How Insurance Works

The United States and R2P: From Words to Action symposium, July 23, 2013


Sara Bloomfield: Welcome to the Museum. It’s great to see a
wonderful audience here. I’m Sara Bloomfield, the director of this institution, and it’s
my great privilege to welcome you today on behalf of our partners the United States Institute
of Peace and the Brookings Institution. At this museum, our most important message is
not just that the Holocaust happened but that it didn’t have to happen, it was preventable.
And we remind the public every day that the Nazis were in power for eight long years before
they began the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. So how different would the world we live in
today be if we had heeded those warning signs from the 1930s? Perhaps if there had been
something like R2P, would that have made a difference? This symposium and the report
that we will release publically today will take a critical look at the evolution and
the application of the R2P doctrine, which as we know is starting to emerge as an important
international norm guiding many countries in how they treat the issue of genocide prevention
and response. However, here in the United States, this issue is not well known. And
in keeping with our mission as an educational institution, one of our goals is to explain
the concept of R2P to a broader audience while also taking a hard look at how well it has
worked in practice and perhaps offering some practical suggestions for how the US government
might strengthen the application of R2P. I want to thank the members of the R2P working
group many of whom are with us today. You can see a list of all of these distinguished
people in the back of the report. But I’d like to acknowledge them. Each of them as
you can see represent various fields from formal government officials, academics, journalists,
business leaders, and policy analysts from across the political spectrum. And as you
can imagine with a group like that there were many passionate disagreements, always respectful.
But there was broad consensus around one issue and that is that we must rededicate ourselves
to a greater focus on prevention. I want to
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acknowledge your partners over the last 18
months, the Brookings Institution and the US Institute for Peace. We are delighted to
have with us today Martin Indyk the Senior Vice President of the Brookings Institution
and Jim Marshall, the President of USIP. And we’re grateful to both of these institutions
not only for their partnership but for lending the full weight and influence of their institutions
to this issue. To promote further conversation on our topic today, each of our organizations
will also be live tweeting using hash tag R2P and at the handles on the slide behind
me and in your programs. And finally I want to acknowledge two prominent Americans who
co-chaired the working group and co-authored this report. Both of them have been great
friends to the Museum, they are deeply dedicated to the mission and known well to all of you.
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s distinguished record of public service need
not be repeated here. You all know it. But I would like to give a personal plug for her
remarkable and eloquent book Prague Winter. Ambassador Richard Williamson is a nonresident
senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and has served in several major positions
under both Presidents Bush and President Reagan. We have worked with Secretary Albright and
Ambassador Williamson on a variety of projects over the last several years and I want to
take this moment to again thank them for their tireless commitment to our bold aspirations.
So in a minute we’re going to hear from co-chairs for discussion moderated by David Ignatius,
the respected columnist for the Washington Post where he writes about a range of international
issues. But I just want to leave you with one final thought. Next year is the hundredth
anniversary of the beginning of World War I, which as we know helped set off a century
of genocide and mass atrocities. In the aftermath of that war, President Wilson said quote “We
are not put into the world to sit still and know. We are put in it to act.” Of course
the world has changed dramatically in the last century but I believe those words resonate
more than ever today. So please join me in welcoming our panels to the stage.
David Ignatius: So I’m David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post. I want to thank Sara Bloomfield
for that wonderful introduction. Just to repeat we have an opportunity this morning to hear
about the fruits of a year spent studying the question of how the Responsibility to
Protect can become more meaningful and powerful in the world. It was sponsored by three wonderful
organizations. I want to repeat them because the work they do is so important: the US Institute
of Peace, the Brookings Institution, and the Holocaust Museum. I want to turn to the two
co-chairs of the working group who guided this study, former secretary of state Madeleine
Albright and ambassador Rich Williamson who was America’s special envoy to the Sudan during
the Presidency of George W. Bush that has a distinguished record beyond that and ask
each of them starting with Ambassador Williamson to give this audience a sense of what after
a year of study they have concluded about how to make this R2P not just a doctrine but
a reality and a basis for action in the world. So Ambassador Williamson, please start.
Richard Williamson: Thank you, David. First I
want to thank those of you who were interested in coming here
today. I want to thank the three institutions, especially the Holocaust Museum and Michael
Abramowitz for being so helpful. I especially want to thank my friend and colleague Madeleine
Albright who has been a terrific collaborator on this and other things. I just want to take
a slight step back. The United States like other countries first should be driven by
a desire for their own national security. That should be the dominant claimant, then
other vital interests many of them economic. But what has made the United States different
was not only that it was founded on a belief in human rights, but in the last 100 years
we have allowed it to animate our foreign policy. And America is best when it allows
that to happen. And our interests are served and the world is more secure. When I was up
in New York as ambassador for special political affairs I dealt with peacekeeping and became
familiar with what was going on in the Eastern Congo and in Sudan. And I was continually
shocked about the capacity of man’s inhumanity to man. Then when I was special envoy to Sudan
I spent time in Darfur and Chad and South Sudan visiting every time with refugees who
had gone through horrific experiences. I came to believe that what President Clinton and
Secretary Albright did in responding to the crisis and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and
Kosovo was important not only for that region, for Europe, but for United States and the
world. When President Bush joined the consensus for the Responsibility to Protect in 2005,
the United States agreed to this concept and I felt it was valuable to try to help strengthen
it, which is why I sought out Madeleine to join me in this effort. The Responsibility
to Protect isn’t the answer but hopefully it can contribute by being an emerging norm
that gains greater acceptances by governments to make it easier for the decision makers
to do something early when these crises break out. Anyone who has had the privilege and
honor of being in the Situation Room with the President wrestling with these sorts of
decisions know they are always tough. They are case-by-case. You can’t do everything
but just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some things. And the
Responsibility to Protect and the implementation of a Genocide Prevention Task Force that Madeleine
chaired with Secretary Cohen tried to lay out steps that can be taken to make it easier
to give early notice to make a difference. So I think that’s why we both believe in R2P
– all three pillars – trying to get the United States to have the political will to help
lead with others to stop atrocity crimes before they become too horrific and the death despair
and agony becomes too great. David Ignatius: Secretary Albright?
Madeleine Albright: Sara mentioned that it’s
about to be 100 years since the beginning of World War I. And she
quoted Woodrow Wilson. I am a person that was born in Czechoslovakia, a country that
came into existence because of Woodrow Wilson and the Fourteen Points and the real ideas
of self-determination and that people should live in their own sovereign countries. I left
Czechoslovakia during World War II and came to the United States when the communists took
over and I wrote a book about what really happened in terms of the beginnings of World
War II and what were the warning signs? And one could say, nobody sitting in this room
however would say it, is that we didn’t know what was happening during the Holocaust. We
now know everything that’s going on everywhere as a result of information technology and
our capability of being more knowledgeable about the internal affairs of other countries.
And while what happened with Czechoslovakia from a war-weary England and France led Neville
Chamberlain to say “Why should we care about people in faraway places with unpronounceable
names?” And that is something that I think echoes in our own approach as we look at the
various issues that are out there in the world, trying to figure out when we do know what
is going on somewhere whether we should care about people in faraway places with unpronounceable
names, and what is the responsibility of the international community – having kept in mind
very much what Rich said about what our national security issues are. Is there a way that the
international community that was not able to prevent World War I and World War II whether
there’s something that can be done now to protect those and prevent the kinds of things
that lead to examples of never again? So this is a very practical approach. We do understand
that it’s a difficult concept and we are going to talk about that. And one of the reasons
that we wrote the report and we’re so pleased that everybody is here – I’m really blown
away by the number of people that are here – because we think that it is not a fully
understood concept that needs to be seen as part of an international norm that is in the
process of evolving and having all of you understand it, and question it and question
us, will we hope lead to the evolution and understanding of the concept. And David, thank
you very, very much for being here with us. You and I talked about this and I’m very pleased
that you-respected is an understatement when one talks about what you are able to do in
your writings. Thank you very much. David Ignatius: I’d like to just stay with the report for
a minute so that we give the audience a little flavor of what’s new in it, and I want to
ask you about two particular aspects that your working group ended up recommending as
a way to make these three pillars on which R2P is based. If you don’t know the literature
the three pillars are: first, every state has a duty to protect its people from genocide,
ethnic cleansing; second, the international community has a responsibility to assist states
in doing this; and third, in the absence of the first two, countries have to be ready
to take action under the charter and this report says we need to implement those three
pillars more aggressively but there are two things that caught my eye in your report and
I want to ask you about them. Maybe each of you could comment on one. One is greater use
of the International Criminal Court, the international organization of legal action that can move
early against specific people so that you don’t get to the stage where wholesale military
intervention is required. And second, the use of technology, the use of these modern
technologies that Secretary Albright mentioned to give early warning of disasters that are
taking place that might not be understood and make those visible to you and maybe each
of you could briefly talk about those two innovative ideas. Ambassador Williamson, maybe
you could start with the ICC. Richard Williamson: Sure.
David Ignatius: And Secretary Albright, maybe you could talk a minute about the monitoring.
Richard Williamson: To me the issue on the ICC is the issue of accountability. I think it’s very important
and it’s something in the last seventy years the United States has taken some leadership
in. The United States took the lead in forming the Nuremburg and Tokyo trials after they
effectively held some of the worst criminals to account for those atrocities. There was
a presumption that this would continue. It got lost. For example, after the Cambodian
Killing Fields no one discussed the need for that. But then as the 20th century, the most
brutal, the most victims in mankind’s history – the pace picked up in the 1990s with Rwanda,
Bosnia, Kosovo. The United States took the lead in helping form the ICTY, ICTR. Also
with the Sierra Leone Special Court and others, the ICC is another manifestation. The last
three administrations two democrat, one republican, no one sent the ICC up for ratification. There
are problems with it. But as our report says it also is a vehicle that sometimes can be
very useful to try to get accountability. The US allowed the referral of Darfur to go
to the ICC, contributed intelligence to strengthen the case. Later when the African Union was
making an effort for a so-called Article 16 to stop that, the US went out, with President
Bush’s authority, to say we will veto that and that faded away. So I think trying to
continue to develop the principle of accountability is important because in the end most of these
conflicts are not spontaneous combustion. They are the result of powerful people, either
trying to stay in power or get to power and willing to open the gates of hell to do that.
Will accountability change it? Maybe some cases. It will make it a more expensive decision.
And that’s good, just like the R2P concept is not an answer but hopefully is a step forward
to ending these types of terrible situations. David Ignatius: Secretary Albright, do you want to talk a
little bit about monitoring? Madeleine Albright: Well first of all let me just say on the accountability, it’s a very essential point but the other is frankly that we’ve talked about is that
the War Crimes Tribunals as well as the ICC is a way to have individual guilt assigned
and collective guilt expunged, which then makes it possible for people to deal with
teach other. So there are various parts of it and I think that while it’s not perfect
and there are a number of different ways that people are looking at whether it’s an inducement
for people to behave well or actually a way for them not to because they don’t- there’s
no immunity and so anything that is new has its issues as it gets worked out, but I’m
very glad that there has been an evolution kind of in this whole concept of international
norms on it. The monitoring is interesting because what is, first of all, none of this
can work without the cooperation of nongovernmental organizations that are on the ground that
can really help to provide information very quickly about what is going on. What we do
now have the technology is a two-edged sword in many ways in terms of our new societies.
In this particular venue, I think it is a very positive one because with people first
of all are able to transmit information very quickly through mobile phones which there
are many more than landlines in the developing world. And also with photographs that they
can take. All the various video equipment that even the simplest places have and the
monitoring makes a big difference because then it isn’t just kind of hearsay but allows
people to know what is going on. It does create a need to act, however. That may be I think
from the perspective of this report is positive, but there are those in some places who would
prefer not to know. But I do think that it, there has been an entirely new way of knowing
what is going on. David Ignatius: Should readers of your report begin thinking
about a world where we have blue surveillance drones over key crisis areas monitoring the
possibility of terrible mass atrocities and getting word to people who can act?
Madeleine Albrigth: We actually do, over Mali, that’s what’s going on and I happen to think that, if they are
used for surveillance, I think is a very important part of this. And I do think the more we know
the more equipped we are. We still come down to the question of then what? But I do think
also if people begin to recognize that they are being watched, I think that that in itself
may be also a help in preventing. Richard Williamson: Yeah and we’ve seen George Clooney and John
Prendergast’s effort with satellites to keep the Sudan border region viewed and it’s very
helpful I think especially, just to refer to Sudan, when you’ve got government sometimes
both in Juba and Khartoum that won’t let international NGOs go there or the U.N. so you don’t have
on-the-ground observers. So yeah, it’s an additional tool to be used.
David Ignatius: I want to turn to the really difficult question that R2P discussions raise and that is whether
and how to act in difficult situations. We might do that by just looking at developments
since 2005 when the R2P concept was endorsed at a U.N. World Summit and since then we’ve
had atrocities in Darfur, in Sri Lanka, in Libya, which we’ll talk about more in a minute,
and most notably recently in Syria. And these have all been difficult problems for the international
community to respond to in a decisive way that would stop the atrocities. They are tests
of R2P but you’d have to say that they haven’t been successful so far so let me ask you to
address those tough questions that we’re facing in our real world and offer some thoughts
about them. Secretary Albright? You want to begin?
Madeleine Albright: Well I think what is
important is to go back to as you described the three pillars because
I think that people automatically think that we’re going to militarily intervene somewhere.
The military intervention part is the last step not the first steps. And I think that
the areas that have been the most difficult are the ones where not enough attention has
been paid early on. Nobody can speak about Darfur better than Rich Williamson and I think
that is partially a lack of recognition of various elements on the ground including desertification,
movement of a lot of refugees, so I think that we have not seen the early signs. Sri
Lanka has been a very long, ongoing, complicated issue where we haven’t been able to get any
purchase over either side, frankly, whether it’s the Tamils or whether it’s the government
are trying to figure out how to get at it. Where we have been successful and I think
it’s interesting in terms of Kenya where in the set of elections that took place in 2008
led to a lot of violence and then we were able to figure out how to get some international
action in there to try to not only diffuse the violence but also set up a procedure which
allowed the next elections to–and had an international negotiator, Kofi Annan went
in in order to do a lot of diplomatic work and then worked in order to not have this
happen again. The same as in Cote d’Ivoire where in fact the person that was elected
couldn’t take office. The guy that was the incumbent didn’t want to leave. Again there
was international attention to these areas ahead of time and did not require an on-the-ground
intervention. And so one of the things that we wanted to point to as success stories are
those where the first two pillars are used or looked at and the ones that are failures
is where you haven’t been able to get in early enough or haven’t seen the signs early enough.
Which leads to this issue of the Atrocities Prevention Board that does in fact set up
a system within our government where some early warning systems then yet transmitted
through our government and then into the international community.
David Ignatius: Ambassador? Richard Williamson: Thank you, I just reinforce some of what Secretary
Albright said. I think one of the difficulties with people looking at the Responsibility
to Protect is the assumption that you will have robust action right away. And as we try
to emphasize, just like the US, if you use Secretary Albright’s words, has a large foreign
policy toolbox. There is a large toolbox of what can be done to respond to these types
of crisis. And the earlier intervention is both the cheapest and least kinetic. And Kofi’s
role in brokering the post-election with Odinga and others was a good example of it, Cote
d’Ivoire a good example of it. I think Libya has a whole bunch of lessons to be teased
out but as you know there continues to be a genocide in slow motion in Sudan. There
are terrible atrocities in Syria and I’d rather say that just emphasizes why those of us who
believe that it’s both in our security interest and consistent with our values to stop these
spreading atrocities need things like the Atrocity Prevention Board, need things like
the commitment of Congress, need things like organizing the bureaucracy of the US government
better to respond, and working most importantly with international partners to help us. The
real lesson there is just we have to do better and it’s going to take a while but progress
has been made I believe. David Ignatius: I just want to push a little bit harder on
the question of Syria because that’s taking place before the world’s eyes right now. We
have what appear to be documented allegations of the use of chemical weapons against civilian
populations. We have allegations by the government of atrocities committed by the rebels and
we have a situation in which the violence, loss of life, potential dissolution of the
country move forward every day and despite the heroic efforts by Kofi Annan and his successor
Lakhdar Brahimi as the international communities representatives we have no apparent movement
toward any diplomatic resolution. And I just would say how should the R2P community view
this? Not simply the terrible bloodshed but the political difficulty of dealing with it?
Madeleine Albright: Well I do think it is obviously the most difficult situation that is out there at the moment
and decision makers are in fact wrestling with some solution. I have to say I’m trying
in my own mind to figure out how we got there. And I do think that a lot of it has to do
with what happened in the Arab world generally. And if I might say last winter I was in a
meeting. I was having a public discussion with an Arab and I said, “It’s the winter
so we can’t talk about the Arab Spring. We can call it the Awakening.” And he got furious
at me and he said “That is such an insult. The Arabs haven’t been asleep all this time.”
And I said “So what would you call it?” And he said “Arab troubles.” And I said “What
about Arab opportunity?” So just kind of those four phrases indicate the different thinking
about it. And I don’t– I’m not trying to obfuscate here but I think basically for whatever
reasons we didn’t fully understand what was happening across the Arab world. That did
come as a surprise. I think that needs to be looked at with some clarity and a real
objective approach to it. But I believe that what happened in Syria is a part of that.
Having met both Hafez Assad the father who was nicknamed the Lion but was more like a
mule and his son, Bashar Assad, for whom when I met him I always thought that one and one
made two but two and two never made four, so kind of trying out figure out what they
were doing. And so there was that issue and then I think, frankly, people’s minds were
somewhere else and were not if I might say so – it’s very hard as a former decision maker
to criticize those in office – but basically whether not enough attention was paid. I think
that part of the issue here and this is the difficulty of R2P is to analyze whom you’re
going to help. Who are the people? And part of it has to do with the pillars again because
it is the responsibility of a leader of his country, it’s usually his, to in fact protect
the people in that country. That is the responsibility. To care about the people, the territory and
the way of life, so the opposite was happening is happening in Syria. So then I do think
the international community, and not the United States but the international community, as
a whole has really failed in trying to find the right tools to deal with it. And the US
is not the only member of the international community. And that leads to one of the major
issues with R2P that I think we have to recognize and that is that it requires the approval
of the Security Council. And having been there and done that on Kosovo, where it was clear
that in the Security Council that the Russians were going to veto that, we took it out of
that cul-de-sac and put it with NATO. And so I do believe that R2P is a very, very good
international community approach, but personally I never believe we should get stuck in a cul-de-sac.
David Ignatius: Well said. Ambassador? Richard Williamson: Thank you. These are really tough decisions
made more difficult by the fatigue of the American public as a result of overreach from
the Bush administration and the poor events in post-conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I would have wished we had been more leaning in on Syria. But if I could I think one of
the lessons of Syria is when you don’t act, the cost. There has been a bleed with 600,000
Syrian refugees in Jordan, a critical ally, where the king was already suffering with
other issues because of the Arab Spring. There has been a bleed with refugees into Turkey
and two instances where there actually were missiles filed into our NATO ally, where we
have certain treaty commitments if it gets out of hand. Lebanon has been affected; Hezbollah’s
involved, Israel is threatened. It’s become a proxy war for a rising Shi’a Tehran against
the Sunni states, the Gulf States that are friends and allies. And the casualties have
gone up. President Obama here at the Holocaust Museum in April discussed how genocide and
ethnic cleansing are a national security threat. I think we’re seeing that today. Hopefully
it will inform smarter people to think through this and also as they weigh difficult decisions
keep that in mind because the costs in Syria are tragic for the over 100,000 people who
have died and even more who have been wounded. It’s a tragedy that’s going to be ongoing
for a long time and probably a functioning failed state for a while. But it’s a tragedy
because of US interests that have been compromised and challenged and may yet force us to take
action that will be more expensive than if we’d begun a long time ago.
Madeleine Albright: Could I just add I think that the points that Rich made about being tired, and I refer back
to my opening statement. The British and French were exhausted from World War I and they had
lost a whole generation of young people. Their budget was a mess. Their military infrastructure
was questioned, and Neville Chamberlain decided that in fact he would do anything for peace.
And they made a deal over the heads of the Czechoslovaks with the Germans and Italians
and that country was sold down the river. And I think that we need to recognize, and
Rich said it, is we are tired from the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. And people
feel that we have not paid enough attention to things in this country which I happen to
believe. And the question then is how do we have a national discussion about this? Are
we in fact in danger of what I’ve called the inkblot spread of Syria and its longer term
effect on our strategic interest. Or do we in fact legitimately spend a lot of time thinking
about what is going on in this country? And so I return on the following thing which is,
President Clinton said it first and I said it so often it became identified with me – “We
are the indispensable nation,” which we said at a time that Americans were also tired from
the Gulf War and too many years of not paying attention to the United States. There is nothing,
nothing in the definition of indispensable that says alone. It just means the United
States needs to be engaged, and I think and I deliberately said the international community
has failed on this. It is the United States needs to be a part of this but we do not have
to respond to this all alone and R2P is not just America in there. And therefore we need
to do more in terms of recognizing what the problems are and that it’s an international
responsibility, and that is where I think we need more action and we need to have a
discussion in the United States about what our national interests really are.
David Ignatius: There is a big takeaway in what you both just said that war weariness does not absolve a
country’s moral responsibility to act. I want to turn to a question that I think is rarely
raised in discussions of R2P but is one that has interested me for some years and I’m going
to characterize it as the moral hazard problem that goes along with an international commitment
that there’s a Responsibility to Protect. And by that what I mean is there is something
that I sometimes call the power of the weak. By that I mean the ability to start conflicts
that you can’t finish – hoping, believing that the international committee will come
to your rescue when you are at death’s door. We have seen bits of this in many countries
as you know and I want to ask you how you think sensible people involved in the R2P
debate should deal with this question to make sure that this international commitment isn’t
taken by people to do things that if they had to be entirely responsible for themselves
and their communities they might not undertake. Ambassador Williamson?
Richard Williamson: Well, especially as you know there has been a great deal written about the events that
led up to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in that context with the Muslim community and
the Christian community. I think that you see that in a number of U.N. peacekeeping
operations. Slightly different than the initiation of atrocity crimes but it is a challenge.
It’s case-by-case. It’s difficult. There is no one-size-fits-all. Remember Hammerskjöld
once wrote when he was asked about U.N. peacekeeping if we should have a permanent force and he
said, “Well the challenges are so different case-by-case you need to make each one tailor-made.”
So I don’t think you can come out with a simple rule of how to handle it, but it’s something
decision makers have to be aware of, and frankly the US has a particular responsibility. When
I was sitting in the Security Council and everybody would talk about, and I’m sure Madeleine
had this, “We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do that.” I’d raise my hand and say, “We?”
Because others were volunteering the only country that had the power for lift and other
things to make it happen. So there are unique responsibilities and opportunities with our
status but I don’t think you can have a rule that will fit all. You’ve got to be aware
of it. You’ve got to be aware of the best way to intervene. You’ve got to be aware of
the need to have other countries involved with you. You need to be aware of the broad
participation, but sure, one of the factors is to the extent in some circumstances you
might have political minorities. Not ethnic minorities, political minorities who see initiating
violence as a way to get the international community to enhance their situation. And
let me just say finally we see that in Syria where when there’s talk of a conference people
try to change the facts on the ground and commit even more intense atrocities to enhance
their political position. It’s just a reality that decision makers have to be aware of and
the United States has a particular attentiveness if we’re going to be effective.
David Ignatius: Secretary Albright, what would you say to someone, a political minority that starts
a fight they can’t finish? Is there a thought you have on that?
Madeleine Albright: Well we’ve obviously all kind of thought about this, one, when we had to deal with it and
then in a more thoughtful academic way. Let me just say that what I find interesting,
and Rich as pointed out a lot of the issues, is part of what makes an ethnic group or minority
fight normally is that there is something that they have been deprived of within the
nation state that they are in. But also then there becomes a dynamic within the group itself
as to who is tougher, who is really standing up, who is somebody who is a compromiser or
whatever. I think that’s the hardest part. And I can only tell you, you mentioned Kosovo,
the time that I spent in Rambouillet dealing with the Kosovo fighters, one of whom is now
the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, and part of it was the extent to which he
was willing to make a compromise on something but some of the other people would say no,
no, you’re just giving in. So the question is, and I don’t know whether this is at all
possible, whether there is a bit of a bargain before you ever begin to support X in saying,
“I will support you or we will, the international community, but the price of the support is
that when you’ve won you will actually not do the same thing to the people you just defeated.”
And while we’re speaking of Kosovo, they like me there.
David Ignatius: We like you here, too. Madeleine Albright: There is a whole generation of little girls
called Madeleine. But the bottom line is that I spent a lot of time telling the Serbs what
they couldn’t do to the Kosovars. I have been back to Pristina and what is interesting to
me when I went initially during the bad period, what you saw were the Orthodox Churches that
were doing well and the Muslim Churches that were surrounded, the Mosques, that were surrounded
by barbed wire. When I went back to Pristina the opposite was true and I said to them,
“This is impossible.” I spoke in front of the National Assembly and said, “You cannot
do to the Serbs what they did to you.” The question is whether one could have some kind
of a reconciliation discussion before we ever support it. I don’t know whether it’s possible
because the dynamics that you talk about Rich, that somebody for political reasons has to
be tougher. And what I regret about Syria is that because it’s taken so long, the most
extremist factions in many ways now are able to say, “Look, nobody helped us.” And so that
is the issue, but easier to talk about in theory than practice.
David Ignatius: Interestingly, the main message our Deputy Secretary of State William Burns seems to
have delivered on his recent trip to Cairo to the new ruling regime is the need for inclusiveness.
Don’t try to push the Muslim Brotherhood into prison, underground, out of politics. Be inclusive.
I want to conclude with one question and then we’re going to turn to the audience for your
questions so be thinking. That is what in some ways is a great success for the R2P doctrine
but in other ways illustrates its limits and that is Libya. And I’d like to ask each of
you to comment on Libya both in the sense that people who were on the verge of annihilation
in Benghazi were saved because of intervention, yes, but because there wasn’t a responsibility
to rebuild built into this doctrine adequately. From every account that I hear and read Libya
is really a mess, I mean security, and normal life just don’t exist there now. Help us to
think about Libya both as a success and as a challenge.
Richard Williamson: Libya was fascinating for many reasons. Among them being it was the first time in the Security
Council they actually invoked the words “Responsibility to Protect” in a resolution dealing with this
crisis, and then voted to authorize an intervention. Two, we learned or relearned both the effectiveness
and limits of our NATO allies in carrying certain things out. But another thing I think
we’ve learned is that in the calculations of getting involved, part of it has to be
the post-conflict situation. And whether we’re looking at Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya we
shouldn’t give ourselves very good grades. And you can’t come in and walk away and expect
magically a society that’s been torn apart – or in the case of Libya Balkanized for over
30 years even their military down to platoons were by tribes, never integrated, no civil
society – to all of a sudden find a reconciliation. And I think we have to keep learning and getting
better, and one of the things I take out of Libya is in addition to the serious discussions
and deliberations where the President decided to go forward in March of 2011, I think it
was or ’10, to support bombing. There probably should have been more discussion of the responsibility
when the change happens and hopefully working with local players, the United States and
others can help them to start taking a path toward reconciliation. The division, the Balkanization
between Benghazi and Tripoli that’s been there for centuries is more acute. The violence
out in the oil area to the east is worse and we’ve had instances in the last two months
where there have been demonstrations in violence and militias taking over even government buildings
in Tripoli. Getting rid of Mr. Qadhafi was not the end story, it was just the end of
a chapter and we should have stayed more engaged. Madeleine Albright: I think that it is fair to say that we live
in an unbelievably complicated world where easy answers do not come, and the bottom line
is the Libya issue did come up during our discussions and we asked each other was it
going to help the R2P concept or hurt it? Because it really was the first time, as Rich
said, that it was included in a resolution. I think that I hope the message that comes
out of this discussion is that this is just one way that we and all of the international
community is trying to look at some kind of tools to help solve increasingly difficult
situations. We are living in an entirely different world than the kind I grew up in and the nation-state
aspect is more complicated. The existence of a variety of ethnic groups, the different
tools that are available, and I also think that it is much easier to sit here representing
no one than myself than to actually try to deal with these issues. Because what happens,
and both Rich and I have been in the Situation Room, as far as I know you haven’t, is that
basically you sit there and you put forward issues and argue is this good or bad? What
happens often is there are so many people that can tell you why not to do something
because this will be this and that will be that, but then you don’t do anything and if
you are the United States you are damned if you do or damned if you don’t. And I think
that the question is you have to do case-by-case and the “doability” aspect of it, and you
have to think about the unintended consequences of either the decisions you make or the ones
you do not. There is no President that ever gets a clean slate. There are the carry-overs
on it, and I can assure you that whether I agree with them or not, there is nobody that
sits in their offices trying to make stupid decisions. They are trying to look at what
the various aspects are and you do get kind of dragged down by saying we’ll go in there,
but it’s going to take a zillion dollars and it will take many years and you still will
not have accomplished anything. If there is ever any lesson that I learned, however, we
cannot be our normal Americans of saying done it, been there, over. It is not true in the
Balkans, it is not true anywhere. And I think that we do need to understand that there is
a commitment after whatever. And that the R2P exercise is one of trying to get our heads
around whether there is some new way of dealing with this.
David Ignatius: So let’s turn to the audience if you would wait we have microphone runners. I see a hand
raised there. If you could please identify yourselves, keep your questions short so I
don’t have to be rude and interrupt. If you have a question for a specific member of the
panel please direct it to that person. Sara Federman: Hi, my name is Sara Federman. I’m a doctoral
student studying corporate accountability for mass atrocities, looking at those issues.
Secretary Albright, you both can answer, you were talking about the ICC as the criminal
court focuses on holding an individual responsible to expunge the collective. And also I feel
like the Responsibility to Protect is actually moving us towards a collective accountability
towards this rather than saying there are certain individuals responsible for all this.
I know this is so complex and I guess I would like to hear what you both have to say about
holding the collective more accountable and is there a way to do that that doesn’t create
cycles of just shame and retribution? Madeleine Albrgith: I don’t know how to answer that. It’s interesting,
I hadn’t put that together. I do think it’s a combination of it. I do think that not everybody
– when we say it’s “collective,” it’s collective responsibility by the international community
to do something and one would hope a collective way that those who are fighting might think
more as a group, but ultimately what we have seen is that often the individual guilt is
something that has been a result of “X” political leader thinking that he can do better by whipping
up anti-“X”, not just being proud in your own group but curdling into hate of another.
So I think it’s that combination of the collective responsibility of the community to do something
about it, but I do think that one would find individuals, certainly it was true in the
former Yugoslavia as well as in Rwanda, of people that were specifically responsible
for stirring up the hatred. Richard Williamson: If I could just comment on that briefly. Again
it’s somewhat a case-by-case situation. In South Africa, Mandela made a determination.
He was negotiating a transition and he couldn’t sit across the table from the white apartheid
government to negotiate a path to sustainable peace and a new era if there was a threat
of harsh justice. So he made a decision that we’re going to have a truth and reconciliation
commission so victims can record what they went through so they could never be denied.
Perpetrators would be identified. And there is a certain punishment in that but he would
not set up a court and it’s worked. You have victims of apartheid who are now police commissioners,
etcetera. My only point is that it is going to have to be case-by-case because I used
to be asked by my friends in the ICC and International Justice during my tenure in Sudan about accountability,
and I said, “Look, to me it’s pretty simple. If you can hold those most accountable and
bring them to justice great, but if it’s a question of justice for saving lives I’m going
to save lives.” And I was involved in getting Charles Taylor out of Sierra Leone because
we thought there would be 10,000 that would die in the next few weeks if we didn’t during
the Bush administration. But these are not easy questions. They can be gray, they can
be difficult, and I think when you’re talking about other sorts of collective responsibility
you have to have those factors in as well. David Ignatius: I want to call on Martin Indyk from the Brookings
Institution, he’s one of the co-sponsors of this report, and then the woman who sitting
directly behind him in the white sweater. Martin Indyk: Thank you very much, David. On behalf of Brookings,
I want to say how delighted I am with this collaboration of the Holocaust Museum and
the US Institute of Peace, and congratulate both Madeleine and Rich and the other members
on the Task Force for a really compelling report and a fascinating discussion this morning.
I wanted to continue this question of the ICC. In particular in the case of Syria where
Assad and his henchmen are so clearly engaged in crimes against humanity and the evidence
is manifested and just mounting. And yet the International Criminal Court is not only not
engaged in any way but the threat doesn’t seem to be used either because the judgment
seems to have been made that it won’t be helpful in this case, but that the best way is to
get them to leave the country and therefore there should be no invocation of the ICC.
And I wonder is that a problem more generally that’s developing now that precisely the kind
of concerns that you mention, Rich in the case of Mandela, begins to vitiate the effectiveness
of the ICC? Madeleine Albright: Let me start but I just think that there have
been questions generally, for instance you dealt with Bashir and he’s an indicted war
criminal and it doesn’t seem to have helped to get him out of office. That’s one of the
things that people have talked about is he then has no kind of incentive to stop because
he knows that he’s already indicted. I have to say I created a group of former Foreign
Ministers when I left office. One of them is Lloyd Axworthy who is here and he can testify
to the fact that we I think it was already two years ago that as a group, three years
ago, we called on the fact that the ICC should come after Bashar Assad. There were those
who argued exactly that this is not a good idea because then he has nowhere to go and
could one grant him immunity? But I think that as that has also evolved that has raised
these kinds of questions. Is it an incentive or a disincentive? I always find it uncomfortable
to talk about the ICC since we actually are not members. I wish we were. And one of the
pressures of the international community is always that there are people who take this
very seriously and the Canadians always do. They have always pushed. I said this last
night, I say it again, the Canadians are the most responsible international citizens. They
are always there. But I do think that the bottom line is this is a hard issue to deal
with, especially for the way that you’ve parsed it.
Richard Williamson: First, I want to say to Martin, thanks again for Brookings’ help on this. More importantly,
I hope the reports are right both for the sake of the Palestinian and Israelis and the
US interest, and I wish you Godspeed on your mission, which hopefully you will take up
soon. David Ignatius: Martin, any comment on that?
Martin Albright: Been there, done that, right? Richard Williamson: I think it is case-by-case in the case of
Sudan, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor and I had frequent discussions. I was urging
him not to go forward with an arrest warrant because I thought it would change the dynamic
and Bashir would stay in no matter what because of the alternative. I think he took a very
credible position which that wasn’t his problem. He was going to follow the law. He went forward
with the arrest warrant. I think there was, I have reason to believe there was pressure
in Khartoum that may have bet their behavior. Unfortunately by March, 2009 the US let him
off the hook. So I think it might have been able to be used in a positive way but instead
Bashir’s continuing situation in power and travel I think has weakened accountability
in the ICC. But I don’t mean to cop out. I do think it’s a case-by-case. I think it was
very, very important that Charles Taylor became the first African head of state who was brought
to justice by the Sierra Leone Special Court. I think it had a profound effect on a lot
of bad actors. I do think as I went back earlier, you have bad people making decisions to stay
or get into power. If there is part of that calculation a high probability that you eventually
will be brought to justice, you are increasing the bar slightly and anything to make it more
difficult for someone to make the decision to open the gates of hell is a good thing.
David Ignatius: Because we’re running out of time I want to collect a couple of questions starting with
you and then you, Sir, in the white coat and I recognize one other woman down two seats.
Those three and then we’ll turn back to our panel for final comments.
Barbara Dellow: Thank you very much. My question is this. David Ignatius: Please identify yourself.
Barbara Dellow: My name is Barbara Dellow and I’m a mom and I’m a nurse. And my question is this. It occurred
to me once that North America has three basic countries, and that if you look at international
bodies like the ICC, it comes from the whole world and there are continents like Africa
and Europe that have many countries. And I became aware that different countries have
different notions of right and wrong, and different ideas of justice. How can we ensure
that in international bodies the decision making will be in keeping with the values
that we have? And how also can we be assured that the outcomes after an intervention will
be respective of the national desires of the home population?
David Ignatius: Good question. Sir? Gret Stanton: I’m Greg Stanton, President of Genocide Watch.
I once served under Secretary Albright. The question I have really is if a nation fails
to exercise its responsibilities to protect its own citizens, then who should it be? Who
will take over that Responsibility to Protect? You made one really I think very, very trenchant
point in one of your statements in which you said, “In Kosovo we did not get caught in
the cul-de-sac out of the U.N. Security Council.” In other words, other coalitions may be needed
and I’m asking that specifically in regard to Sudan and to Syria. Aryeh Neier has suggested
that a court be set up, a war crimes court, a crime against humanity court, to try those
who are committing war crimes in Syria on both sides. Why aren’t we perhaps organizing
a coalition of the willing to wait for the planes to land who are bombing the people
in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and so forth, and then sending cruise missiles to
destroy those planes? David Ignatius: And madam, finally, down two rows I recognized
earlier. Pauline Baker: Pauline Baker from the Fund for Peace. Sorry
for that. My question is an extension of Ambassador Indyk’s and that is there seems to be a growing
backlash amongst some countries against R2P, first because they think it’s an instrument
of the powerful in the world to control the weak, but more importantly, I think in terms
of the ICC and the resistance to that, particularly in terms of two sitting African heads of state
now who have been indicted and the difficult thing of dealing with the Kenyan situation
where you have an elected president who is now indicted by the ICC, and that has set
off kind of a debate within the African community that this is unfair and unjust and discriminatory.
How do you deal with that? And how does R2P become a more universally accepted norm?
David Ignatius: Good so there are three good questions: What rules should prevail in the ICC? Who should
act if the U.N. won’t? And then finally about the backlash that we’re beginning to see against
the R2P and any other concluding comments that either of you had, Secretary Albright?
Madeleine Albright: Well let me say it’s interesting. All three of the questions and the other points that
have been made here really revolve around the fact about what has happened to the international
system? Is it a functioning system? And again to refer to my age I went to college sometimes
between the invention of the iPod and the discovery of fire, but the bottom line is
that I grew up learning about the United Nations system and looking at what the basis of it
was, which is the charter of the U.N. that is based on a series of accepted laws and
norms in terms of the basic human rights and that we are all the same. I won’t go through
all that, but basically that we are a system of nation-states. The U.N. is not a world
government. The nation-states continue to have the power. But the system in itself as
a result of more and more countries that are artificial countries created out of a variety
of ethnic groups. The information technology, without going through it all has complete
complicated the whole aspect of how the international system works. The existence of non-state actors,
a lot of people that in fact interpret the charter in a different way. But I do think
that also what I find interesting is looking at what happened in the end of the 20th century
and the beginning of the 21st in terms of trying to sort out what new norms might be.
I think that clearly there’s a lot of evolutionary aspect of this. And on the R2P, I think the
questions have a lot to do with who actually, let’s presume we agree, that X needs to be
done in a particular country, who really carries it out? There are questions as to whether
it looks like aggression by white countries against countries that are predominantly black
or Christian countries versus Muslim countries. And so there are those particular questions
which need to be answered. I happen to believe that it has to be multilateral action, a coalition
of the willing of some kind of way that it is not aggression by one particular country.
But these are exactly the kinds of questions that need to be asked and trying to sort out
what is happening with the international system because it is not the way it was and it has
many more players and it’s much more complicated, and we do know everything that’s going on.
So that is why I’m very pleased that we actually had this task force. We asked each other a
lot of these questions, and that we have put this on the agenda because people need to
see it as an evolving concept that we’re going to need help in explaining.
Richard Williamson: Thank you. First with respect to the different views on justice. I teach a course at Northwestern
University on US Foreign Policy and Human Rights, and I try to emphasize that every
member of the U.N. has agreed to the U.N. charter that does in paragraph 48 of its charter
deal with human rights and shared responsibility. Two, they’ve signed the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights which is a pledge. So those who want to try to move away from those standards,
and by the way, they were animated more by US values than anything else. As I noted earlier
Eleanor Roosevelt was the Chair of the effort, John Foster Dulles as well as seven other
international personalities drafted it. So I think you just say you signed up for it.
You can’t recreate it, change it, distort it. You are going to be held to account to
these standards. Two, with respect to
protecting if governments fail, I think it was a great moment for America for President
Clinton and Secretary Albright when they made the decision they did in Kosovo. It is better
to work through the U.N. because of the outreach legitimacy buy-in. But you can’t let one country’s
own view of its own national interest prohibit action when these sorts of crimes are being
committed. Yes, there’s different views on the ICC. In fact after Bashir, Bashir had
been kind of isolated within the African Union. It was his turn to be chairman, he didn’t
get it. The only time he ever got unified support in the A.U. was when the ICC did an
arrest warrant because A.U. passed resolution to do an Article XVI and lift jurisdiction.
I was down in Addis meeting with the Secretary-General of the A.U. and the head of their peace commission,
and they said, “You know, if you don’t get this Article XVI, thirty-three countries will
withdraw from the ICC.” I said, “I’m from the Bush administration if happens, have me
lead the line.” Look, there’s going to be differences. You shouldn’t get bogged down.
It is difficult work. It’s case-by-case, I think as I said earlier we should push back
when people selectively are distorting the record of institutions. Most of the African
prosecutions went through the Security Council’s referrals. They weren’t initiated at the Hague,
and of course there are African members of the ICC, of the Security Council. Finally
let me thank David, but especially let me thank Madeleine Albright not only for her
leadership. It’s really awakened US foreign policy in Bosnia and Kosovo but also her willingness
to join this effort on the report and thank her for being such a good friend.
Madeleine Alright: Can I say this is what it looks like when Democrats and Republicans cooperate?
Mike Abramowitz: My name is Mike Abramowitz and I am the Director of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide
here at the Holocaust Museum. And it’s a thrill and an honor for me to introduce our keynote
speaker. We are really very pleased to have one of the original architects of the R2P
concept here with us, the honorable Lloyd Axworthy. And I’m also very pleased to say
that President Axworthy was also a member of our working group; and Dr. Axworthy’s distinguished
political career spanned 27 years. He served in a number of cabinet positions in Canada
including serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2000. And in that capacity
he inaugurated the International Commission on the Intervention and State Sovereignty
and went on to chair the advisory board for that commission. Of course that was the commission
along with the other participants including Gareth Evans who was also part of our working
group that really led to the whole R2P concept. And we are really pleased to have Dr. Axworthy
with us today to give us a little perspective from his perch as both a founder and from
his perch up north looking down on us here in the United States on his attitudes towards
how the R2P norm has developed. I’d like to give the podium to Dr. Axworthy. Please join
me in giving him a warm welcome. Lloyd Axworthy: Well good morning everybody and I’m very pleased
to be able to follow on such a sort of erudite panel which took care of most of the things
I wanted to say so it makes my job much easier. I have a couple of disclaimers which are always
important. As Madeleine Albright pointed out I am one of your Northern neighbors. I occupy
that part of the rock that is north of the 49. It’s not always something that is warmly
greeted by an American audience because they’ve been conditioned to weather reports that said
“Cold fronts moving in from Hudson’s Bay,” and laterally that we’re trying to build pipelines
in Nebraska so it doesn’t seem to always necessarily garner wild hosannas. But it is a wonderful
place to be able to first be a neighbor of the most powerful country in the world. And
to have had a period since 1812 when we burned down Washington . . . Pretty compatible relationships,
in fact very warm relationships. And much of what we do is often of course sort of a
ping-pong from the relationships that we have with the United States because we are partners
in so many things, but also have had the opportunity in our own way to think independently and
to try to complement and use our–in a sense–our protection that we derive from being part
of North America and being under a very strong security umbrella of the United States to
be able to push the edges out a little bit and so that’s what I want to talk about today
and how it happens. I should probably say to you that if preceding rumors have reached
you about our views on foreign policy I want to immediately explain what they were because
when I retired from foreign affairs I received an invitation to speak to a group at Taiwan
University. I’d never been to Taiwan because we weren’t allowed to go and I thought this
is pretty nice even though there’s a long way to go, I was jet-lagged. And the talk
went pretty good, just explaining all the variety of things that were going on that
we saw important until at the back a young man gets up. Always these question periods
are the ones that kind of throw you off your feet, and he said “Dr. Axworthy, you were
a Foreign Minister for close to five years. You had the opportunity to work out relations
with the most powerful country in the world. We live in one of the emerging powerful countries
of the world. Do you have any advice?” Well normally in those cases I would have had some
smart foreign service officer slip me a note with some kind of astute advice like “Shut
up, stupid” or something that would be relevant but I was on my own. It was the first time
I had sort of flown with my own wings and as you often do in those cases you go into
a kind of convulse of memory response. And I said “Well in Manitoba we have an old saying,
‘When you’re in these situations it’s like making love to a porcupine.'” Now that didn’t
translate into Chinese too well. So I’m not sure people really understood the whole point
I was getting. And in fact the next morning I went to one of these power breakfasts they
have and we got up at 5:00 A.M. to sort of catch the markets. I came into the room and
I have to say if you read body language it wasn’t the necessarily the most warm and comfy
feeling I’ve ever had. So I said to my host, “Look, have I committed some protocol problem
here?” And he said, “Well it may have something to do with the headline in this morning’s
paper.” And I don’t read Chinese so I didn’t bother to check it out and I said, “What did
it say?” “It said that Dr. Axworthy former Foreign Ministry of Canada advised Taiwan
when it comes to dealing with its neighbor across the straights that it’s like making
love to a concubine.” Now if you want me to continue on that vein I’m quite prepared to
give you the entire context but I don’t want to have any of you think that the discussion
about R2P is necessarily related to that particular little excerpt of foreign policy that I tried
to articulate. Never do it when you’re jet-lagged is the moral of the lesson, but it does, I
think, come to the point and it is a great privilege to speak to a distinguished audience
and to follow the two co-chairs. Let me thank them, thank the working group, thank the staff
of the working group, and thank the sponsor institutions for having taken this very, I
think, important step forward in bringing in an idea and the power of an idea into this
important American audience and to launch a real discussion about how an idea converts
to ultimately to action. That’s to me the great dynamic of our world and I have been
inspired in part by being in this building because if there was one of the heroes that
I put in the realm of those who have really shown how they make a difference, it was Raphael
Lemkin who many of you would know was a Polish lawyer who escaped the Nazis in the ’30s;
resided at Duke University which shows that universities do have a sanctuary purpose at
times. But in his own way began to accumulate the evidence of what was taking place in Europe.
The leaders of the allied powers knew what was going on but they never spoke publically
about it. Churchill always said, “It’s the crime that has no name.” But Raphael Lempkin
and a small group of his students at Duke and slowly a widening group across the United
States began to talk and use for the first time the word “genocide”. And I would say
that while the multitudes began to gather, it was Lempkin’s leadership, not only from
the academic point of view of studying and analyzing and coming up with hard recommendations,
but then taking it to an activist point of view that resulted ultimately in the Convention
on Genocide in 1948 which was one of the great sort of milestones touchstones in terms of
our efforts to build humanity law in the world as opposed to a law simply based on commercial
or national security transactions. So he is a hero but what it proves it two things: one,
you can take an idea, you can take a concept, you can take a position and eventually translate
it into something that becomes meaningful and has a history to it. And secondly that
it was very inclusive. People weren’t sort of kept away. There were no boundaries. It
became something of a universal calling. I think that is really to me the precedent that
often times I would follow in when we were in the area of foreign affairs because I think
what we’re talking about is having a game plan, having a blueprint, having a work situation
that I think the panel before talked about the necessity to look at case-by-case examples
and that’s absolutely true. But you also have the framework. You have to put those transactions
into a framework of law, a framework of organization, a framework of standards and norms which Rich
Williamson referred to so that you have a template to work from. You weren’t reinventing
each time. You weren’t trying to get a coalition together each time. You weren’t having to
sort of think things through and therefore often times lose the moment, lose the opportunity.
I think probably for me speaking just personally the most exciting period came at the fall
of the Berlin Wall when the liberals came back into government, we came back into government
of Canada, I became the Foreign Minister under Jean Chretien and we felt that we really had
to rethink that the old stratifications that had been born by the Cold War in terms of
good and bad, East and West, red and black, that now was the time to open up and to really
rethink a little bit of where we wanted to go. And up to that point in time I had really
been a plumber. And I don’t see the Secretary of State serve the craft because he had some
bigger issues, but basically as a Foreign Minister you’re putting out leaks. There’s
a problem here, there’s a problem there, you’re set off to try to plug them so that you can
kind of keep things on an even keel. But there’s an old saying, “If you get too many leaks
the architecture has gone wrong.” And that’s the way I began to believe that the fundamental
architecture that we were working with internationally no longer fit. It’s the whole idea of Galileo
that at some point in time you have to discover a new reality and then change your lens, change
the way you think about things. And we sort of began to build our foreign policy at that
time around the concept of human security and this is really what it means. I will simplify
it, it’s more complicated. It simply meant that you put the security of people in front
of the security of nation states, not that you avoid the others. We’re still members
of NATO. We’re still involved in all the military alliances and defense alliances, but we felt
that we should begin shifting our resources and our attention into what was increasingly
becoming broad based global risks and threats to individuals. And, at that point in time,
it was the most impressionable and the most dramatic was the issue of crimes against humanity,
atrocities, the Rwandas, the Srebrenicas, what had been taking place in the Congo, what
had taken place in sort of parts of Asia and Cambodia. And we couldn’t believe that somehow
that an international system could stand fallow, stand aside and watch millions of people–half-millions
of people–being murdered. I mean that just did not fit sort of what we thought should
be. We had just come out of the Second World War where the Holocaust had taken place, where
we said “Never again”. We could never allow that kind of murder. And here is the point
I think that’s really important to emphasize for those of you who are thinking about the
Responsibility to Protect. It very much just focuses on the leadership that causes it.
I mean academics have spent a lot of time- “What are the causes of mass atrocities and
genocide? Is it poverty? Is it ethnic strife is a sort of variety of dynamics?” The reality,
I think, that Daniel Goldhagen has put in his book, Worse Than War studying it clearly,
is that ultimately it comes out of some political leader, either in government or outside it,
that really wants to exploit the preconditions and channel them into becoming a focal point
that– there is some group–religious, ethnic, gender–that is responsible for this problem
and therefore the only way to do it is to eliminate them. And that therefore R2P is
not one in which you are trying to convert cultures of people. You are not trying to
change the broad sweep. You are simply saying there’s a bunch of individuals out there who
you can identify pretty clearly and their cohorts and their entourages around them who
are taking the lead towards mass killing, mass violation, mass rape. It’s not a science.
It’s an ability to pinpoint. And that to me is a key to the R2P idea is that we’ve got
to find, and Rich used this word “accountability,” because accountability can also mean deterrence.
Once you begin identifying it, boy, you can get them. And the tools so that it wasn’t
any accident that they in actual criminal court began to move along that same humanity
law track as R2P. One was political. One was legal. But they were basically founded on
the same individual that you were going after the crimes against people, and you’re going
to hold individuals accountable for those crimes. You can no longer have, as I heard
in the Second World War, “The state made me do it. I was simply doing my duty.” Uh-uh,
when you make a decision about mass killing and you launch it into operation, you’re going
to be criminally accountable for it. And that’s where everything, the sanctions and the deliberations,
are really focused in terms of that preventative angle that you want to find. So it really
is a way of saying we’ve got to eliminate, I think as Raphael Lemkin said back in the
’40s, this idea that somehow you can get away with mass murder on an international scale.
And that we could talk about all the collaterals that come from it: flows of refugees, the
instability, the breakdown of cooperation, and everything else. But the hard reality
is that what we’re talking about is using force as a way of gaining some political advantage
and that force results in intolerable, unacceptable risk, and usually to the most vulnerable people:
women and children. If you looked at genocides and crimes against humanity and what’s happening
in the Congo, what has happened in Rwanda, what is happening today in several countries
as it’s emerging including Syria it’s those who are most vulnerable who ultimately pay
the price because they can’t be protected. And that’s why in the discussion around as
we moved in the late ’90s towards the concept of how do you provide protection against risk
for large numbers of people and we were in the security council at the time that Madeleine
began the initiative on Kosovo and we’re a full court that the Russians were not going
to agree. If you were a dictator and you’ve used mass killings in the past as Stalin did,
you’re not going to agree. Come on, let’s be realistic. Those who oppose it and those
who are kind of throwing up the flock balloons are usually doing it for a reason. If you
look at who voted against the Rome statute in Rome and if you looked at who in the General
Assembly debates in 2009 on R2P, it was five or six nations and they just happened to be
run by people who enjoyed the extermination and the intimidation and the criminalization
of people in their own countries as a pretext for holding themselves in power. The decent
people, the rulers, the governors who simply want to make things work, and it’s hard enough
to do in any circumstance, were not out there on the barricades. Africa, when we started
the whole initiative of protection of people, we got elected to Security Council with about
179 votes from around the world because we were campaigning on the agenda of human security
for protection of people. That was the largest election of any country the Security Council
that ever took place. And this was not just Europeans or Americans or a few others. This
was a campaign that drew that kind of full scale attention. So let me focus in. So we
got involved in things like the International Court, the Land Mine Treaty; and we began
to learn from it. And one thing we learned is you can never bring about the normative
change that this report talks about if you don’t have a very large scale mobilization
of civil society behind you. It’s hard to do it from the top. It’s hard to do it from
the side. You’ve got to be able to build a political base amongst sort of a substantial
both in your own countries and on an international front. And I would say that the importance
of the report in this case is reaching out in a public way to begin to mobilize that
kind of support. And there are– there is the International Coalition for R2P which
is basically right out of New York and it is probably the most advanced organization
working with civil societies around the world to try to get their leaders to start signing
in. And they play the Center for Responsibility to Protect in New York set up by American
foundations. So you’re already involved. Americans are already deeply, deeply engaged in this
issue in a lot of ways. It’s just that the word is not used. In this, I thought the United
States took an incredibly important step forward with its Atrocity Prevention Board, but it’s
kind of interesting that nowhere in that report did they mention R2P. I mean they move around
it and they say “atrocities”, “crimes”, they never mention “Responsibility to Protect”.
It’s a kind of a curious I suppose some public relations person is saying “Oh, don’t use
the phrase; it’s going to get somebody mad somewhere.” But the reality is one of the
weaknesses is that the world’s largest defender of human rights is not using the concept of
R2P in a public way in the Presidential speech and the written speeches. They used it before
the campaign. I was highly thrilled when President Obama was first running for office there was
a three-piece spread in the New York Times in which he referred to R2P four or five times.
Because Susan Rice and others had sort of been part of the discussion that went on in
its establishment; but, they aren’t using it now. So if you want to take sort of a kindly
contemplative reflection from a Canadian, start using the phrase. This commission has
done it. It’s now made it publically acceptable to start talking about the responsibility
of the international community to stop murder in a mass scale. Stop rape in a mass scale,
stop extermination in a mass scale. That’s what it’s about. Just another little piece
of history, so how did it emerge that way? Well, this is not, again, some concept that
sort of emerged out of the sort of burning bush. It was based on some probably the most
serious investigative inquiry into what would be the basis for challenging the fundamental
concept of sovereignty that had been around for about 300 years under Westphalia. And
all the international lawyers are going around in Europe at the time and put this together.
And so, two major American foundations, MacArthur and Rockefeller, paid for that research. I
mean this was exhaustive. We got mounds of sort of any graduate students here who really
kind of want to get some good research already done, it’s ready-made. It was also based on
a broad international commission. This was not a group of Methodist Canadians out there
on their knees. This was based upon __. Rashmi Thakur from India who never believed in this
kind of stuff was on the commission. We had an advisor group of sitting foreign ministers,
hard-nosed guys. Amr Moussa was on that, I mean these were not pushovers. They weren’t
simply saying “Does it work or doesn’t it work?” And it came down to the fact that after
Kosovo, which demonstrated to us that the ultimate step in implementing a human security
agenda, in terms of protecting people when the rubber hit the road, you might have to
use some military force. And Kosovo was in effect a turning point on that and this was
I think as people have said with great credit to Secretary of State Albright. I mean she
brought that issue to a head. For us as Canadians, we thought that is really proving I was under
attack in my country by the right wing academics, the realpolitik types saying “Oh, no, this
is all soft power stuff. It never will work.” Well, sometimes hard power had to be brought
in to play. But we needed to get a framework to make it work so that it wasn’t simply ad
hoc, it wasn’t capricious, it wasn’t sort of happening waiting for the willing to come
together. And some of the questions that came from the audience, it was based upon a very
clear set of criteria. Here is the basis if you look at the commission report. Here are
the criteria upon which you determine grounds for involvement. Here are fail safes. It has
to go through a multilateral body. But it wasn’t exclusively the Security Council. If
you look at the broad commission report, it was talking that there are venues of the General
Assembly that you can use. There was an enormous effort to say R2P could be used and is being
used by regional organizations. Perhaps the most effective use of R2P right now is ECOWAS,
the Economic Community of Western African and their leaders. Their Presidents get on
planes and fly to countries when they think there’s a military takeover or there’s a disruption
and they do their best to try to provide exactly what this report recommends, provide some
bolstering and buttressing to a regime so that they don’t crackle under the pressure.
So it wasn’t exclusively that, but clearly the importance of the Security Council is
that it is the only authority that can exercise Chapter VII, which is the use of force. Which
leads, in terms of recommendation, and part of the debate I think that should go on how
you should do it, of some form of U.N. reform. The commission report, the commission that
we established in 2000 to begin to look at this broad question of involvement included,
for example, the idea that the use of the veto in the Security Council should not be
used when you’re dealing with humanitarian-level initiatives. It was set up in 1945 to protect
the interests of the five major powers in the Security Council against aggressing against
each other. Why the hell are they using it sort of to stop a force going into sort of
Darfur and why do you hold it up and why in this case in Kosovo? Well, because there’s
national interest. The Russians have their sphere of interest. They still go back. They
are still going back to what they were doing originally which is to push the boundaries
until George Kennan came along and said “Let’s contain them a little bit.” That’s not going
to change. So let’s not get all upset that the Russians are going to exercise a veto.
That’s what they do in terms of protecting those regional interests. But it means that
you don’t get stymied as a result of it. And the creativity that came out of Kosovo moving
it to another multilateral organization and getting reinforcement by resolutions at the
Security Council on protection of people began to give us a proper legal base for doing it.
So there was nothing sort of sacred or sacrosanct. The key to R2P is that it is a way of amending
sovereignty. It’s saying sovereignty is not a divine right. It’s earned right. You earn
it to the degree to which you protect the people from whom you are responsible and,
if you don’t earn it, your claim to sovereignty becomes suspect. The question was asked, well
then who decides? Well that’s a political question and I think Rich, you answered that
way. You answer it by those who are best able to. If you can get the regional organizations
in Southwest Africa to take the action on that’s great except many of them don’t have
the logistics. They don’t have airplanes, they don’t have intelligence. And so when
it comes down to looking at an America role this is, once again, not saying we see the
United States out there doing the heavy lifting on the barricades because the second concept
along with the involvement of civil society is the involvement of a bunch of other countries.
There are 15 countries in the frames of R2P at the United Nations today. We held a reunion
back in Sweden this April? Because the Red Cross was involved; the U.N. TV was involved;
eight or nine countries including Chili, Mozambique, Europeans, ourselves; and we simply had put
together a military force called Cherbourg which was designed to be a quick reaction
force but nobody would pay any attention to it in the U.N. so it kind of dissolved itself
around 2009 because that’s the other part about R2P. You’re going to have to be able
to get there quickly, as we’ve seen in Syria. I think this is just an off the top, I don’t
pretend to be an expert. I think Syria could have been stopped in the first six months.
I think that there– if there had been an active engagement; but, you guys are having
an election, the Europeans were having a fiscal meltdown. Several other countries were– there
was nobody taking leadership. There was nobody out there saying “Hey wait a minute, this
thing has got portents and it’s going to lead to something really serious.” Just let it
hang. And all the, I think the kind of work that was coming at that time there just wasn’t
that sort of–when you talk about “early warning” you’re not talking about somebody
writing a brief to the National Security Council. You’re talking about beginning to put together
the form of action that you want to take. The kind of instant reaction you got from
the United Nations in Kenya to send Kofi Annan to try to work out the post-election violence.
So those are the kind of things that I think, when we talk about a United States role, first
there really is a leadership role because no one argues–we certainly don’t–about the
fundamental sort of base of human rights. But we are now talking about an international
system based on a human rights calculus. We’re not talking about just muscling. We’re talking
about the fact that the rights that we assume for ourselves other people now want to assume
and it’s going to create a lot of different action. Now Martin Gilbert, the great British
historian of Winston Churchill, said “R2P is the most significant amendment to sovereignty
in the last 300 years.” You don’t have to take every historian’s calculation, but you
do have to say that it is providing a template, a framework, based on serious law, based on
serious experience to set up a process by which the United Nations and others can in
a very sort of clear cut and coherent way, a coordinated way, come to grips with the
first alarming signs of murder or atrocity taking place, get together with those who
have agreed that they will be part of a reaction and that can vary according to the region
and the nature of the problem. Focus in on the perpetrators who are primarily those with
power in government or those who are warlords outside of it and really focus in on them
and say “That’s how we get the sanctions to work. That’s where we focus the diplomatic
isolation. That’s where we really focus.” Because, if I can just digress for a moment,
we were talking about what happened in Kosovo. I was sitting at a table with the Secretary
of State in Germany somewhere and we were talking about how you sort of bring the conflict
to an end and Milosevic was not negotiating at all. I get a call from Louise Arbour who
was head of the Yugoslav Tribunal, told my contemporaries that he had just been indicted
along with six of his people. What immediately began to happen, and we have studied this
carefully, is that Milosevic began to lose his political base in his own country. People
didn’t want to be seen on the Christmas card with him next year. He just began to get isolated
inside his pit. You can do those things. Political leaders are not, sort of, transformers. They
don’t roam around in a crazy way. They depend upon a support base. They depend upon a framework
to make it happen. So, coming out of that commission and going through the United Nations,
getting legitimacy along the way, has now meant that it can be a practicing protocol,
as it was in Libya. It was a practicing protocol, as it was in Kenya. It is the same concept
that was applied in Cote d’Ivoire; in fact, earlier than that, it was used in East Timor.
It was used and I think and Kosovo set the precedent for much of what happened. Except
now you’ve got a framework: a framework that increasingly adds to its experience and its
knowledge. What you don’t have is the politics of it. You’ve got, sort of, the 2005 agreement
basically was a compromise. It eliminated a number of the important elements that was
in the Commission Report that we had established such as alternative decision making; such
as the fact that R2P could be applied wherever there is threat of high-level, broad based,
risk and threat to civilians, which includes natural catastrophes and moving things. That
was part of the report. And therefore, what I conclude on, is to say that in addition
to honing the capacity, the early warning capacity, getting the NGOs around the world
to be whistle blowers to tell you when something is happening, beginning to look at what is
the basis for an early reactive force that can be brought to bear within weeks not within
months? Getting to look at the question of focused, directed sanctions against the perpetrators,
not against the people. Looking at the gender relationships that are there because anything
to do in this kind of area has to have a large gender component because they are the ones
both who are the victims, but also the ones who would do the rebuilding the prevention
work along the way. There are a number of very specific steps; but, it’s not going to
happen if you don’t build a consensus around these issues and there is no more powerful
influential actor in the world to begin doing that than your country. You have to start
talking about it as you’re doing here. You have to start doing some of the diplomatic
mobilization, you have to do some of the educational work, and as people have talked about in this
report the new technology gives you the capacity to mobilize not tens or hundreds but millions
of people around this kind of notion. And it also begins to pose to you the question
how do we manage things in the next ten years so that we’re not simply every second week
faced with another catastrophe, another disaster, another large movement of refugees, another
40,000 people being killed. It may be that this is a template. If you unbundle R2P, and
apply it to other globally based threats and risks, then all of a sudden you have a way
in which you retain sovereignty. Nation states acting on their own, fulfilling their responsibilities.
But where they can’t or won’t or themselves or their predators then there is a mechanism,
there’s a way that’s been established by which you can trigger an action internationally
based upon the concept that we are accountable and responsible. So there is if you look ten
years out and this thing has only been really around the corner block for the last ten or
twelve years, then you begin to see that we may find a way out of a system that really
is I think in a funk. It’s dysfunctional. It’s fractured. You just name me one, one
single agreement that’s been made in a coordinated international way in the last three or four
years. Trade? Nah. Environment? Nah. Disaster? Some. Dealing with what’s going on? The only
one that came out of that whole exercise is Libya. So we really are in a point where we
are kind of regressing in terms of our capacity to provide forms of international connection
even though the tools are much better than we’ve had. What we’re lacking is that kind
of political sense and the leadership that goes with it. And I think that to me the most
important thing about this report is it’s– I agree with this analysis, I think it’s a
series of very fine recommendations; but what it really is, is a call for action and that
to me is the most important thing. If the United States can respond to that call for
action we will have a very different world. Thank you very much.
Mike Abramowitz: Thank you very much President Axworthy for those great remarks, very helpful. And now
we’re going to go right into our final panel. I’m very pleased to welcome to the stage an
outstanding group of former officials including former White House speech writer and advisor
Mike Gerson, Healther Hurlburt the director of the National Security Network, and Nicholas
Burns who had very many jobs in government including under secretary of state. And I
also am particularly pleased to welcome my friend and former colleague Susan Glasser
of Politico to moderate our final discussion. So, panel, come up.
Susan Glasser: Good morning everyone and thank you so much, Mike and thank you to all the previous speakers.
I think we’ve got both the hardest and in some ways the most challenging part of the
program this morning which is I would broadly define as ground truth what happens when the
big frameworks and ideas that we’ve been talking about earlier this morning actually collide
with reality. And not just the reality of the Security Council and the veto although
that’s part of it, but what actually happens on the ground. And I think practitioners was
the term given to all three of these very distinguished panelists and that is a very
understated description for the enormous challenges that each of them has faced at various points
in their careers inside of government as well as thinking about them outside of government,
writing about them. So I am just looking forward to the conversation and that’s what we’re
going to have this morning. So I’m going to jump right in with everyone and start I guess
with the hardest problem that faces us today which is Syria and to what extent each of
the panelists thinks that that represents a challenge to even the basic idea of having
an international framework when we see the political challenges that arise at a time
when certainly everyone, at least in this room can probably agree, that a massive loss
of innocent civilian life is a consequence of our inability to figure out some solution.
So please, Heather, why don’t you start us off and we’ll just get going from there.
Heather Hurlburt: Well, first, thank you so much to the cosponsors and to Susan for including in this very distinguished
company. And it’s very difficult to follow the two panels we’ve had already this morning.
It’s very humbling. But I think one way of approaching, Susan, the question of Syria
is by comparing Syria with some of the conflicts that we tried to deal with before we had the
R2P norm and I think specifically Bosnia because this is one that has come up in the media,
and it happens to be one in which I served both in the legislative and executive branches
of government so saw it from both sides. And I think the two similarities that I would
point out is that, for better or worse, we are only two years in. And we tend to forget,
although those of us who lived through it, and certainly the folks on the ground don’t
forget how very long it took the international community to come to something that could
stop the violence in Bosnia. And here I come to the differences because in Bosnia we had
a regional legitimator, in fact two regional legitimators, in the forms of the E.U. and
NATO. We had a future, a regional future, that you could say to the warring parties
that you want to be part of this. And you had, eventually, Rwanda as a recent motivator.
And this I mention because it goes to this question of public opinion that where when
the distinguished earlier speakers did the work of putting the R2P norm together, we
all those of us of a certain age and global public opinion were very motivated by the
memory of Rwanda. Right now for all that we talk about the greater acceptability of the
R2P norm, what motivates elite public opinion in the US and other countries is Iraq. And
that points you toward a very different set of lessons and frankly it makes it much harder
to see Syria through an R2P paradigm. Now the good news, and I do think there is some
good news, is that two years into Bosnia we were still fighting about whether it was legitimate
for outside states to be concerned about what was going on on the ground. And what the R2P
norm I think has comprehensively changed as Secretary Albright and the others said earlier
– no one can say they don’t know what’s going on in Syria. The U.N. system is one of the
leading providers of undisputed information about the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe
there. And we have tools like the ICC, like the human rights body, that have been active
and engaged on Syria in a way that we didn’t have in the Bosnia context. Now that has not
saved a single human life which is a very sobering thing for us fans of R2P to take
on. So I would sum up by saying that what the comparison shows us is that the tremendous
amount of work that was done on R2P has changed the terms of the debate but what it hasn’t
changed or hasn’t changed enough is the fundamental power relation that Ambassador Williamson
talked about. Susan Glasser: Ambassador Burns, I’d love to get your thoughts
on Syria and then we definitely want to go back to Heather on this very provocative but
also very sad notion that it’s an accomplishment for the U.N. to provide information about
people being killed when it can’t stop them from actually being killed.
Nicholas Burns: Susan, thank you and it’s also a pleasure for me to be here and I really should start
by thanking the Holocaust Museum, Sara Bloomfield and Michael Abramowitz for putting this together
with Brookings and USIP. And I think we should all thank Secretary Albright and Ambassador
Williamson. It’s great to see a Democrat and Republican working together on a leading international
issue and they’ve done- they produced a very important report. And for me the takeaway
is the Responsibility to Protect is an essential element of international security in the 21st
century because people are being killed. More than five million in Congo. More than 100,000
people in Syria. Not by interstate conflicts, but by conflicts within their own societies
where their governments are preying upon them. And one of the essential foundation stones
of this museum is to remember the destruction of European Jewry. Certainly we need to remember
what happened in Rwanda, and we have got to use that template to think about the responsibilities
that the United States has in the world as the leading power in the world. And part of
it is to think about our self-interest and that was mentioned this morning, always. But
part of it is to think about what is right internationally and what our role is and mobilizing
the international community. So if we think about Syria, it’s very definitely complicated,
Susan, I think by the fact that, as President Obama has said, we’re just coming out of this
decade of war. We are looking in the rearview mirror. We are trying to learn rightly the
lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan but in a way I think our national debate in some ways is
imprisoned by them, and we’ve become immobilized. And there is this presumption out there that
those of us who advocate action on a humanitarian basis need to prove the case and those who
don’t, don’t need to prove it. And I think it might be the other way around. And so we
created this dilemma I think where the United States has to think very deeply about its
role in the world. It’s no longer the bipolar world of the Cold War. It’s no longer the
unipolar led world of the Clinton administration when I was working for Secretary Albright
but we’re still the dominant actor. What are our interests in Syria? We have a huge interest
in the humanitarian catastrophe that’s developed there. The numbers are really appalling, 100,000
people dead, 4.2 million people internally displaced, 1.5 million Syrian refugees outside
of Syria in countries that matter greatly to us, like Jordan and Turkey and Iraq. There’s
an interest. It combines both the self-interest and the global interest. A second interest
we have is a realpolitik interest. We should want to stop Iran from becoming a dominant
country in the Middle East, but Iran and Hezbollah and Russia are arming the Assad government
and there is no comparable counterforce opposed to them. There could be. It could be led by
the United States with Turkey, with Saudi Arabia, with Qatar and with some of the European
countries but it’s not well led right now. And so I think the balance of the argument
has to be towards intervention, more affective support for the refugees led by the United
States, and more effective aid to the moderate rebel groups who need to take the fight in
this war to Assad. And if that doesn’t happen and I think you’ll see – and there are I think
a couple of articles both in the Washington Post and New York Times this morning – we’re
probably looking at a very long war indeed. We should try to want to stop that war. I
am very much with those people who believe that the United States needs to lead more
vigorously, and needs to do more to try to cope with this terrible war.
Susan Glasser: Mike, both Heather and Nick have raised the specter of the experience of the last decade
not in terms R2P but in terms of the Bush administration and the way it waged the war
in Iraq and Afghanistan as being the relevant context to Syria as opposed to a humanitarian
framing. Do you agree with that and more broadly what’s your take on Syria?
Michael Gerson: I think that there’s a definitely a political context in which all this takes place. And
that is kind of national weariness with intervention. If you look at the most recent Pew polling
on this topic you have 40 year lows in support for various categories of global engagement.
That certainly is related to those events. There is also a serious foreign policy debate
going on in the Republican Party about these issues about the value of intervention. And
so you have a lot of factors at work here. I point out, I want to get to Syria, but we
were dealing with Sudan, Darfur at the same time we were dealing with Iraq and that was
a limiting context even then. When you’re thinking about intervening in the middle of
another Muslim country, in the middle of fighting a battle in Iraq so that was a limiting factor
even then. So I don’t want to deny that. But I guess I agree with the earlier commentary
that we’ve heard all through this event, which is important, is that the needs that persecuted
minorities in the world face and American national interests are not determined primarily
by matters of psychology; they are actually determined by interests and values. And Syria
is a case where we often talk about a conflict between interests and values, and I don’t
think it exists in this case. When we were dealing with Darfur, a terrible humanitarian
crisis, but instability in Darfur meant instability in Chad. Instability in Syria means instability
in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, along the Israeli border and Syria is a proxy, increasingly
just a puppet of Iranian influence having been supported by that influence. And so I
think we’ve got a real confluence of those things here. But I want to be sympathetic
with the administration on this, having lived through some of it – that’s one of the lessons
of “formers” when we approach these things, it’s that they’re not easy – is that the application
of the Responsibility to Protect in the context of an active two-sided civil war is not an
easy thing, particularly when neither side is kind of pure in this conflict. And that
I think is a context that we need to take seriously. In general, I would just point
out more broadly that when you face the choice between war and allowing impunity, the focus
needs to be on producing better choices than this. That’s one of the disappointing aspects
for me in the Syrian context is that this began as a peaceful protest, in which, it
might have been possible to take a more active role. But even there, I would just point out
because I don’t want to be too harshly judgmental on this, that it’s hard enough to take action
when there are real atrocities. It’s very difficult to take action when there are prospective
atrocities down the road. That is something that requires a lot of leadership and foresight,
which are not always easy to show in a situation like this. And there is a tension at the heart
of some of these issues between the understandable desire to use force as a last resort and the
desire to take early preventive action. Sometimes early interventions can avoid terrible consequences
down the road – even avoid cycles of conflict and revenge. One of my fears in Syria now
is even the triumph of the rebels would result in terrible revenge. So early action can undermine
some of those dynamics but it’s a very difficult thing to do when the threats are prospective.
Susan Glasser: Ambassador Burns, let’s go back to this question of what’s in the toolkit for someone sitting
in the White House, in a senior job in the State Department as this is played out. So
you saw this during the Balkan War. You are familiar with the Bush era debates and that
balance between what’s a military tool in the toolkit, what are diplomatic tools. Does
it help or not to think of something like R2P as a legal resource in a situation like
that or ultimately is it really about politics? Give us a sense of the mix as you’re considering
what to do when a situation like Syria breaks out.
Nicholas Burns: I’d agree with Mike that one of the problems with Syria is that there is a risk of action
and there’s a risk of inaction. Secretary Albright referred to this when she was speaking
too. It’s difficult for the President and I have great sympathy for the President. I
very much support him. It’s really difficult to make this decision because you can see
the course of American leadership, you can see why that would be in our interest to get
more involved, to try to help with this regional picture to prevent an Iranian victory, to
prevent Iran and Hezbollah from teaming up to strengthen themselves and to help our allies
that Mike talked about. But you can also see that, I think you also have to see the risks
of inaction as well. If you don’t act you probably see that victory by the Iranians,
you see further suffering by the civilians. The biggest question the President has to
answer is, “Is there a scenario that the military can present that is achievable, that has an
end state to it, and that is affordable?” It is very interesting to read this open letter,
a letter that was publicized by the White House, that General Dempsey sent to the Congress.
This is obviously a very difficult action to foresee. Arming the moderate rebel groups
is not as expensive or as risky as setting up a no-flight zone so you’ve got to distinguish
between the two. But the President is going to have to ask those questions. He’s also
going to have to ask whether the United States can rely on others to work with us and again
Secretary Albright referred to this. Responsibility to Protect with the US in the lead does not
mean the US alone. And in this case I think there are a large group of countries that
want the same ends as the United States and Syria but don’t have a leader. They are accustomed
to the United States playing that lead role and that’s not happening now as a further
complication. I think finally Susan, the President is going to ask do we have the diplomatic
wherewithal? Do we have the ability to lead on the ground? And I think in this case we
certainly do because we still in a political sense are the most influential country in
the world. We have a legion of friends both in the Arab world who want to be helpful here
and want the US to lead as well as in Europe. So I would argue that if you look at that
balanced question what’s the risk of action versus inaction, I think that the weight of
action, the risks are stronger for us on inaction. And this is a doable proposition that the
United States could be more active in supporting the moderate rebel groups in trying to isolate
Assad and take away the great advantage that he has now and the resupply by Iran, Hezbollah
and Russia. Susan Glasser: It’s interesting that most of your arguments
have made the very compelling geopolitical case for where the US national interest lies
there. Do you think that the humanitarian case just isn’t sufficient to overcome the
public opinion concerns that Mike referred to?
Nicholas Burns: Well I think in this case and interestingly enough and this doesn’t always happen, the
United States can’t intervene everywhere and it’s not in our national interest to do so.
I think our national interests and the humanitarian interests of alleviating the conflict actually
coincide. And for some Americans that humanitarian impulse is going to be very convincing. For
others it’s going to be the national security argument. I think they’re integrated and you
really need to make both arguments to the Congress and the American people.
Susan Glasser: So Heather, thinking back you referred to your time in government and the Balkans conflict
that erupted. In what ways do you think it would have changed the US response, or would
it have been useful to you in your role, had the world adopted something like the Responsibility
to Protect framework at that time? Or is it better or worse to have a policy against atrocities,
to have an official US atrocity prevention board and then to have atrocities occur while
that board exists or not? Susan Hurlburt: I think there are a certain number of speeches
that I helped Secretary Albright get ready to give about why we should care about what
was going on in the Balkans and maybe she would have had to give somewhat fewer of them.
You know I was sitting here and thinking about what were our successes and failures and where
the tools came from, and so I wanted to in the spirit of bipartisanship mention a bipartisan
success and a bipartisan failure. And the bipartisan success that nobody actually knows
about or talks about is Macedonia. And I was just thinking but if we hadn’t intervened
in Bosnia and Kosovo, if we hadn’t seen two sets of mass killings, would we have been
able to muster the will of both the US and the E.U. to send troops to help keep a peace
in Macedonia? So that you were using that part of the toolbox where you weren’t firing
weapons but you were putting the parties on notice that there were weapons that could
be fired. And with some difficulty first with the Clinton and then the Bush administration
very successfully partnered with the E.U. to prevent the kind of conflict that had broken
out in Bosnia and Kosovo from breaking out in Macedonia. And that was done on the one
hand without the R2P norm, on the other hand with the hindsight of years of violence in
the Balkans. One of my most searing memories was of going with Secretary Albright to West
Africa just as the conflict in Sierra Leone was winding down. And everyone understood
that there were continuing extensive regional tensions that required a lot of outside support.
There was also a lot of excitement about Mali’s new democracy. And there was a lot of eagerness
in the administration and in Europe to support the government of Mali and to support the
other countries of the region and as I say it’s a very searing memory for me that one
morning we were in the region, we picked up our news clips back from the US -this was
in pre-iPhone days – and some member of Congress had sort of inquired as to what the secretary
was doing over there, pouring more money down a rat hole etcetera, etcetera. And so when
recent events happened in Mali, I thought we had a decade to use all the non-violent
R2P tools and we tried to use some of them, and we – the US – and we – the international
community – failed there across multiple administrations and multiple governments. And so when you’re
talking about that’s a case where we had all the nonviolent tools and we at least tried
to use them but as an international community we failed.
Susan Glasser: Mike, would it have made a difference during the Bush administration for something like
the Responsibility to Protect to be more enshrined for there to have been an Atrocity Prevention
Board? Would that have done anything about Darfur?
Michael Gerson: First of all, I’ll point out that the administration, the Responsibility to Protect was an internal
commitment of the Bush administration. Our people helped produce the document and approved
it so I think it represented this spirit that the President brought to a lot of these matters
and which I saw on issues like Darfur. I mean at least the mythology of Rwanda is that there
wasn’t enough high-level attention. If George W. Bush had spent any more attention he would
have had to have quit his day job. He was constantly on this issue. But this is the
source of frustration to some extent from my own experience. We employed just about
everything you can employ in the toolkit when it came to this, and tried to do it in a timely
fashion. President talked about Darfur as a genocide. He ordered intelligence over-flights
of Darfur, declassified the photos within weeks in order to call attention to what was
going on. We provided massive aid, over two billion dollars in humanitarian aid, sixty-five
percent of the total. We pursued sanctions against individuals and corporations. We worked
with regional organizations, equipping and moving A.U. forces. The President, I heard
him on the phone trying to get NATO involved and Chirac and others refused to get involved
in the matter. We gave tacit support to the ICC. At one point threatened to veto an attempt
to undermine the indictment against Bashir. We sponsored the peace process. Tried to work
the Darfur rebels, I was there in Nairobi when we were trying to make them more presentable
in these negotiations which was a difficult task, kind of a motley crew. The result was
a humanitarian achievement. A lot of lives were saved because of massive levels of aid.
But very little progress on the security side and really these events went forward with
impunity. It points to the ultimate problem here, which I think is at least in my limited
experience you have to take seriously. And that it’s that a sovereign state dedicated
to destroying a portion of its people, with the support of China and Russia and the Security
Council and the cover of Arab solidarity in the Arab League, is a very difficult thing
to deal with. Bashir, by the time I met him in 2005, when Bob Zoellick and I were in Khartoum
he felt almost no pressure because he was shielded by a variety of these factors. And
we could not and nothing would have happened in this circumstance, it did happen without
the ability to generate a credible threat of force. And we could not do that for some
of the reasons we’ve talked about but also for diplomatic reasons like the context of
the North-South agreement which was taking place at just the same time to bring a conclusion
to a bloody civil war. And also, and I’ll point out that it’s newsy, that the military,
the Department of Defense, was one of the largest they were not a neutral actor in this,
they were one of the most vigorous opponents of any action that related to humanitarian
issues in Darfur – and as you are seeing in Syria with the testimony of the information
that we see today. To the point where, I had the experience and I won’t go into details,
but to the point of near insubordination when the military would refuse to plan for the
possibility of events where the President wanted planning. Because they didn’t want
the plan to ever be called upon. And so there’s a variety of problems in this about coming
up with a credible threat of force, the plan B that we talked about in Darfur and could
never produce. And it’s hard sometimes when you have dedicated offenders in this to get
much progress without that credibility. Susan Glasser: I am sure we’re all thinking of Secretary
Albright’s famous line when it comes to the military in whether they should be called
upon in crisis like this to step up and take action. But I wanted to highlight and ask
the others to respond to your point about the U.N. Security Council, which has sort
of come up in many ways. It’s I don’t know if that’s a tool in the toolkit or a negative
tool in the toolkit or just another weapon that trumps the toolkit, but clearly many
conversations not just about Darfur but about Syria come back to the veto in the U.N. Security
Council. Do you use that as basically trumping many of the tools that we have developed?
Nicholas Burns: Well it’s the fundamental problem that the Obama administration has in Syria is that
it doesn’t have the capacity to use the power of the Security Council which can be considerable
in this case because Russia and China in the most cynical way are blocking even a coherent
discussion of how to respond to the humanitarian crisis. Not just whether or not the Security
Council should intervene politically or militarily, they don’t want to give any credence, any
role to the Security Council in Syria because they are protecting Assad. And so because
of that the administration faces the same challenge that the Clinton administration
faced, as Secretary Albright said, in ’98-’99 when it became clear that the Russian federation
was going to veto any military intervention in Kosovo despite the fact that Milosevic
was just about to annihilate a million Muslims there. The United States was forced, and this
is really to the great credit of President Clinton and Secretary Albright, was forced
to take up leadership of its own. We used the NATO Alliance, it worked very well, a
very successful example, as was Bosnia, of American-led military interventions to save
people in a very difficult situation; so in this case the United States has to create
a coalition of willing in Syria of its own, but as I said before, Susan, I think we have
many countries ready for that. And one way to think about this, David Miliband, who has
just left British politics – he was British Foreign Secretary and the last Labor government
is now going to take up the Presidency of the International Rescue Committee in New
York – he gave a really insightful speech ten days ago at the annual Ditchley Lecture
outside of Oxford, where he essentially said we have to understand that we’re at a time
when ten years ago there was a lot of criticism of the US and U.K. for intervening too frequently
and too aggressively in the world. Now we’re at a point where there’s criticism that those
two countries and others are not intervening sufficiently. We don’t have a big enough sense
of our own role and he said something at the end of the speech which really resonated with
me. He said, “I prefer the course of activism to prevent problems rather than passivity
in reacting to them.” And that’s the essential choice that we face in Syria. This problem
is so severe in its geopolitical implications and humanitarian as well, it will be with
us. The question is do we engage and lead now, and hopefully have a chance of the Assad
regime sooner? Or do we wait for that country to tear itself apart, the humanitarian crisis
will be greater and then we perhaps have a bigger problem because as Mike has said Lebanon,
Turkey, Jordan, are engulfed by it and it’s Israel’s northern border as well. So to me,
that’s the calculus that the President has got to- the administration has to face.
Susan Glasser: So Heather, it seems like we’re having one of those very Washington conversations. It’s
there’s the seductive power to the idea of a policy and a toolkit, that’s a wonderful
phrase to an American ear. There’s a toolkit to deal with atrocity. There’s a toolkit to
deal with genocide, but really we’re talking about politics, aren’t we? So what’s your
view of the politics here? Heather Hurlburt: I have been known to ban the phrase “toolkit”
from the stuff that we put out at the National Security Network because it is such an inside-the-beltway
construct. And I actually want to talk politics on the global level first because the Security
Council, for better or for worse, carries with it a degree of legitimation that nothing
else matches. But there are other routes to getting legitimation. We talked about the
role that NATO and the E.U. were able to play in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the big global political
challenge that I see in Syria is that we simply don’t have a body, a structure, somebody that
can give legitimacy to the kind of coalition of the willing that Nick, you’re talking about.
And I from a US national interest perspective, but also from the perspective of the legitimacy
of R2P, frankly, that if you see a coalition of the willing acting in Syria without some
ability to say we are representing the will of the people of the region, particularly
when it is so clear that you have some regional proxy conflicts going on. That that will fatally
undermine both an effort to end the conflict and deliver another blow to the norm of R2P.
And I think what’s particularly challenging in the American context is that, you made
the argument and it’s one that has great appeal to many people, that one of the reasons the
US should get involved in Syria is due to our geopolitical conflict with Iran. Now that
does not sit terribly well globally with our assertion that we would be getting involved
in Syria for humanitarian reasons. Nor does it sit well with the idea that we could be
a fair or neutral arbiter of what comes out afterwards. And this is a challenge that we
face. It’s a very, very real challenge in Syria but it’s something that we’re always
going to face with R2P. And it’s something that has made it very difficult in the US
political context because we live in a period for better, for worse where national security
is very politicized and that we have frankly as I said we are all the Rwanda generation.
And the generation that has come up after us, Susan everybody that writes for you, everybody
that works for me, everybody that works here – does not see, is not seared by Rwanda the
way we were and doesn’t necessarily believe that there is such a thing as disinterested
humanitarian intervention, and we haven’t figured out either to talk to our own elites
or to talk globally how to square that circle and say, “Yeah, we do have an interest with
respect to Iran and we have a humanitarian interest and both of those things are on the
table.” And I see that as a really fundamental political problem for R2P globally.
Susan Glasser: I want to get to Nick but I also want to make sure that we get at least a few questions
because I’m sure everyone has a lot of questions for this great conversation to keep it going
and I’m sure you all have those. So start thinking what your questions are and Ambassador
Burns I’ll let you respond to Heather. Nicholas Burns: Well I think we’re in agreement that countries
and governments act for a multiplicity of reasons, and it’s the responsibility of the
president to think first and foremost about what’s good for our own country but he also
has an obligation to think internationally and in this case I think you can use both
of those arguments in a compatible way. I don’t think it’s a contradiction to assert
that we have narrow interests, geopolitical interests, I should say as well as humanitarian
interests that should guide us here. Michael Gerson: Can I just add real quick? I think norms like
Responsibility to Protect help create momentum even internally within government systems
to raise the profile of these issues and the decisions that are made. It’s the reason I
am a big supporter of the atrocity prevention panel. It takes away excuses, raises things
higher in the system earlier. I think that’s all to the good. I also think advocacy groups
play an important role in this to provide some political constituency and sometimes
cover for these issues. Save Darfur and a lot of other groups played an important role
in raising profiles and but I would only add that ultimately it’s a matter of national
will by the main actors in the international system. Whether they block things or whether
they push things. And how you weigh the cost of action and inaction and the real goal here,
the important goal, these types of interventions are seldom popular in any circumstance. Libya
was not popular. And the question is whether you have the type of leadership that can not
only determine what your responsibilities are but give you early enough options that
are realistic to make a real difference in these situations.
Susan Glasser: Those are important points. Okay questions? Right here you sir? We have a microphone and
give us your name and an ID, and please make it a question so we can move on. Thank you.
Lieutenant Buffalo: Hi, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Dave Buffalo. I’m the Military Advisor in the International
Organizations Bureau of the State Department, PhD student at George Mason and at one time
as a young lieutenant peacekeeper in Macedonia. The question is going back to the toolkit,
I know you hate the term “toolkit”. But going back to the toolkit and what Syria has highlighted
for us or taught us. The atrocities prevention emerging doctrine states that as soon as you
identify an atrocity the more tools you have. You have financial tools, diplomatic tools,
non-lethal military tools whether it’s mil-to-mil exchanges etcetera. When you have a country
where we have no diplomatic relations and no trade and no mil-to-mil exchanges, and
no investment, no aid, have we- does this show the conditionality of the tools at our
behest? I’m trying to look at Syria and think that perhaps Russia has all the tools at their
disposal should they want to prevent atrocities. But we had none. We come back to the whole
state of our choices are do nothing or send in the Marines. I would like any of you to
comment on the conditionality of the toolkit. Susan Glasser: Thanks for a great question.
Heather Hurlburt: Actually the Obama administration deserves credit for having tried and not frankly gotten
a lot of attention for trying to use the tools that it had. Having an ambassador who was
very brave and really tried to use all of his personal tools that he had to try to go
out during the nonviolent and the early violence phase for exploring options of sanctions for
using public pressure, using what pressure they could muster at the U.N., trying to use
regional pressure. So the administration did sort of look at what we know what works early
in a conflict and did try to use what it could and so I think the idea that there were no
tools is maybe not quite right but what it does show you as you said is that you don’t
necessarily hold the right tools and again this is why the toolbox metaphor is problematic.
If you compare Syria with Kenya where neither side was really interested in taking their
society over the edge, and so the tools that we had were much more effective because the
parties didn’t want to do to their country what Assad is willing to do to Syria. And
again when you’re dealing with that kind of raw power there’s no tool that deals with
that. Michael Gerson: I would say sometimes, not to sound like an
advocate of realpolitik, but in a case like Syria you have one side of the conflict, a
desperate regime, Iran and Hezbollah that are all in. They are completely committed.
They are willing to do anything to win. And then you have something different on the other
side, and that makes not just Assad’s strategic calculations different but I think even more
in a difficult way, the leaders around him that might at an earlier point decided he
was a liability in this conflict. That’s sometimes the way things happen is that you can isolate
a leader himself. We often talk about we would prefer to do negotiations in a circumstance
like this. But when I talk with some of my older colleagues about this, what their concern
about Syria is you simply can’t have two sided negotiations when one side believes that they
are winning. And that is I think one of the challenges that we’ve had in this process
is that no amount of diplomatic initiative is going to make much of a difference when
one side believes that they have an advantage. And that’s something I think the United States
allowed to get away from us earlier in this process.
Nicholas Burns: I would just say great question. We have the tools. It’s just a question of strategy and
will. Does it make sense for us to intervene and do we have the will to do it? And there
are two options that were raised in the New York Times, Washington Post articles this
morning on this open letter that General Dempsey sent to the Congress. One would be arming
the rebels. We certainly have the tools and we have the financial wherewithal to do that
should the President decide to take that further. The bigger question is should the United States
consider the imposition of a no-flight zone? A lot of military people would say, well that’s
probably the easiest way to degrade Assad’s ability to wage this war against the rebels
and against his own people and to kill so many civilians and to drive them out of their
homes. So if you impose that no flight zone, as we did in Iraq between the two wars, between
’91 and 2003, that might be the single most important thing you can do. But it was interesting
in all the press coverage this morning. What was highlighted with that option was do we
have the money? And I must say that when I was working both for the Bush 41 and 43 administrations
as well as the Clinton administration, we always had the funds, more or less, to do
what the United States had to do to lead, and now for the first time we have to ask
that question as General Dempsey did. I think the figure the Pentagon put out publically
was a billion dollars a month to impose and maintain a no-flight zone. That’s a forbidding
figure given our perilous financial straits in Washington. So suddenly that enters this
calculus. Susan Glasser: Ma’am?
Barbara Dellow: Hi thank you, my name is Barbara Dellow. I wondered can the humanitarian efforts be evenhanded
in judging atrocity by allies, by selves, as well as by regimes and persons we oppose?
You know I’m thinking of Syria, in particular, where there is plenty of cruelty to go around.
Can the humanitarian efforts be separated from the political positions?
Michael Gerson: It’s a very good question. You face it even in some of the clearest examples like Rwanda
where there are ongoing investigations of various Rwandan officials in that case. So
it is often very, very complex and you often get when there is mass atrocities the prospect
of a cycle of atrocities in these cases where very few people have clean hands at the end.
You see it in Congo, where the U.N. is conducting investigations of past atrocities and past
interventions and how it complicates current negotiations. All that said, that can’t be
allowed to be an obstacle for the prevention of civilian casualties. The primary goal here
as others have argued – justice is a very important goal and sometimes it’s a difficult
one where both sides need to be called to account – but the overwhelming predominant
commitment of Responsibility to Protect is the protection of civilians. And that should
be the testing measure of US policy when it comes to these situations, so I think the
justice is sometimes very hard to sort out but I think the protection of civilians has
to be the guiding principle in policy. Susan Glasser: We have a question here and then one there.
Mindy Reiser: Thank you, my name is Mindy Reiser. I’m Vice President of an NGO called Global Peace Services.
I want to refer to what former Foreign Minister Axworthy said about the architecture involved
in peace building and also Responsibility to Protect and the credibility of the Security
Council as we just heard. What can we do to make the department of peacekeeping operations
at the U.N. function better? What can we do to mobilize forces that can get on the ground
faster? That is a real big bottleneck. And there have been efforts by a number of parties
to develop a standing army. We know the political objections. We know the caricature of the
blue helmets but this is really something that could make a serious difference. What
do you think? Susan Glasser: Thank you very much.
Nicholas Burns: Well I’ll refer again to the speech by my friend David Miliband, which I’d urge you
to check out on the Ditchley website. He says, that for a long time now the great powers
including his own country and our country, have not really participated in U.N. peacekeeping
with our own troops as you know. And it’s been a particular weakness so I certainly
think we need to reinforce from a budgetary perspective the capacity of the United Nations
to field effective peacekeeping forces. There is sometimes tragically very little justice
and very little fairness in how this all works out. The bloodiest place on earth is not Syria,
it’s Congo. And there is practically no attention by the American media to that problem and
most Americans aren’t aware of the dimensions of the conflict, but the United Nations is
there with a deeply flawed peacekeeping mission. So reinforcing the capacity of the U.N. to
act in difficult places where we don’t want to send our troops is a vitally important
thing. I guess I’d also say we can’t always depend on the United Nations because if the
Russians and Chinese exercise in their cynical fashion their veto, then it is going to be
up to the United States and like-minded countries to provide the action in a place like Syria
or as we did in Kosovo. So you really have to have the capacity of the central political
institution the U.N. to act, but we also need to be free to act when authoritarian great
powers prevent justice from occurring. Michael Gerson: I will agree. I mean some of the challenge
here is the capability of the U.N. I don’t know if you saw the report that just came
out yesterday the U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, that they have about 25 percent
of their armored vehicles operational right now in the peacekeeping force there. This
is a serious kind of challenge capabilities challenge on the part of the U.N. Some of
it is capabilities of regional organizations, the A.U. and others that I think would be
very helpful. When I visited A.U. troops in Darfur in 2005 they didn’t have secure communications.
They didn’t have helicopters, they didn’t have armored transport. I think they are better
off now but increasing the capabilities of these institutions, I think, is very much
part of trying to do this because often an A.U. intervention is just a much superior
option in a lot of different ways. So I think you’re focused on the right thing is how you
get other actors in the system that have military capabilities. I’m kind of hopeful that at
least in Congo they are experimenting with a much more aggressive civilian protection
mandate. So it’s not just, I mean I’ve been to Congo several times and the U.N. just sits
around often in these cases. And I think there’s a recognition that there’s not an option.
And they are experimenting with an expanded mandate there so it would be a good thing
if some of those more aggressive regimens worked out. It would be a good option.
Susan Glasser: I’m told we have time for one last question. Yes, I promised to you, sir.
Paul Light: Hi. My name is Paul Light. I’m an undergraduate student from Southern Alberta in Canada. I
just had a question in regards to defining American interest in Syria. As a cost of inaction
it seems like there’s been an increasing presence of extremists flocking to the region on the
side of the rebels and an increasing amount of infighting of the rebel factions. How is
it in the American interest to support even indirectly these sorts of groups? I understand
the geopolitical concerns regarding Iran and Hezbollah. There seems to be a Sunni hegemonic
counterbalance between the Qataris and the Turks and the Saudis and they make no distinction
between moderates and rebels. So how is it in the American interest to support this side?
And if it is to degrade the advantage of the Assad regime, does that not beg the question
of how you balance strategic interest and moral obligation because that was in my mind
would serve to perpetuate the fighting and increase the humanitarian cause. Thank you.
Susan Glasser: I’m sure we can answer that in 30 seconds or so. Would anyone care to try?
Nicholas Burns: Maybe we can all take a swing at this, it’s the last question. First, since you’re Canadian
we really do have to congratulate Canada being one of the early supporters. In fact originators,
conceptualizers of R2P and Mr. Axworthy was in the lead on that so we really owe Canada
a lot for what it did to promote this concept and to get it accepted at the 2005 reform
summit. Second, I agree with you and one of the most complicated issues that the President
and Secretary Kerry are facing is this disorganized and feuding rebel misalliance, because there
are some actors there we clearly do not want to support, radical Islamic groups that if
we arm them they turn those weapons on American or Canadian civilians or innocents elsewhere.
And so the trick here the challenge is to be very careful only to support those groups
that you think share, in a basic general way our own values and our own strategic interests.
Is that impossible? I don’t think it is. David is no longer here but David Ignatius has written
consistently that there are such moderate rebel forces. We just have to make a decision
as to whether we’re all in or whether we’re going or be marginal players. The difference
here might be and it gets back to some of the earlier questions, why do we intervene
or even contemplate intervening in Syria but not in other places? Because of this mixture
of motives there’s a humanitarian motive to intervene in Syria but there’s also a strategic
imperative. Syria is in the Levant and it borders Israel and Jordan and Turkey and those
countries are all critical to us. It makes Syria important. And it gets back to the central
choice. There are real risks of going in here not with troops in the ground but even aiding
the rebels. And there are real risks of being passive and so the United States and Canada
and other countries just need to balance those relative risks and make a basic decision.
I think you know where I come down based on this panel.
Heather Hurlburt: I want to make two points and one is to go back to something Secretary Albright said
in the first panel, which I think hasn’t been repeated often enough, which is the fact that
you fail some places is not a justification for not trying other places. And we have really
spent almost no time on this panel talking about some of the very real successes not
just Kenya but also Cote d’Ivoire which is an enormous success which I think is totally
due to the existence of R2P. The Cote d’Ivoire would not have happened both if R2P hadn’t
existed and frankly if the Libya intervention hadn’t happened. So just to make the point
that the Syria case deserves consideration on its own strategic and humanitarian merits
as a humanitarian catastrophe that all of us who have had a hand in not stopping should
be scarred by. But that it doesn’t erase the things that R2P has done to save hundreds
of thousands of lives and keep societies together in other places. The point I would add or
the slightly different gloss I would put on what Nick said is that we have really a dual-barreled
strategic failure and it’s one that our political system at this point makes almost inevitable.
Neither in terms of US national nor in purely humanitarian terms do we have the ability
to have the conversation about how this ends. What is the humanitarian outcome where somebody
is on the ground preventing, Mike as you said, revenge killings that equal in scope what’s
already happened? Purely humanitarian, how do we do that? I don’t know. The U.N. doesn’t
know, the Obama administration doesn’t know. What is the end game for the US of what the
region looks like that you don’t have either ongoing Sunni — Shi’a civil war or the establishment
of a kind of access that is inimical to US strategic interests, energy interests, interests
in democracy promotion? And until you can answer those questions, I actually don’t think
you can design an intervention that will “work” because you don’t know what “work” means.
And frankly we still don’t know that either from a humanitarian perspective or a strategic
perspective. Michael Gerson: I don’t have too much to add. But I would
say that the conundrum that the question raises actually points to the necessity of American
leadership. The reality is that Turkey and Qatar were supporting some very bad actors
in the Syrian civil war and one of the tributes, I think, to Secretary Kerry’s focus on this
is that he’s taken a much broader role in trying to direct our allies to get the arms
to the right people. It’s often a role that American plays. If we don’t take that type
of leadership role, other actors in the system are not always responsible. The vacuum is
not good for either US interests or regional challenges. So that specific issue that you
raise it shows why American needs to be involved, why it’s important that it is involved, and
maybe why it should have been involved sooner. I would only conclude by saying I was once
told by a State Department official when I raised issues related to Darfur, “You can’t
solve all the problems of the world.” And that’s true. It’s frustrating and true. But
it does seem uniquely American to try. And I think some of the worst moments of our history
have come when we didn’t try. And so our predisposition should be the priority of Responsibility to
Protect which is to vindicate the ideals of human dignity that are at the foundation of
the American experiment and the basis of our own ideology.
Susan Glasser: Powerful note to end on. Thank you all very much and thank you to everyone in the audience.
Mike Abramowitz: I just wanted to thank our panelists and I wanted to particularly thank our co-chairs
Secretary Albright, Ambassador Williamson. We are done. Thank you for coming.


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