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"Does the U.S. Have a Responsibility to Protect the Libyan People?"

An elderly Libyan woman holds the photograph of her relative, killed during the ongoing unrest in Benghazi, Libya, Apr. 7, 2011.
AP Photo

"Does the U.S. Have a Responsibility to Protect the Libyan People?"

Op-Ed, The Huffington Post

April 6, 2011

Author: Monica Duffy Toft, Former Associate Professor of Public Policy; Former Board Member, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Former Director, Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Religion in International Affairs


"Before any state resorts to the use of force in Libya or anywhere else, it needs to answer a series of pragmatic and ethical questions, even if the legal hurdles are cleared through a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing intervention.

In terms of just war theory, the basic principles are neither new nor uncommon. They are derived loosely from the Christian just war tradition and more recently adapted in the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P), which abridges state sovereignty and the inviolability of borders in favor of protecting populations from barbarous governments.

Both sovereignty and territorial inviolability are codified in the U.N. Charter, and during the Cold War each received strong and widespread support. After the Cold War ended in 1991, and especially after the famine in Somalia (1992–3), genocide in Rwanda (1994) and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo (1998–9), concern for human rights has increasingly come to trump sovereignty in states whose governments deliberately neglect or abuse a subset of their own citizens...."

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For Academic Citation:

Toft, Monica Duffy. "Does the U.S. Have a Responsibility to Protect the Libyan People?." The Huffington Post, April 6, 2011.

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