Covert Actions and the Responsibility to Protect

in Global Responsibility to Protect
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Fifteen years on, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is still facing questions over its content, scope and attendant obligations. Recent conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq show, how, when and if states intervene is a matter of political will and calculation. Yet the question of political will remains largely unaddressed, and many ignore the conceptual and practical distance between stating that the international community should encourage and assist states to fulfill R2P obligations and requiring third parties to use diplomatic, humanitarian or ‘other’ means to protect populations when states fail to do so. I propose we acknowledge this distance and minimize it through covert action. Embracing the reality that some states cannot intervene due to political constraints entails that we can theorize about other ways to uphold R2P. Moreover, covert action involves a range of means and types of targets and is a flexible option for R2P.

Covert Actions and the Responsibility to Protect

in Global Responsibility to Protect




 Quoted in Megan Gambin‘Madeleine Albright on Her Life in Pins’. Smithsonian MagazineJune 2010 accessed 22 April 2015.


Chris LandsbergThe Quite Diplomacy of Liberation: International Politics and South Africa’s Transition (Johannesburg: Jacana Media2005); Michael Johns ‘Quiet Diplomacy the European Union and Conflict Prevention: Learning from the hcnm on Issues of Social Cohesion’ Journal on Minority and Group Rights 19/3 (2012) pp. 243–265.


Heather M RoffGlobal Justice Kant and the Responsibility to Protect: A Provisional Duty (New York: Routledge2013) and Heather M Roff ‘A Provisional Duty of Humanitarian Intervention’ Global Responsibility to Protect 3/2 (2011) pp. 152–171.


Aydin Aysegul‘Where Do States Go? Strategy in Civil War Intervention’Conflict Management and Peace Science27/1 (2010) pp. 47–66.


Thomas SchellingThe Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge: Harvard University Press1981) p. 13.


Thomas SchellingArms and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press1966) pp. 69–86. See also Barry R. Posen ‘Military Responses to Refugee Disasters’ International Security 2/1 (summer 1996) pp. 79–81.


Baldwin‘Success and Failure in Foreign Policy’ p. 176.


James Fearon‘Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes’ American Political Science Review88/3 (1994) pp. 577–592; Alastair Smith ‘International Crises and Domestic Politics’ American Political Science Review 92/3 (1998) pp. 623–638; Kenneth A. Schultz ‘Looking for Audience Costs’ Journal of Conflict Resolution 45/1 (2001) pp. 32–60; Jessica Weeks ‘Autocratic Audience Costs: Regime Type and Signaling Resolve’ International Organization 62/1 (2008) pp. 35–64.


David Martosko and Leon Watson‘British and American Special Forces in Lightning Mission to Mount Sinjar: Troops Land but Say Plans to Airlift Yazidi Refugees "Far Less Likely" After Ground Assessment’Daily Mail13 August 2014 accessed 17 June 2015.


Alex Bellamy‘Whither the Responsibility to Protect? Humanitarian Intervention and the 2005 World Summit’Ethics and International Affairs20/2 (2006) pp.143–169; Alex Bellamy Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge: Polity Press 2013) p. 96.


Johnson‘Ethics of Covert Operations’ p. 285.


Charles Beitz‘Covert Intervention as a Moral Problem’Ethics and International Affairs3/1 (1989) p. 49.

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