“Of all the people who should understand the limits of military power here, it should be Barack Obama,” he said. “Barack Obama famously warned, correctly, in October of 2002 that there was no exit strategy in Iraq at a time when most people just were not there. He was way ahead of public opinion there.”
Doctrine or not, the president’s intervention won praise from Sam Bell, executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition, who said Mr. Obama’s decision “did this country very, very proud.”
Mr. Bell rejected the arguments of those who say the U.S. is getting involved in a civil war and that sets a precedent for other civil wars.
“What’s important to recognize is atrocities often happen in the context of a civil war, but not all civil wars lead to atrocities,” he said. “From our perspective, the fact that a civil war is going on does not get the government off the hook to prevent atrocities so, from that score, we’re really impressed by the speech and the robust response by the Obama administration.”
He also predicted that when the administration has more time to explain its actions, public support will increase, and he said that could bolster support for more action in the future to protect those facing humanitarian crises.
While the White House rejected any precedent, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he sees one in Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizing international action to establish the no-fly zone, which he said represents an “emerging humanitarian doctrine: the responsibility to protect.”
“This doctrine grew in turn out of the terrible massacres of the previous decade, in which the international community had been accused of doing nothing. Those massacres included the genocides in Srebrenica, Rwanda and even Cambodia,” he said. “After those terrible incidents, the world said, ‘Never again.’ “
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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