ‘The Community Trap’.

  • 25

    Risse, ‘“Let’s Argue!”’, p. 8.

  • 26

    Risse, ‘Global Governance and Communicative Action’, pp. 299–300.

  • 28

    Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

  • 29

     For example, Krebs and Jackson, ‘Twisting Tongues and Twisting Arms’, p. 36; Mulligan, Questioning (the Question of) Legitimacy in ir’, pp. 476–7.

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  • 31

    Inis Claude, ‘Collective Legitimization as a Political Function of the United Nations’, International Organization 20/3: 367–379 (1996).

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  • 33

    Risse, ‘“Let’s Argue!”’, p. 16.

  • 52

     For example, Ahmed Jadallah, ‘Gaddafi defiant as protesters killed’, The Independent (Reuters), 25 February 2011, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/gaddafi-defiant-as-protesters-killed-2225667.html, accessed 20 August 2013.

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  • 55

    Zifcak, ‘The Responsibility to Protect After Libya and Syria’, p. 2.

  • 70

    Barack Obama, ‘Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya’, Executive Order 13566, 25 February 2011.

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  • 71

    Michael Lewis, ‘Obama’s Way’, Vanity Fair, October 2012, http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/10/michael-lewis-profile-barack-obama, accessed 2 October 2012, p. 6; European Affairs, ‘Libya; New Scenario Seems to Exclude Ground Intervention by eu or us’, March 2011, http://www.europeaninstitute.org/March-2011/libya-new-scenario-seems-to-exclude-armed-intervention-by-eu-or-us-316.html, accessed 3 March 2014.

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  • 72

    Barack Obama, ‘Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya’, p. 1.

  • 73

    Lewis, ‘Obama’s Way’, p. 7.

  • 74

    Corn, Showdown, p. 211.

  • 77

    Corn, Showdown, p. 212; Susan Rice, ‘Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, u.s. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology on “Building a New Nation: Rwanda’s Progress and Potential”’, 23 November 2011; Susan Rice, ‘Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, u.s. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the Security Council Stakeout on Libya’, 16 March 2011; Clinton, ‘Remarks at the Human Rights Council’.

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  • 80

    Hehir, ‘The Permanence of Inconsistency: Libya, the Security Council, and the Responsibility to Protect’, p. 147, p. 140.

  • 81

    Ibid., p. 138.

  • 83

    Hehir, ‘The Permanence of Inconsistency: Libya, the Security Council, and the Responsibility to Protect’, p. 154; Shashank Joshi, ‘The Complexity of Arab Support’, in Adrian Johnson and Saqeb Mueen (eds.), Short War, Long Shadow: The Political and Military Legacies of the 2011 Libya campaign (London: Royal United Services Institute, 2012), pp. 63–6.

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  • 97

    Clarke, ‘The Making of Britain’s Libya Strategy’, p. 11.

  • 98

    Hehir, ‘The Permanence of Inconsistency: Libya, the Security Council, and the Responsibility to Protect’, p. 146.

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