The â€˜Responsibility to Protectâ€™ in the Spotlight
Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 07:58 AM EDT
During a session of the UN General Assembly, held last July, Noam Chomsky presented an interesting paper  (which inspired this post) that calls for consideration on humanitarian intervention, so called since the second half of 20th century and now considered under the general concept of â€œResponsibility to Protectâ€œ, which was the focus of that meeting.
This meeting was attended by nearly a hundred countries. Their armed force units have a presence in countries as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Chad and Lebanon and keep observers in UN missions. None of them deploy overseas for wartime missions but essentially to â€œprotectâ€ life and interests of other peoples.
For the eminent linguist, historical precedents for such missions generate a few distrust. He mentions some of the basic principles on international relations, assumed over the centuries, which could be summarized as follows:
Anyone acquainted with the history of colonization realizes that â€œevangelizing missionâ€ of the Spanish conquerors in the American lands was intended to save the souls of the Indians although that involved the exploitation and exhaustion of people, the occupation of their homeland and embezzling their resources. Not worse than the French, British or Belgian â€œcivilizing missionâ€ with more often than not unmentionable objectives as well i.e. in Africa and India.
Another issue to bear in mind regarding the protection of peoples, is the reason that NATO wielded to fix on that Balkans should be protected, even bombing Serbia in 1999 with a total lack of consideration (remember, incidentally, that the bombing did not alleviate the plight of the Kosovar people but aggravated it) and, on the contrary, it was appropriate to ignore other people, Kurdish, that was suffering â€“within its own territory under the responsibility of NATOâ€“ a brutal persecution by Turkish forces, one of the main partners of the Alliance .
NATO â€œprotectiveâ€ interventions do not only care about the suffering peoples. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General announced in 2007 that Allied troops should protect the pipelines transporting oil and gas to western countries and other infrastructure elements of the energy system. For Chomsky, this â€œopens the door to employ the right of protection as a tool of imperial intervention, as suitable.â€
Neither the UN is safe from Chomskyâ€™s criticism: â€œNo one thinks today to protect the Gaza people, which are also a United Nations responsibility (according to the Geneva Conventions), together with other people who lack basic human rights. Nothing serious is considered about the worst catastrophe in Africa, if not the world: the eastern Congo, where several multinationals have been accused of violating UN resolutions on the illegal trafficking of valuable minerals, by which a criminal conflict is funded.
The responsibility to protect does not seem to reach hungry people. They now number about one billion human beings, while the World Food Fund announces a reduction in aid, because rich countries give priority to save their banking systems and there are no funds enough as a result of the crisis, just originated by those same banks. All this shows the validity of the principle formulated by Thucydides.
Letâ€™s not get carried away by the lucid pessimism of the relentless American critic. Keep in mind that this issue has been addressed in an international forum, the UN General Assembly, whose echoes can be extended worldwide. Conversely, a century ago, the Algeciras conference was held to share out Morocco between France and Spain â€“with the approval of the great European powers. 20 years earlier, these powers gathered in Berlin to share other vast African territories. There was no intention to protect the affected people, though the Moroccan division was entitled as â€œprotectorateâ€. So it seems weâ€™re making some progress on this issue.
The Responsibility to Protect, Noam Chomsky and Friends part 1
The Responsibility to Protect, Noam Chomsky and Friends part 2
 â€˜Responsibility to Protectâ€˜, by Noam Chomsky (talk delivered at UN General Assembly), 23 Jul 2009
This article originally appeared on Second Nature (Zikipediq's Blog).