In-Depth Article: A critique of the theory and practice of R2P

A critique of the theory and practice of R2P | By Nicholas Glover on September 27, 2011

1         Introduction

1.1      Rationale:  Contextualisation of the Doctrine of R2P and its Relation to Emancipation

The prominence of ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ as a concept and international doctrine, owes much to the crisis over humanitarian intervention following the Kosovo war in 1999 (Newman, 2009: 93). Responding to this crisis, Kofi Annan asked: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to Rwanda, to a Srebrenica—to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity” (ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 2001: 15)? In response, the UN-appointed International Commission on Intervention and Sovereignty (ICISS) sought to move the terms of the debate regarding mass atrocities, from the ‘right of intervention’ to the ‘responsibility to protect’. In claiming a paradigmatic shift from the Western-centric concept of the ‘right to intervention’, the R2P doctrine seemingly provided a stronger discursive link with the idea of humanitarianism than had been the case with the discourse of humanitarian intervention. The key tenet of the doctrine was articulated as “focusing attention where it should be most concentrated, on the human needs of those seeking protection or assistance” (ICISS, 2001: 15).

Conflating the concept of R2P with the idea of ‘new humanitarianism’, the architects radicalised the doctrine within a discursive framework of emancipatory potential—capable of generating an effective, consensual response to extreme, conscience-shocking cases of violent atrocity (Evans, 2008: 56). This radical veneer has allowed the R2P doctrine to suffuse the parlance and institutions of international politics and resulted in the concept being affirmed by all UN member states at the 2005 World Summit. Seemingly, R2P has become an established principle of international politics (Cuncliffe, 2011: 1) and appears increasingly to be the hegemonic framework through which the role of the ‘international community’ is understood in relation to crisis, conflict and humanitarian emergencies.

Although there are differences between the ICISS and World Summit versions of R2P, there is consensus between states in terms of protecting ‘populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’. Constructing R2P as a defining characteristic of statehood, the UN suggests that the task of emancipating humans from political violence encompasses the state, but also goes beyond it—notably when human suffering is the product of state neglect or predation (Cuncliffe, 2011: 1). In such cases, the duties of human protection may fall on to the ‘international community’—encompassing preventative measures to holt conflict before it arises, through the use of force to holt mass atrocities, right through to international involvement in post-conflict reconstruction (Cuncliffe, 2011: 2). The institutionalisation of a doctrine which serves to legitimise instruments and technologies of Western interventionism (Turner et al, 2010), including the imposition of a new cartography of ‘anti-genocidal social relations’—is surely reason enough to interrogate its normative claims/assumptions? Yet critiques of the ontological and epistemological assumptions of the doctrine along with an interrogation of the purported emancipatory effects of its practice—are rarely heard. Hence, a thorough critique of the theory and practice of R2P through the lens of emancipation—including an interrogation of its most contemporary manifestation in Libya—is the fundamental purpose of this dissertation.

Arguments put forth in favour of R2P assert that it is emancipatory in its effects of freeing individuals from political violence and its normative focus on the “human needs and rights of those seeking protection or assistance” (ICISS, 2001: 15). Hence, this rationale will constitute an assessment of competing conceptions of ‘emancipation’, in the context of the theory and practice of R2P and international relations per se. Emancipation is a highly contested, broad and often abstract concept used by policy-makers and theorists alike,  as the basis of so called progressive and radical politics. In rudimentary terms, emancipation is often defined as freedom from restraints of one sort or another—a release from slavery or tutelage (Booth, 2007: 111). This dissertation will define emancipation in terms of the empowerment of heterogeneous forms of individual agency. That is, the freedom and capacity to transform oneself, one’s own society and political community (Richmond, 2010: 682). Such a definition strives to critique and transcend the common trap of Western-centrism, associated with limiting emancipation to the Enlightenment and/or more contemporary Western movements of liberty and progress.

The asserted nexus between R2P and emancipation—as located in prevailing discourses of human security, humanitarianism and Liberal peacebuilding—will be assessed in relation to various critiques of contemporary theories and practices of mainstream international security, peacebuilding and conflict management. In chapter one, Booth’s (1991, 2004, 2005, 2007) theory of emancipation-as-security and Neocleous (2007, 2008, 2010) and Aradau’s (2008) critique of the exclusionary and violent logic of security, will problematise R2P as a practice of the prevailing human security regime. In chapters two and three, the limitations of R2P to effect emancipatory change compared with the potentiality of indigenous processes of resistance, will be illuminated by an engagement with critiques of ‘rights-based humanitarianism’ and (neo) Liberal peacebuilding. This dissertation represents a cross-fertilisation of critical literature from ‘Critical Security Studies’ (Booth), ‘Postmodernism’, ‘Critical International Relations’, ‘Post-Colonial Theory’ and ‘Peace and Conflict Research’.

These critiques fundamentally seek to deconstruct/problematise the assumption made by proponents of R2P: that state-based warfare and other highly intrusive modes of Liberal peace intervention—have become the prerogative of progressive politics, the central tenets in the emancipation of ‘victims’ from the excesses of political violence, from Kosovo to Libya.  There are pertinent questions arising from this assessment. Can warfare/intervention by one state/group of states become a truly humanitarian/emancipatory act—for the purposes of protecting humans (Dexter, 2007: 1055) in another, from contingent practices and structures of political violence? Can emancipation ever be perpetrated by external agents? Can emancipation ever be violent? How might an indigenous form of emancipation be realised under conditions of extreme insecurity?

1.2      Thesis

Embedded within prevailing 3rd generation peacekeeping and peacebuilding concepts and practices of the ‘Liberal peace’, the practice of R2P is mutually exclusive from the empowerment of individual agency to resist and overcome the imposition of rigid structures of violence. Hence, given that genuinely emancipatory transformation must be driven and controlled by, the activism of local non-state actors, civil society, social movements, indeed ‘victims’ themselves in resisting political violence, the practice of R2P can only ever be partially emancipatory. Predicated on the Liberal logic of international security, underpinned by the dominant trope of mitigating further state collapse—the invocation of R2P is frequently accompanied by repressive and exclusionary practices, associated with militarisation, securitisation (Aradau, 2008) and highly intrusive statebuilding.

These practices privilege the ‘international community’ as the dominant agent in the emancipation of weak ‘victims’ from violent state fragility. As such, the orthodoxy of prevailing Liberal peace and security discourse marginalises the very ‘victims’ purported to be at the heart of the R2P doctrine. Hence, by privileging external, state-based military intervention and depoliticised capacity-building, over politically-conscious civil society insurrections, the practice of R2P subverts the politics of the ‘everyday’, which can engender agency and resistance. This dissertation will outline the ways in which the dominant ontology of the ‘new humanitarian order’, reconstructs, re-securitises and depoliticises the political agency of the ‘victim other’,  in the particular modalities of  neo-liberal interventionism. It will be argued that the freeing of individuals from violent state practices has been (re)inscribed within the ontology of the state and Western dominated international security regime. This has legitimised state-based international intervention to contain the unruly periphery—whilst marginalising indigenous processes of resistant individual agency.

Entrenched within neo-liberal peacebuilding governmentality—the R2P constructs legitimacy in terms of transforming the genocidal relations of ‘failing states’, through capacity-building and good governance conditionality. Here the R2P represents a ‘negative epistemology of peace’ (Rasmussen, in Richmond, 2007). Hence, by dividing the peaceful Liberal and weak and violently unstable non-liberal worlds—the R2P’s Liberal epistemology empowers the peace-knowing ‘international community’ to inscribe peace upon the ‘illiberal other’, through hegemonic modes of democratic ordering. Thus, the practice of R2P by states can only ever be at best, partially emancipatory, since it represents a hegemonic engagement between the ‘international’ and the ‘local’. These inequitable relations serve to marginalise the necessary essence of emancipatory transformation, namely, indigenous forms of resistance, critique and political struggle.

1.3      Methodology

The central approach of this dissertation will be to contrast the theory and practice of R2P with the process of emancipation—understood in terms of the imminent critique and politicisation of existing structures and contingent practices, transformatory social change and the empowerment of individual agency. This will become manifest through the interweaving of a ‘gradation narrative’ of emancipation—within the critique of R2P. By synthesising conceptual/theoretical critiques of the theory and practice of R2P with Critical theoretical, Postmodernist and Post-Colonial conceptions of genuine emancipation—the nexus between emancipation and R2P will be deconstructed. This deconstruction will seek to assess and reveal the mutual exclusivity between R2P and emancipation on the basis of their ontological and epistemological incommensurability.

 1.4      Structure

This dissertation will consist of four analytical chapters. Chapter 2 will function to contextualise the process of emancipation, by assessing multiple conceptions in the context of averting mass atrocity and transforming violent power relations. This narrative will firstly outline how advocates of R2P construct its potential to de-legitimise sovereign equality and non-intervention, thus making sovereignty contingent upon the state’s “protection of populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (UN, 2005: 31). When this responsibility is not upheld, these advocates contend that responsibility falls on the ‘international community’ to hold states to account through a wide range of interventionary and regulatory practices. Emancipation is thus conceived as reframing sovereignty as ‘people’s sovereignty’, through the rejection of totalitarian state power. Secondly, this chapter will contrast R2P discourses with Booth’s critical theory of security-as-emancipation. Booth focuses on the empowerment of the marginalised and the transformation of state and military power to produce more just and sustainable practices of security. Completing the ‘gradation narrative of emancipation’, this chapter will locate a genuinely emancipatory politics in the critique of dominant interconnections between security, politics and subjectivity. Such a critique demands an engagement with contradictory claims of ‘victimhood’ and seeks to politicise and give agency to marginalised actors and discourses.

The third and fourth chapters will focus on the conceptual critique of R2P, emphasising its’ limited potentiality in terms of emancipating those at the sharp end of possible mass killing, in ways that orchestrate resistance and impose accountability. The third chapter seeks to render the asserted relationship between R2P and emancipation false—in relation to the former’s centrality within the violent epistemology and ontology of the ‘new humanitarian order’. As constituted by and constitutive of ‘rights-based humanitarianism’—the R2P will be critiqued as leaving operations of power where they are, reducing the ‘victim other’ to an incapacitated beneficiary of ethical Western interventionism and neglecting the potential of indigenous processes to effect emancipation, via the contestation of political legitimacy and space.

The fourth chapter constitutes a critique of the legitimacy of R2P, as it is located in the dominant discourses of Liberal peacebuilding. This chapter takes fundamental issue with the perceived legitimacy and righteousness of building peace and transforming conflict and post-conflict space from without. Connecting the theory and practice of R2P to the hegemonic Liberal peace regime, this chapter contends that the R2P’s vision of peace and emancipation is limited—as it de-legitimises the subaltern in a framework of violence, poverty, illiberalism and destructive resistance (Richmond, 2008: 683). Such a framework constructs ‘peace as governance’ and empowers the ‘International community’ to attempt to transform instability-inducing illiberal sovereigns, into Liberal governance regimes free of tension and antagonism. On the basis of this critique, this chapter will also seek to look beyond Northern epistemologies of peace and construct so called ‘victims’ of illiberal political violence as potential champions of an anti-order, seeking to resist violent systems of rule.

The final chapter will attempt to interweave the preceding critique of R2P, within an exploration of the effects of its practice by powerful Western states in Libya. It will be outlined that the ‘humanitarian bombing’ of Libya and the strategy to advise and arm the oppositional ‘rebel groups’ has served to normalise Western and Western supported violence, perpetuate armed conflict and marginalise the ‘victims’ purported to be at the heart of R2P. The West’s commitment to war and violence in Libya subverts the very peace and freedoms it proclaims (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 7) and could de-mobilise the socio-political movements so fundamental to emancipatory transformation. Secondly, it will contended that despite its’ emancipatory intent, the practice of R2P in Libya is predominantly about mitigating the consequences of a ‘failed state’ on Europe’s periphery and securing the Liberal order of states.

 2         Multiple Conceptions of Emancipation

To locate the mutual exclusivity between R2P and radical emancipatory resistance, it will be essential to examine those dimensions of human life the R2P doctrine claims to emancipate people from. R2P-as-emancipation will be problematised in the context of competing conceptions of ‘emancipation’ and in particular, its marginalisation of individual political agency. Providing a stronger discursive link with the idea of humanitarianism than had been the case with the discourse of humanitarian intervention, the key issue was articulated by the R2P architects as “focusing attention where it should be most concentrated, on the human needs of those seeking protection or assistance (ICISS, 2001: 15).

Such human security language radicalised R2P within frameworks of emancipatory potential (Chandler and Hynek, 2010). Critically, the human security agenda asserts that state-centred security dilemmas can be overcome with a new paradigm of globalised security, oriented by an ultimate focus on the universal needs and rights of individuals, comprising a ‘solidarist world society’ (C.A.S.E Collective II: 6). The asserted nexus between human security and emancipation achieves its most interventionist form in the ICISS’s report: ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ (2001). Pertinently, the use of emancipation by predominant R2P states such as Canada, is associated with the physical safety of individuals in an environment of conflict (C.A.S.E Collective II,: 6). This programmatic and normative universalistic claim of human security, which sees security and emancipation as “two sides of the same coin” (Booth, 1991)—is discursively constructed as a resistant, power-suborning, de-territorialising (Kaldor, 2007) project, whose aim is to challenge the state-security paradigm through initiatives, networks and advocacy.

Although there is a degree of contestation amongst advocates regarding the precise criteria under which state authority is rescinded in favour of international action (Cuncliffe, 2011: 2), there exists an underlying assumption that R2P is a ‘good thing’ and that it seeks to stimulate new and more holistic approaches to human protection. Connecting R2P to the ‘freedom from fear’ subset of human security, advocates limit the notion of security to preventing/overcoming the excesses of political violence. In this sense, R2P locates state actors as the fundamental agents of insecurity. The doctrine necessitates the emancipation of ‘victims’ from particular state practices rendered illegitimate and threatening—thus subjecting them to extraordinary action by the West’s human rights discourse. This counterposes R2P to ‘traditional security’, which prioritises order over justice through the cover of sovereign immunity, thus allowing states to commit violent atrocities against their own people with impunity (Mccormack, 2008: 373). Therefore, the R2P postulates that the use of military force by one state/group of states is compatible with the emancipatory ends of curtailing the excesses of political violence by another.

Ken Booth’s conceptualisation of emancipation-as-security is fundamental to this debate. He argues that emancipation should take precedence over the concerns of states and militaries with power and order. Defining emancipatory theory and practice as the empowerment of the marginalised and the transformation of state and military power— Booth contends that emancipation, not power and order, produces more sustainably just concepts and practices of security (Booth, 1991). Booth pertinently defines his normativity as security, since security is a powerful political concept that energises opinion, transforms material power (Booth, 2005: 23) and can be mobilised to emancipatory ends.

Booth defines emancipation as a political practice seeking to denaturalise and overcome oppressive social divisions in human society—at all levels (Booth, 2005: 264). Booth’s conception is evidently mutually exclusive from R2P-as-emancipation, given his broad emphasis on emancipation from physical and structural violence. However, this dissertation seeks to look beyond Booth’s radical politics of emancipatory security, which relies on the assumption that “emancipation is security” (Booth, 1991). Hence, the emancipation-security nexus is viewed by authors such as Aradau (2004, 2008) and Neocleous (2008, 2010) as incompatible, in that the invocation of security is frequently accompanied by repressive and exclusionary practices associated with militarisation and securitisation. Neocleous (2008) sees the logic of security not as a vision of freedom or emancipation—but as a means of modelling the whole of human society around a particular vision of order.

Neocleous (2007: 144) emphasises that in an age where human rights are seen as trumps (legitimising coercive military intervention), it is actually security that is the real political trump. From this perspective, the discursive balancing by the R2P, of the liberty of the underdeveloped ‘Other’ with the security of the developed world, will inevitably privilege the latter. For Neocleous, the political dominance of security is incompatible with emancipation, since the very logic of security is the logic of anti-politics (Jayasuriya, 2004). As such, hegemonic Liberal states use security to marginalise all else—most pertinently the constructive conflicts, debates and discussions that animate political life—suppressing all before it and dominating political discourse in an entirely reactionary way (Neocleous, 2007: 146).

A radically emancipatory politics concerning security must fight for an alternative political language and requires through its critique, a position against security. In outlining these competing discourses of emancipation, this chapter contends that the R2P’s agenda for peace focuses problematically on reacting to and/or preventing exceptional moments of violence posing a threat to global security and order. This focus effectively disembodies the experiences of insecurity from their social and historical contexts and entails a diagnosis of bad governance in light of this insecurity. Such a diagnosis authorises powerful states to manage the provision of security by taking “collective military action, in accordance with Chapter VII” and/or “committing to helping states build capacity before crisis and conflict break out” (UN, 2005: 31). This chapter will first outline emancipation as it is conceived within R2P discourses. These narratives will then be contrasted with radical conceptions of emancipation based on the critique of security and empowerment of individual agency.

2.1      Saving Strangers

a) Sovereignty as Responsibility

Focused on developing a set of international norms that would direct the conduct of states and the ‘international community’ in extreme and exceptional cases (ICISS, 2001: 31), the doctrine differs markedly from the broad panoply of threats which informed the UNDP’s understanding of human security. Insecurity is narrowed down to extreme threats to individuals (Human security Centre, 2005: 8), such as mass murder and rape, ethnic cleansing by forcible exclusion and terror and deliberate starvation and exposure to disease (UN, 2004: 65). R2P shifts the emphasis from an understanding of threats which stem from a broad set of political, social and economic contingencies, to what is deemed to be the avoidable catastrophe(s) of gross violations of human rights (UN, 2004: 65).

Thus, the referent object of R2P’s security and emancipation is human life itself (Doucet and Larrinaga, 2010: 138). Gareth Evans (2008: 56)—a leading architect of the R2P—conceptualises its emancipatory potential in terms of its utility as a discursive normative framework, capable of generating an effective, consensual response to extreme, conscience-shocking cases of violent atrocity. For him, the power of R2P lies in its securitisation of exceptional threat and the authorisation of exceptional measures for the purposes of protecting human survival. Such a conceptualisation is tied to the emancipation of the form of life rendered bare, from illegitimate political violence committed by states failing in their sovereign responsibilities (Doucet and Larrinaga, 2010: 139). R2P in this sense defines humanity’s political life biopolitically—not simply in order to limit what is understood as human rights to the most basic threshold of life—but also to define human rights within the explicit contexts of moments marked by crisis and emergency (Doucet and Larrinaga, 2010: 140).

Marrying the moral duties of powerful states to protect and save ‘victims’ at home and abroad with the deconstruction of sovereign boundaries, Nicholas Wheeler (2000: 39) contends that there is nothing natural about sovereignty as the limit of our moral responsibilities. Hence, when the moral construction of sovereignty is challenged, it becomes legitimate for state leaders to risk the lives of their soldiers to prevent or curtail human rights abuses (Wheeler, 2000: 39). Wheeler locates the emancipatory potential of R2P within the re-characterisation of ‘sovereignty as responsibility’, which serves to emancipate individuals from the pluralist norms of sovereign equality and non-intervention (Mccormack, 2008: 123). Furthermore, Kofi Annan claimed that sovereignty remains the ordering principle of international affairs—but qualified this by stressing that it must be the ‘people’s sovereignty’ rather than the ‘sovereigns sovereignty’ (Cuncliffe, 2007: 51).

‘Sovereignty as responsibility’ is conceived of as emancipatory by its advocates, since the modification of sovereignty seemingly gives sovereignty substantive content, demonstrating that the ‘irreducible locus of sovereignty is in the individual human being’ (MacFarlane 2004: 368). Thus, the security of states is no longer an end in itself. Instead, ‘states are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their people, and not vice versa’ (Annan 1999: 81). Moreover, when states fail in their responsibility to protect the human beings within their care, the ‘international community’ may hold the state accountable (ICISS, 2001: 8-14), through a wide range of interventionary and regulatory practices. In this sense, the R2P doctrine conceptualises the reframing of sovereignty as an emancipatory and empowering framework that gives sovereignty to the people and challenges existing power frameworks—through the de-legitimisation of totalitarian sovereignty.

 b) R2P-as-emancipatory Capacity-building

The R2P doctrine has evolved since its inception in 2001. Some theorists contend that by moving away from the primary debate regarding the legitimacy of non-consensual military intervention, towards a moral imperative for UN institutional capacity-building (Chandler, 2010: 163), the doctrine became R2P-lite (Weiss, 2007). Other advocates argue that the institutionalisation of the doctrine at the UN World Summit in 2005—which focused on moving away from the responsibility to ‘react’, ‘prevent’ and ‘rebuild’ (ICISS, 2001) towards the responsibilities and capacity of the weak or failing state—provided a mandate for a wide range of institutional reforms and international activities, designed to further the goal of reducing mass atrocities. In this view, R2P and emancipation are connected by the (re)building of the capable institutional framework of the state (Chandler, 2010: 163-4).

This new-look R2P understands mass atrocities as a product of institutional shortcomings and is representative of attempts by the UN and R2P states, to embed R2P within the broader concept of Liberal statebuilding. Accordingly, the emancipatory agenda is set for international preventative engagement to assist in institutional capacity-building that would make failing states less likely to commit crimes against humanity (Chandler, 2010: 165). Hence:

“Experience and common sense suggest that many of the elements of what is commonly accepted as good governance – the rule of law, a competent and independent judiciary, human rights, security sector reform, a robust civil society, an independent press and a political culture that favours tolerance, dialogue and mobility over the rigidities of identity politics – tend to serve objectives relating to the responsibility to protect as well”  (UN, 2004 in Chandler, 2010: 165).

Such a conflation of good governance principles and R2P, is symptomatic of the UN-centric process of incorporation within prevailing ’3rd generation peacekeeping and peacebuilding concepts and practices of the ‘Liberal peace’. Significantly, the UN and powerful Liberal states license themselves to govern the non-liberal/dangerous periphery through political and economic liberalisation—acknowledging that securing “human rights, good governance and the rule of law” (UN, 2005: 2) is essential for sustained economic growth, sustainable development and international peace and security (Roberts, 2010: 72). These practices have shifted the focus  from colonial/modernist narratives on freedom as ensuring development, that is, the exercise of civil and political rights leading to free active entrepreneurial individuals—to international statebuilding, that could circumscribe and mitigate the potential dangers of autonomy (Sherwin, 2011: 15) and prevent further state collapse.

Although these policy-relevant discourses of R2P-as-emancipation differ in how mass atrocities are to be overcome, they all subscribe to what Robert Cox (1986) calls a problem-solving theory, in that they leave power, agency and resistance where they are. They conceptualise emancipation in terms of the Liberal metaphysics of overcoming direct illegitimate violence and the promotion of peace and security as the freedom from war. Hence, the classic Liberal myth that war is an exception to peace—underpinned by the hypothesis that peace is the focal dynamic of civil society, that the state exists in order to realise the ‘Liberal peace’ and that international law serves to ensure peace between states—obscures Liberalism’s own tendency to carry out state-based systematic violence in the name of peace (Neocleous, 2010).

2.2       Moving Towards an ‘Ideal’ Concept of Transformatory Emancipation.

a) Booth’s Emancipation-as-security

Arguably the most prominent use of the concept of emancipation within critical International Studies is associated with the Welsh School of CSS—which has consciously sought to locate emancipation at the heart of its critique of ‘Traditional Security Studies’ (Columba Peoples, 2011: 2). Building upon the emancipatory intent of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory as the basis of a progressive theory of security—Ken Booth declared that there is a virtuous circle of security and emancipation. Hence:

“The pursuit of security (reducing the threats that impose life-determining conditions of insecurity on individuals and groups) promotes emancipation (freeing people from oppression and so giving them some opportunity to explore being more fully human), while pursuit of emancipation (reducing structural oppression) promotes security (opening up space in which people can feel safer)” (Booth, 2007: 115).

For Booth (2004: 7), an emancipatory security paradigm must seek to uncover the realities of security (or rather insecurity), which entails locating human rights abuses, the oppression of minorities, the powerlessness of the poor and violence against women. Contrasting sharply with the R2P’s narrow focus on emancipation from violent atrocities, Booth’s emancipation-security nexus covers the spectrum of human insecurities/wrongs. In striving to steer clear of the conflation of survival with the political and social instrumentality of dominant narratives of security, Booth argues that the basic task for an emancipatory politics is ‘survival-plus’. This pertains to freedom from life-determining threats and the creation of conditions in which individuals are never forced into sites of insecurity, where the freedom to ask why and live in dignity, is never there (Booth, 2007: 104).

In the context of the human security discourse, Booth’s conception of emancipation seems congruent with the ontological shift from the security of the sovereign state, to the human-well being of individuals (Alker, 2005: 191). However, Booth’s insistence upon the de-naturalisation of the state and the critical problematisation of all institutional identifiers that divide humanity (Booth, 2005: 267)—seems incommensurate with the post 2005 R2P doctrine, which conceptualises emancipation as freeing individuals from bad governance structures, through the capacity-building. In Boothian terms, the conception of emancipation as security inherent within the capacity-building project of R2P, represents ‘false emancipation’—as it serves to re-inscribe the freeing of individuals within statist discourses, which perpetuate the inequalities and insecurities of the Liberal system of states.

Booth’s discourse of emancipation is fundamental in demonstrating the ontological incommensurability of prevailing notions of R2P and competing ideas of emancipation, concerned with the empowerment of individual agency. The idea of ‘false emancipation’ is used by Booth to contend that knowledge must be seen as political also in its effects. For Booth, the R2P doctrine must be politicised epistemologically and ontologically. Hence, knowing constitutes being inasmuch as, the production and reproduction of security realities contribute to opening or foreclosing the political imagination, thereby helping to define what is possible and/or desirable, whilst at the same time revealing the moral worldviews of hegemonic actors or counter-hegemonic ones (Booth, 2007: 100). Booth’s discourse(s) functions to problematise the political state of affairs; normatively assess the ‘adequacy’ and ‘truthfulness’ of security knowledge and most pertinently; question whether prevailing security knowledge is being used as a tool for the solidification of ‘common sense’ (maintaining the status quo) or for its contestation (Booth, 2007: 100).

Underpinning this discourse is a belief that the meaning of security emanates from the ‘condition of insecurity’, that is, the existence of someone or something that is threatened (Booth, 2007: 100-101). Booth’s commitment towards a thorough politicisation of security: by embedding the materiality of the body in pain within a socially constructed worldview; by conceiving current arrangements as problematic and in need of transformation—illuminates the political meaning of materiality. However, this discourse problematically conceives of human insecurity as though it is a discrete reality—something that can be approached and overcome as a ‘thing’ in itself (Nunes, 2010: 38). For example the material category of the ‘Libyan body in pain’ cannot be understood outside of a political process: the infliction of pain is just one dimension of an essentially political relationship of power.

The resulting critique of Booth’s notion of emancipation-as-security perceives a failure to avoid a tautology: any definition can be reduced to the formula ‘security is the absence of threats to security’ (Nunes, 2010: 39). Booth’s retort emphasises that emancipation and security are never static political ends, but rather dynamic processes of political action (Booth, 2007: 112). Similarly to Neocleous’s (2007) contention that human insecurity is part of the human condition, Booth argues that one cannot be objectively secure, just more or less subjectively insecure in ways that relate directly to structural and contingent oppressions (Booth, 2007). Nevertheless, Booth’s politicisation of security leads to an excessive focus on external threats to the human, that is, on entities, privileged groups, material structures and tradition (Nunes, 2010: 39). The consequence is a dichotomisation of political life—with the referent object of security being seen as an essentially independent category disturbed by external forces (Nunes, 2010: 39).

 b) Can Security Ever be Emancipatory?

Booth’s notion that emancipation is a political process, based on freeing people from life-determining conditions and creating internal emancipatory change through immanent critique, is pertinent to the critique of R2P. However, the invocation of security inevitably installs a binary relation of ‘victim and oppressor’, which can serve to privilege the intervention of an ‘emancipatory’ external entity (Nunes, 2010: 39). The reduction of the politics of emancipation to the strategic interaction between ‘victims’, ‘oppressors’ and ‘emancipators’ is problematic, in that it fails to comprehensively deal with conflicting and contradictory claims of ‘victimhood’. Thus, when exploring dominant discourses of ‘emancipatory’ intervention by external actors, it is imperative to question the political character of such discourses as dependent upon the subject being emancipated and the political character of the subject of security. These are in turn informed by security understandings and practices as well as ideas about the political realm (Nunes, 2010: 40).

The normative potential of emancipation can only be realised once the interconnection between security, politics and subjectivity is taken into account. Building upon Booth’s notion of emancipation-as-security, it is vital to question the political connection between the concept of emancipation and the theory and practice of security. To locate the incompatibility between R2P-as-emancipation and the construction of a new political vocabulary of resistance, which politicises and gives agency to marginalised actors and discourses—there is a need to identify the social and political relations in which human security is embedded as a vehicle for emancipation. Hence, the concept of human security as manifested in the R2P—serves to dichotomise violence as legitimate and illegitimate and the objects of security as ‘victims’ and ‘oppressors’. This divides the life of species between life worth living and life to be curtailed (Foucault, 2004). Security practices must therefore be exposed as securing and dividing categories of human life, thus preparing them for elimination, disciplining or transformation to Western modes of governance (C.A.S.E Collective II: 8).

The UN’s current paradigm of human security, focusing on the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ individuals from political violence emanating from state failure, is constructed as a comprehensive answer to a lack of emancipation. However, we must problematise those practices of freedom and emancipation which are entangled in the logic and practices of security, in ways that produce and legitimise inequalities, exclusions and hierarchies (C.A.S.E Collective II: 8). Hence, there is serious suspicion about whether the political potential of emancipation can ever be realised within a framework of security (Aradau, 2008; Neocleous, 2008). To locate the mutual exclusivity between R2P-as-emancipation, which prioritises the removal of contingent oppressive practices (ending war) (Roberts, 2010) and an emancipatory project which deals directly with the politics of peace, resistance and the dynamic connection between freedom and power—this chapter will end by emphasising that the prioritisation of security as a positive condition, leads to a failure to perceive the ‘political effects of security’ (Columba Peoples, 2011: 8). This is due to security’s intrinsic focus on ‘survival’, emergency and the politics of exception.

As Aradau (2008) contends, the invocation of security is frequently accompanied by repressive and exclusionary practices associated with ‘militarisation’, ‘securitisation’ and statist discourses. Accordingly, the coupling of emancipation and security is problematic, since ‘repressive security’ can be invoked to suppress emancipatory change, often by violent means (Columba Peoples, 2011: 13). Emancipation in this sense must be de-coupled from the logic of security, which is underpinned by techniques of power that cast some beings as capable of voice, action, responsibility and presence; and others in terms of victimhood, helplessness, charity and absence (C.A.S.E Collective II: 8).

This chapter has sought to demonstrate the ontological incommensurability of prevailing notions of R2P and different conceptions of emancipation, with a focus on Booth and the empowerment of individual agency. Booth’s conception of emancipation-as-security has exposed the human security of R2P as global-business-as-usual, which finds ways of perpetuating inequality and insecurity by maintaining the existing international order. Moving with and beyond Booth’s conclusions, this chapter contends that the incompatibility between R2P and emancipation is symptomatic of the mutual exclusivity between security and the political potential of emancipation—to empower heterogeneous forms of individual agency. Thus, the securitisation of failing states empowers powerful states to tighten their grip on ‘global civil society’ and restrict potentially threatening human freedoms. This serves to entrench international humanitarian discourse within the conservative framework of preventative risk management.

 3         The Asserted Relationship Between the R2P Doctrine and Emancipation

In seeking to expose the mutual exclusivity between emancipation and the practice of R2P within an international system of governance dominated by Western states, this chapter will locate R2P within the politics and discursive complexes of ‘new humanitarianism’. This will constitute a deconstruction of the asserted relationship between emancipation and R2P, through the interrogation of the epistemological violence of ‘new humanitarianism’, as it is manifested in the theory and praxis of the R2P. The radicalisation of R2P within frameworks of emancipatory potential is connected to the so called progressive and cosmopolitical ethics of ‘new humanitarianism’. To speak of a ‘new humanitarian’ regime is not to deny its continuities with a traditional form, but to locate the R2P within the context of major shifts in the legitimation, discourses and practices of humanitarianism (Branch, 2007: 356). Hence, the practice of R2P is constituted by and constitutive of a more intensive and extensive disciplinary regime of humanitarianism (Branch, 2007: 366).

R2P has been constructed as a radical progression from traditional humanitarian intervention, which privileged the rights of the powerful intervener and normalised recipient individuals as helpless victims. The perceived shift from traditional to ‘new humanitarianism’, or, more pertinently, ‘rights-based humanitarianism’, is ethically and politically significant. The phrase ‘new humanitarianism’ is most associated with Fiona Fox (2001), who defines traditional humanitarianism as a project of apolitical, neutral humanitarian relief—which carries the minimalist purpose of saving lives. Conversely, ‘new humanitarianism’ is a politically conscious discourse, which can assess the present and future impacts of humanitarian interventions (Branch, 2007: 359) on the basis of the political dynamics of conflict. Thus, ‘new humanitarianism’ moves the frame of debate from the terrain of impartial relief, to the realms of morality and human rights. Advocates such as the UN and MSF, contend that this politically conscious re-conceptualisation, demands that interventions be judged on how they contribute to the promotion of human rights and the securing of peace and justice (Fox, 2001: 278). From this perspective, humanitarian principles are being brought into line with the new cosmopolitan world order, underpinned by “a shared responsibility to promote international peace and security by advancing human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere” (UN, 2005: 3).

A key assertion will be that ‘new humanitarianism’ is the dominant lens through which international institutions are attempting to reconceptualise conflict, security, development and North-South relations (Donini, 2010), as part of a neo-liberal peacebuilding frame. Hence, the UN’s adoption of R2P in 2005 represents an attempt by the ‘international community’ to find a collective way of ending political violence in the long term as well as alleviating suffering in the short term. Drawing upon the ‘new wars’ (Kaldor, 1999) discourse and the normative cosmopolitanism of human security, the institutionalisation of the R2P doctrine represents the eminence of a new type of humanitarian intervention, one which conceives of political violence and insecurity in terms of atrocities committed by a criminal predator, against innocent ‘victims’ (Branch 2007: 357).

Such a conceptualisation of violence demands the humanitarian practice of ‘peace enforcement’, which includes military intervention, international criminal prosecution (Branch, 2007: 357) and highly intrusive modes of capacity-building. As the central facet of R2P, ‘peace enforcement’ is directly related to the emerging discourse of ‘complex humanitarian emergencies’. That is, conflict-related humanitarian disasters involving a high degree of breakdown and social dislocation, characterised by a destructive melange of state failure, refugee flight, militias, and populations at risk of violence, disease and hunger (Barnett, 2005: 726). In striving towards solutions to these emergencies, the R2P discourse precipitated a fundamental change in the normative and legal environment. This shift rendered sovereignty contingent upon states upholding their responsibility to protect their citizenry and willingness to (re) construct certain tenets of Western Liberalism—such as the rule of law, capitalist markets and democratic institutions.

Within this ‘new’ normative environment, a wider range of humanitarian interventions are envisaged under the banners of human-rights, conflict resolution and peace. Hence, the asserted relationship between R2P and emancipation lies in the discursive position of political ‘solidarity’ with those most in need of protection and assistance (ICISS, 2001: 15). The R2P discourse locates its’ politics not in particular struggles (neo-colonial, anti-imperialist), but rather in a new universal: human rights (Branch, 2007: 360). The humanitarian transformation (Barnett, 2005) represented by the R2P, shares common elements with the flourishing human rights agenda, namely, the language of empowerment in attempting to help the ‘victims’ of political violence and the rejection of destructive state power (Barnett, 2005: 727).

Within this neo-interventionist moment—whereby the ‘international community’ has a fundamental responsibility to uphold the cosmopolitan human rights of the oppressed—the R2P has re-legitimised warfare as an act of humanitarianism and the prerogative of progressive politics (Dexter, 2007: 1056-1057). This chapter seeks to render the asserted relationship between emancipation and R2P problematic, by firstly interrogating the emancipatory potential of ‘new humanitarianism’ and then by critiquing the posited ‘other-regarding’ ethics of R2P.

 3.1      The Emancipatory Potential of ‘New Humanitarianism’

a) Power and Representation in the ‘New Humanitarian’ Order

In a system Gowan (2003: 52) refers to as ‘Liberal Cosmopolitanism’, sovereignty is reconceived as a partial licence granted by the ‘international community’. This can be selectively withdrawn should fragile non-Western states fail to meet the domestic or foreign standards laid down by the requirements of Liberal governance. That is, the betterment and protection of the essential processes of life associated with population, economy and society (Duffield, 2008: 145). Invigorated by the human rights regime, the R2P has created a ‘geography of power’, a core and a periphery within the ‘international’ defined not just by economic and military power, but by moral clout (Dexter, 2007: 1057). This cultural, legal and moral borderlessness of responsibility favours the emergence of a cosmopolitan monopoly of morality, humanitarianism and the legitimate use of force in the West (Beck, 2005: 15).

Whilst the biopolitical doctrine of R2P discursively prioritises the rights of individuals and a solidarist world society rather than states, it privileges the state as fundamental for providing the public goods that constitute human security (Duffield and Waddell, 2006). Such privileging of the state renders the asserted dichotomy between state and human security false. Thus, the humanitarian logic of R2P makes a distinction between effective and ineffective states in terms of how life itself is supported and secured (Duffield, 2008: 149). This binary construction has allowed powerful Western states and the UN to render illegitimate and to securitise violent state practices in ineffective states—through the representation of ‘new wars’ in the global south as criminal and barbaric human rights abuses (Kaldor, 1999). By criminalising internal wars in this way, international theorists and powerful policymakers reinforce the morality and legitimacy of Western interventionism. Thus, non-Western intra-state wars are perceived as crimes that can be judged and righted in terms of human rights norms—rather than political conflicts to mediated (Chandler 2006: 485).

Moreover, in the context of what the UN defines as complex humanitarian emergencies—characterised by radically contingent political violence (Dillon, 2007: 19)—the R2P demands an extraordinary action in order to emancipate individual and group ‘victims’ from violent and exclusionary state practices. When the ‘international community’ perceives military action to be the most appropriate way of emancipating ‘innocent civilians’ from complex humanitarian emergencies—the question that must be asked of this ‘militarised humanitarian order’ is: whether the use of military force by one state/coalition of states is commensurate with the emancipatory ends of R2P, to curtail the excesses of political violence by another state, particularly when the monopoly of organised violence is central to our conception of ‘the state’ as a political unit and the state-centric international security order?

The rhetoric of R2P implies that war and peace are no longer antonyms and that the destructive power of a state can be transformed/regulated/disciplined through militarised human rights interventions. Hence, the R2P doctrine is representative of a Liberal problematic of security, which claims that human rights emancipate (Souter, 2008: 142). In the context of peace enforcement operations—military interventions carried out in the name of protecting and promoting human rights—fundamentally work as a challenge to, rather than as a form of power (Souter, 2008: 142). As Ignatieff (2001: 57) has contended, human rights interventions function to secure agency or ‘negative liberty’, which he understands as freedom from interference. This conservative conception of agency represents partial emancipation—inasmuch as, it tacitly contrasts power with freedom suggesting that when one is subject to power, one’s freedom is negated (Souter, 2008: 142).

Moreover, R2P implies that emancipation from state violence through international military action against predatory states, stands in opposition to totalitarian sovereign power. This problematically admits the possibility of being positioned outside of power relations, since negative liberty consists of freedom from interference by ‘others’ power (Souter, 2008: 143). Such a ‘juridical notion of power’ (Foucault, 1990: 86) demonstrates the inadequacy of the R2P’s rights-based humanitarian epistemology and reveals the partialness of the R2P’s emancipatory framework. Hence, genuinely emancipatory projects place relations of power and power suborning and transforming strategies at their heart. The depoliticising assertion of congruence between R2P and emancipation must be deconstructed, as the R2P renders an analysis of power’s concrete operations impossible (Foucault, 2003: 265). Regardless of the philanthropic motivations of those involved in R2P interventions, humanitarianism in its Northern and Western incarnations is increasingly consubstantial with and functional to processes of economic, social and cultural globalisation and most pertinently, to world ordering and securitising agendas (Donini, 2010: 224).

Variegated humanitarian enterprises underpinned by the Liberal meta-narrative of R2P—have become part of global governance (Kennedy, 2004). A phenomenon Duffield (2005) has likened to the era of ‘native administration’, which allowed a partial level of autonomy to local administrative structures, within the colonial framework. Underpinned by the discourse of humanitarian emergency, characterised by the collapse of state institutions, with resulting paralysis of governance, breakdown in law and order and general chaotic violence against civilians, the R2P represents the “unusual violence and cruelty” of new wars as endemic to the underdeveloped/uninsured world (Gurd, 2007: 30). This strategically divorces such emergencies from Northern/Western practices and structures. Hence, in an interconnected world, where “development, peace and security are interlinked and mutually reinforcing” (UN, 2005: 2), such chaos in the borderlands threatens the established Liberal order and allows Western security discourses to draw boundaries between the peaceful insured/inside and the violent uninsured/outside. Such binaries assume that the inside is superior and the outside inconsequential (Gurd, 2007: 30).

It is essential to problematise such dichotomies, as they fail to recognise that the powerful inside is constitutionally defined and created in relation to the weak and threatening outside, which is thus of necessity and certainly consequential (Derrida, 1992). This symbiotic relationship works to represent the West as the guarantors of progressive values such as security, freedom and peace and, in opposition to the developing world as a symbol of poverty, violence and helplessness (Gurd, 2007: 30). Correspondingly, the humanitarian narrative of R2P, constructs the identity of those in the ‘international community’ as responsible and heroic saviours of either powerless ‘victims’ or irrational barbarians in the South. These neo-colonial constructions justify the externalisation of the responsibility for judging state legitimacy—since it presumes the total failure of democratic political agency in the recipient state (Branch, 2011: 109).

b) Political Agency and Resistance

The discourse of sovereignty as responsibility eliminates the need or even possibility for democratic organisation and active resistance, in favour of international intervention to ensure the effective functioning of the state’s administrative apparatus (Branch, 2007: 514). The R2P is a technology of the Western-dominated ‘international security agenda’, which in times of grave threat, collapses the political agency of its recipients into the universal moral category of human rights. This can destroy the potential of an autonomous political voice of citizens (Sutzl, 2010) and with it, the political potential of emancipatory change. In cases of massive human rights violations, the depoliticising rhetoric of R2P renders the victims too oppressed for political agency—too downtrodden to hold their governments to account (Branch, 2011).

However, the potential ‘victims’ of massive human rights abuses are never simply depoliticised and weak objects and causes. Rather, as agents and subjects of their own emancipation, ‘victims’ often constitute pugnacious civil societies involved in resistance, civil disobedience and political struggles against oppression (Megret, 2008: 580). Such indigenous processes can be located in contemporary Syria, where recently tens and thousands of people took to the streets of Homs and occupied Clock Tower Square. The protestors declared their intention to stay, with the whole world watching, chanting ‘it’s a sit-in; it’s a sit-in, until the government’ falls (Keane, 2011). The Syrian upheavals are transforming political contestation and public space, in a way which rejects sovereign power and constructs public spaces as sites of refusal of the whole idea of concentrated violent power.

These non-violent civil insurrections function as reminders that the power of the powerful, rests upon the consent of the powerless and are forcing the Syrian regime to compete with a civic movement for popular representation and people-centric legitimacy (Barthkowski & Bellal, 2011). Hence, indigenous processes of resistant agency have the potential to effectively ‘emancipate’ those at the sharp end of genocide, in ways that orchestrate political struggle, impose accountability and prevent mass killing. However, by constructing victimhood as simply part of a salvation/humanitarian model, the R2P doctrine casts the ‘international community’ as the legitimate executor of political power, through emancipatory intervention into illegitimate states.

The assertion of emancipation made by the R2P in bringing failing states into a partnership of human rights protection is ‘false’. Hence, the R2P’s vision of an administrative security state that privileges efficacy in population management, control, regulation and order over democratic accountability—is symptomatic of the intrinsic logic of Liberal securitisation. Such logic locates an isolated vulnerable individual shorn of any political and social context, within a set of social relations defined as pathological or imbued with potential conflict (Mccormack, 2008: 85). Securitising failed states in this way, inverses existing power relationships in international politics, whereby the powerful are threatened by the unstable weak. This inversion does not address pathological social relations via a radical challenge to international order and the empowerment of marginalised agency (Mccormack, 2008: 86), but rather functions as a conservative emancipatory framework, serving the security needs of Western citizenry and existing order.

Hence, by imagining depoliticised conflict as a metaphor for society as a whole (Mccormack, 2008: 85), the violent epistemology of R2P permits democratic movements, resistance movements and state formation in recipient zones, only insofar as they serve the purpose of managing and suppressing internal conflicts, in conjunction with external support (Branch, 2011: 113). Moreover, the R2P-inspired humanitarian order, reconstructs/re-securitises political agency and citizen rights in the particular modalities of neo-liberal interventionism. In claiming to stand for the rights of the ‘victim’, the R2P reduces human rights to residual rights.

The rights of the human aren’t in this sense political—they pertain to sheer survival. They are about protection and security (Mamdini, 2009: 275). Thus, the R2P doctrine seems antithetical to the emancipation of its recipients from destructive forms of power, since such recipients aren’t bearers of rights, but the passive beneficiaries of an external, state-based security, restricted from becoming agents in their own emancipation (Mamdini, 2009: 275). That is not to say that externally-driven action cannot ever qualify as emancipatory. Rather, since emancipatory agency depends on the capacity and ability to change one’s own society, international action must always seek to empower ‘local’ agencies, engage with heterogeneity and help facilitate a radical democratic space—comprising a departure from both state sovereignty and primary accountability to the ‘international’, towards popular sovereignty.

Hence, the depoliticising, post-interventionary language of R2P, is not an antidote to international power relations, but its’ latest vehicle. Responding to the crisis of containment and finding an antidote to the malpractices of underdeveloped/post-colonial states—in order to secure non-insured life and the Liberal order—the R2P doctrine has located the ‘underdeveloped Other’ at the apex of development policy (Duffield, 2008).

3.2      An ‘Other-regarding Ethic’?

a) Human Security and the ‘Other’

Advocates of human security contend that the state-centric pluralist security framework—with its formal commitment to non-intervention, sovereign immunity and state security—is anachronistic in the face of a myriad of new security challenges (Simpson, 2004: 231). Accordingly, the traditional security framework ignores the fact that for the vast majority of the world’s humanity, the real threats are not from military invasion from neighbouring states, but are from “hunger, crime, disease, political repression and environmental hazards” (UN, 1994: 22). Hence, ethical concerns about the freedom and emancipation of the individual are at the heart of the human security framework, which purports to challenge contemporary power structures and claims the potential to give voice and power to the most vulnerable and powerless communities (Macfarlane, 2004: 368). Whether the issue of concern is post 9/11 security threats or the pursuit of poverty and development agendas, the policies forwarded tend to focus on mechanisms of capacity-building and social empowerment, targeted at non-Western states and societies (Chandler, 2006: 161-162).

The rise of human security and R2P stem from the perception of a growing humanism within international relations (Duffield, 2007: 113), which has forced the needs of the non-Western ‘Other’ to centre stage. Today, the language of ‘interests’ has been superseded by that of ‘Other-regarding ethics’, which appears to have taken the politics of power and interests out of North-South relations and foreign policy (Chandler, 2006: 162). Within the discourse of R2P, the ‘Other’ has been transformed and is increasingly represented as both the agent and object of foreign policy (Chandler, 2006). Even where the language of threats is used, the threat is not a traditional one, but is framed in the context of unmet needs: the threat stemming from the weakness and incapacity of the ‘Other’ (see Abrahamsen, 2005). Moreover, the institutionalisation of the doctrine represents an attempt by the UN to embed R2P in a broader concept of security—one based on the responsibilities and capacities of the weak and failing state, to prevent catastrophic internal wrongs (UN, 2004: 66)

Through the language of partnership inherent within such concepts as capacity-building (R2P), ‘pro-poor policy-making’ and ‘African leadership’—agency and responsibility are located increasingly in the ‘Other’—non-Western states and societies (Chandler, 2006: 164). Simultaneously, the power of Western states and international institutions is understated within the discourse of post-imperialism, where state interests are amalgamated with a moral Cosmopolitanism. This conception of post-imperialism is value-led, answering the calls from a ‘global civil society’ to uphold the cosmopolitan human rights of the oppressed (Dexter, 2008: 1057). In this context of evasion of Western power, Western states and international institutions have adopted postmodern ethics, in their claims to be acting on the basis of their ‘responsibilities to the other’ (Der Derian, 1995). Responding to concerns that the humanitarian interventions of the nineties were not ethical enough, the ICISS’s R2P called for greater emphasis on the ‘responsibility to prevent’ and the ‘responsibility to rebuild’ (ICISS, 2001), thus supporting fragile states prior to collapse and civil conflict.

Turning to the Levinas idea that ethics preceded politics—in the formulation of putting responsibilities to the ‘Other’ prior to the freedom of the ‘Self’—the R2P universalises the object of need (Chandler, 2006: 167). Here we encounter the appearance of a global agenda based on the needs of ‘common humanity’, whereby the self-interested concerns of security and the ‘Other-regarding’ concerns of development have merged (Chandler, 2006: 168). In terms of the emancipatory potential of R2P, the centralisation of the needs of the generalised ‘Other’ seems congruent with Booth’s view that uncovering the realities of (in) security, entails locating human rights abuses and the oppression of minorities (Booth, 2004: 7). However, tied to the logic of securitisation, the R2P doctrine re-inscribes the ethical needs of the powerless/threatening ‘Other’ of genocidal state fragility, within the logic of urgency and exceptionalism. Thus, when a ‘state of emergency’ is imposed; hierarchical order, the reduction of dialogue/deliberation and the elimination of ambivalence become the supreme laws (Sutzl, 2010: 413-414).

b) Neo-liberal Capacity-building and the De-politicisation of the ‘Other’

The state of war, or emergency, or in the context of R2P, a violent moment of state fragility requiring international assistance—usually involves the suspension of democratic structures within the recipient state, in favour of a full identification with the foundational subject (Sutzl, 2010: 414). For advocates and practitioners, the R2P’s foundational subject is the human rights of the subjected ‘Other’. Pertinently, the powerful subject of R2P, namely, the incapacitated ‘Other’—requires a violent horizon (Sutzl, 2010: 415). Moreover, the securitisation of the homogenised ‘Other’ relies on a process of reduction—whereby the very being of the ‘Other’ can be manipulated, measured, substituted, dominated and ordered (Sutzl, 2010: 415) within the universality of security. This ethical reduction of the ‘Other’ within the R2P’s strategy of securing ‘victims’ of political violence, reveals the R2P’s limited emancipatory potential. Hence, the R2P has emerged from the violence of Western security practices, which buttress institutional arrangements and legitimise forms of domination and exclusion (Aradau, 2008: 72).

The R2P’s valorisation of life as survival suspends questions about how not to be governed and allows the subjected ‘Other’ to be captured by the biopolitical practices of human security. This closes down struggles about the kind of life that people can live (Aradau, 2008: 73) and neutralises the political subjectivity of the generalised ‘Other’. This neutralisation has allowed the R2P’s ‘new humanitarianism’ to initiate a political and discursive shift—from the protection of the ‘victim other’ from imminent and mass death at the hands of the dangerous, unknowable ‘other’, to the imposition of a new cartography of anti-genocidal social relations. At which point, R2P’s solidarist first step is subsumed by the neo-liberal capacity-building juggernaut.

Justified in terms of Western involvement in the reclaiming of sovereign voids and state reconstruction, the hegemonic neo-liberal peace agenda is about disciplining the abnormal practices of the dangerous ‘other’ and imposing supposed anti-genocidal relations through conditionality and effective transnational governance regimes, controlled by Liberal states, organisations, NGO’s, donors and IFI’s (Richmond, 2005: 306). This model of peacebuilding serves to create a conservative gradation of peace (Richmond, 2005), which privileges security instrumentalism and the containment of underdevelopment (Duffield, 2007: 129), rather than empowering the agency of  those being oppressed and slaughtered by dictators, those abject ‘victims’ of violent state failure (Aradau, 2008: 80).

The ethical discourses of R2P reconfigures security in such a way as to render the fundamental dimension of both global and local politics as the consensual empowerment of the human ‘Other’ (Neocleous, 2010: 186). This reconfiguration—which legitimises power and external regulation/intervention on the basis of the needs of the ‘Other’ and reinforces the instrumentality of security (Neocleous, 2010: 187)—is mutual exclusive from politically conscious emancipation. Hence, the radical transformation of exclusionary and oppressive state practices and the empowerment of the marginalised, only becomes manifest through the empowerment of their resistance, political struggles and their claim to politics that was a formulation of the injustice to which they had been subjected (Aradau, 2008: 80). The task of R2P-generated international peacebuilding therefore, must be to engage with the heterogeneity of indigenous processes of resistance and contribute to the construction of new hybridised sites and subjectivities of contestation. Constructing a more equitable nexus between the ‘international’ and the ‘local’ could be legitimately emancipatory, if it empowered the latter to struggle for civil and political transformation on their own terms.

4         The Legitimacies and Illegitimacies of the R2P Doctrine

The shift in emphasis from the traditional definition of ‘sovereignty as control’ to the contemporary concept of ‘sovereignty as responsibility’ is of direct relevance to current peacebuilding theory and praxis (Liden, 2006: 29). The contemporary institutionalisation of peace enforcement operations has embedded R2P in a broader context of human security and state fragility. This move has sought to consolidate peacebuilding through the incorporation of moderate criticism and strategic policy realignment, reflecting the rise of statebuilding discourses (Heathershaw, 2008: 613). The R2P doctrine blends a humanitarian civil society perspective with that of statebuilding, under a rubric based on the prevention of ‘large scale loss of life’ and ‘large scale ethnic cleansing’. The nexus between dominant discourses of peacebuilding and R2P is based upon their convergence on the prevention and reconstruction components of external action. Like post-interventionary peacebuilding, the R2P illuminates political questions concerning the legitimacy of building peace through liberalisation in non-liberal/Western countries.

Adapting the principles of Augustinian just war as the basis for military intervention, the R2P represents a merging of justice and order and is emblematic of the practices of incorporation in peacebuilding’s discursive environ (Heathershaw, 2008: 614). Drawing fundamentally from R2P, The Report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility (UN, 2004)—maintains the ideal of the universal space of the ‘International Community’, where a universal model of state sovereignty must be adhered to in order to preclude international intervention. By emphasising that the ‘International community’s’ “spanning continuum of responsibility involving prevention, responding to violence and rebuilding shattered societies, must primarily focus on the cessation of violence through mediation and other tools of capacity-building” (UN, 2004: 66)—the report reveals itself to be a highly interventionist meta-discourse of peacebuilding.  Hence, the report privileges both the human security of the individual above the sovereignty of the state and the building of judicial sovereignty from without, in the case of ‘failed states’ (Heathershaw, 2008: 614).

Consequently, the legitimacy of the concept of R2P as it is manifested in the meta-discourses of neo-liberal peacebuilding—resides in its construction as the very antithesis of ‘supporting the status quo’. R2P discourses are constructed as normative approaches to intervention based on peace, which ostensibly demands fundamental institutional changes in conflict and post-conflict spaces (Heathershaw, 2008: 603). Such institutional changes are constructed as essential and legitimate, since the major root cause of contemporary conflict is often linked to the emergence of so called failed states, or weak political communities (Champagne, 2005: 5). In the vernacular of R2P, it is the failure of statehood—“a state’s powerlessness or unwillingness to prevent catastrophic internal wrongs” (UN, 2004: 66)—which justifies intervention. Thus, the ‘international community’ legitimately takes over the responsibility of and seeks to transform the abnormal failed state, which is unable to guarantee the human rights or basic human needs of its citizens, in a context of war, violence and insecurity (Champagne, 2005: 6).

This chapter seeks to interrogate the legitimacy of the R2P as a genuinely emancipatory project, in terms of how it conceptualises peace. By asking what is emancipatory peace, who carries it out as its agents, who understands it and transfers it and what impact this has upon the recipient’s identities and political agencies—this chapter aims to problematise the political legitimacy of the R2P, by engaging with alternative conceptualisations of legitimacy, peace and political agency. The R2P’s focus on peace as the antonym of war is emblematic of how the dominant discourse of the Liberal peace, has been allowed to represent an objective and universal peace. This taken-for-granted peace is divorced from the reality of the long evolution of both the concept and the methods used in its construction, stemming from a particular set of experiences, interests, perspectives and epistemologies (Richmond, 2007: 248).

Submerged within debates about war, conflict and Western intervention—making peace in the international system has mainly been conceptualised as a Western activity derived from wars(s), grand peace conferences, and most pertinently, the sophisticated institutionalisation of key norms and governance processes, associated with the Liberal peace (Richmond, 2007: 249). Liberal peace practitioners, theorists and policy makers assume that peace has an ontological stability, thus enabling it to focus on and reaffirm dominant units such as states and concepts such as territorial sovereignty. Enshrined within ‘Reform Liberalism’, the Liberal peace assumes that emancipation—defined in Liberal terms as a pre-requisite for peace—can only be realised according to a certain epistemology underpinned by democratisation, the rule of law, human rights and neoliberal development (Richmond, 2005: 292).

The assumed universality and stability of the Liberal peace legitimates the interventionary thrust of UN doctrines such as R2P and the superiority of the epistemic peacebuilding community over its recipients. These recipients require state-based intervention to correct violent political, social and economic abnormalities, symptomatic of state collapse (Richmond, 2005: 306). This chapter begins by locating the theory and practice of R2P within the dominant discourses of the Liberal Peace, problematising its construction as a legitimately emancipatory response to violent conflict. Secondly, it will look beyond ‘Northern epistemologies of peace, in order to locate more legitimate and less hegemonic processes of resistance to violent state failure.

4.1      The Liberal Peace: A Legitimate and Emancipatory Response to Violent Conflict and State Weakness?

a) Liberal Dichotomy of States

To locate the mutual exclusivity between emancipatory political struggle against the hegemonic imposition of rigid structures of identity/difference/agency and the practice of R2P by states—one must look to the discourse(s) of human security that embodies a distinction between effective and ineffective states. Within the transformed normative environment of the post-Cold War world, where international relations are characterised in part by the inequality of states, international intervention and contingent sovereignty (Pupavac, 2001), human security overlaps and interconnects with ideas of state failure/collapse (Maass and Mepham, 2004). This Liberal dichotomy of states, which re-inscribes peace and security within the juridico-political architecture of the territorial nation state (Duffield, 2007: 122), is fundamental to the doctrine of R2P. Hence, in an interconnected and globalised world, in which peace and security depends on a framework of stable sovereign entities—the existence of failed that harbour dangers or maintain order by means of gross human rights violations—constitutes a risk to everyone (Duffield, 2007: 122).

The legitimation of a post-interventionary human security state connects the Liberal peace to the R2P doctrine, since it involves the instrumental prioritisation of risk management through opportunistic violent intervention against instability-inducing illiberal sovereigns. The R2P in this sense, represents ‘false emancipation’ (Booth, 2007), as it is constructed as emancipation of Western citizenry, from the pervasive security risks of globalisation’s unruly borderlands, through the management of “threats to international peace and security” (UN, 2004: 66). Thus, whilst the R2P can only imagine a peaceful international system based on the cooperation of so called effective states, the orthodoxy of the Liberal peace—underpinned by ‘Democratic peace theory’—emphasises that only relations between Liberal democracies manifest peaceful intent and restraint (Shinko, 2008: 481). Fortified by Kant’s contention that Liberal states share a republican constitution, which has ‘solved the problem of combining moral autonomy, individualism and social order, the Liberal peace theses postulates that Liberal states accord one another the presumption of amity and moral equivalence (Shinko, 2008: 481). But those attributes they recognise in one another, such as constitutional democracy, fulfilment of human rights and civil society, which establish the grounds for their peaceful unions, demarcate zones of enmity with non-liberal others (Shinko, 2008: 481).

This Liberal demarcation of non-liberal ‘others’ is emblematic of a common pattern within mainstream theories and practices of international relations, which depends upon the identification of threats and a non-liberal ‘Other’. Here we see the pertinence of Rasmussen’s (2003: 13) contention that the Liberal peace represents a ‘negative epistemology of peace’. Hence, the dichotomisation of the Liberal and non-liberal worlds is an act of epistemic violence, which paradoxically constructs the non-liberal ‘other’ as both an innocent ‘victim’ and as a barbaric, conquest seeking entity which disdains peace, is unreasonable, unpredictable and intolerant. By self-referentially framing the Liberal ‘Self’ within a framework of legitimacy, moral worth and justice—in relation to the non-liberal ‘other’—the Liberal peace reveals its predilection to disciplinarity and the hegemonic scripting of political order (Shinko, 2008: 481-482). The R2P must be understood as a Liberal approach to making peace, which legitimates the use of military force and coercive forms of statebuilding outside of the ‘Liberal heartland’, in order to advance its own project of neoliberal democratic ordering. Such an approach is based on the universally prescriptive idea that peace can and should be made through a state-induced process of disciplining and normalising recalcitrants (Shinko, 2008: 482).

b) Liberal Governmentality and the ‘Global Matrix of War’

The R2P is discursively constructed as a cosmopolitan project geared towards shifting the emphasis of intervention away from sovereign right to human right and directing power at the shaping and reshaping of non-liberal populations. Hence, the R2P must be understood as part of a ‘global matrix of war’, including military force, policing and statebuilding (Jabri, 2010: 52). Within this complex array of discourses and practices, the ‘political’ is banished in the name of governmentalising praxis (Jabri, 2010: 52). Consequently, the legitimacy of political action and the use of military violence for the protection of both the state and humans and the attainment of peace are related to the collapsing of distinctions between the inside/outside, war/peace and war/security. Hence, the practice of R2P by states is a biopolitical and/or military enforcement of the Liberal peace. As such, it rests upon the premise that the only legitimate form of governmentality able to secure humans from violent political structures, is the Liberal state (Chandler, 2004).

In Foucauldian terms, R2P’s quest to unmask political violence around the world is laudable and essential, because it is only by making the operation of power visible that we can strategise about how to transform it (Shinko, 2008: 485). This view chimes well with Booth’s conception of emancipation. Hence, he describes a process where participants in a system which determines, distorts and limits their potentialities—come together actively to transform it and in the process, transform themselves (Booth, 2005). However, in the context of an external Liberal peace-based intervention, R2P rests on a hierarchical conception of subjectivity—whereby the Liberal self, representative of a cosmopolitan reach, is in the possession of ultimate agency and has the capacity to protect and transform violent power relations (Jabri, 2010: 52). This hierarchical conception of subjectivity necessarily entails relations of power which politicise certain forms of violence and depoliticises others.

Thus, as Dillon (2009) suggests, R2P’s invocation of security entailing for example, the criminalisation of Qadaffi’s state violence and hence its de-politicisation—should not be romanticised as being aimed solely at the limiting of state violence. Rather, it must be understood as the constitution of a particular mode of subjectivity, defined in terms of the legitimate use of force and policing on the one hand and criminality and barbarity on the other (Jabri, 2007: 101-102). The state of security and the use of force legitimised by R2P states are highly political and hegemonic. Such external actors conceptualise security in a way that does not transcend the state, but relates human security to Liberal governmentality in order to protect individuals from quantifiable and objectified threats.

Within this Liberal peace project, involving the governmentalisation of post-colonial states, dominant Liberal states take political decisions to protect an externally defined group by certain means. Hence, the internationalised doctrine of R2P is a pertinent aspect of a meta-Liberal peacebuilding agenda, which privileges states, elites, international actors, security issues, Liberal institutions and norms and legal regulation. Such privilege limits the R2P’s emancipatory potential, because it subverts politically deliberative processes, in which recipients are able to articulate whether they want to be freed from the externally specified threat(s) and how this would take place.

Defining an emancipatory conceptualisation of the human subject, as a culturally and politically constructed entity belonging to diverse forms of community (Bauman, 2003), capable of controlling their own security—one must reflect on the legitimacy of the Liberal, Western-centric character of contemporary peace and security governance (Acharya, 2000). Reaffirming territorial sovereignty, hierarchical epistemologies and the sovereign limits of modernisation, the Liberal character of R2P reduces the human subject to an individual whose security is to be protected by the state, itself reduced by the ‘international community’ to the governmental logic of advanced Liberalism. The R2P then is an internationalised discourse which over-securitises the biopolitical category of the ‘local’—thus failing to engage sufficiently with everyday life and the empowerment of indigenous agency in emancipatory emergencies (Richmond, 2010: 466).

By locating R2P situations in the context of “the powerlessness/unwillingness of individual states to prevent catastrophic internal wrongs” (UN, 2004: 66)—rather than in an international, economic, social and political context (Chandler, 2010: 35)—the UN imagines a framework of therapy underpinned by Liberal Institutionalism. Understood in these terms, the solution to ‘R2P situations’ is to be found in the inculcation of practices and norms of good governance—open markets, human rights, rule of law and democratic elections (Jabri, 2008: 124).  Reconstructing failing states in accordance with a Western Liberal model envisions “peace as governance” and attempts to construct an institutional framework free of tension and antagonism. From an emancipatory agonistic critique of Liberalism, “peace as governance” eliminates contestation on some of the most fundamental questions of politics, replacing politics with administration or ‘displacing politics’ (Honig, 1993).

Since democracy and the construction of peace and emancipation are fundamentally about the agency, autonomy and resistance of the subject, they are seemingly restricted by the narrow view of emancipatory governance proposed by the R2P and Liberal peace. Such a constricted view of emancipation conceives democracy as a system of rule, with technocratic, institutional, bureaucratic and statist tendencies (Richmond, 2008: 681). Hence, the legitimacy of the practice of R2P must be problematised in terms of the general constitutive incapacity of Liberal peacebuilding and Liberalism per se, to think in truly political terms (Mouffe, 2004: 124-125). Rather than opening political space for those at the margins of everyday life, the practice of R2P reinforces the hegemony of the existing Liberal order of states, by de-legitimising the subaltern in a framework of violence, poverty, illiberalism and destructive resistance (Richmond, 2008: 683).

This forestalls the capacity of the ‘local’/ ‘everyday’ to articulate political alternatives (Springer, 2011: 530). Illuminated by Heidegger and Foucault’s view of emancipatory agency as the freedom and the capacity to change oneself and one’s own society, milieu and political community (Self-determination), critical thinking on R2P must locate its’ illegitimacy in the failure to uncover the legitimate essence of emancipatory peace. That is, the ‘local’, everyday agencies, capable of translating, engaging, and contesting ‘the political’ (Richmond, 2008: 682).

The point is not to delegitimise all modes of international involvement in contexts of extreme insecurity and imminent mass death, but rather to contend that ‘legitimate’ forms of emancipation may be realised in forms of resistance, political struggle and civil society insurrections. Hence, international agency must imagine a paradigm beyond neo-liberal peacebuilding governmentality—one based on the empowerment of local political agency and the needs of everyday life (Richmond, 2007: 477). Only by postulating an unsecuritised language which engages with heterodoxy and reconceptualises the abstract ‘victim’ as a social and political being, can external/international involvement contribute genuinely to the emancipatory realisation of a civil society and agonistic social contract—capable of preventing mass political violence.

 4.2      Who’s Emancipation? Looking Beyond Northern Epistemologies

a) R2P and Democratic Legitimacy

By defining the protection of global citizens in the context of ensuring recipient states engender the capability to commit to the human rights of their citizenry—the R2P doctrine is characteristic of what Kane (2010: 598) has termed the ‘second moment of legitimacy’. Hence, the legitimacy and capacity of the state is evaluated in relation to its commitment to the “mutually reinforcing and interdependent practices of democracy, development and respect for human rights” (UN, 2005: 31). In casting rights-based democracy as central to state and international legitimacy, the R2P doctrine seeks to answer difficult questions regarding how to respond to non-democratic and therefore illegitimate states, which democracies must increasingly have economic and political intercourse with (Kane and Patman, 2010: 598).

The so called “enlightened interventions” (Ikenberry, 2009: 23) of R2P are seemingly prepared to look into the state, its institutions, rules and practices in order to deduce legitimacy and take a dynamic approach to politics, focusing on the transformation of nondemocratic states in a more democratic direction (Kane and Patman 2010: 598). Thus, R2P differentiates states on a basis that renders illegitimate all nondemocratic/illilberal states, which are not perceived to carry geo-political legitimacy and that are constructed as instability-inducing. This ontological dichotomy provides a blanket justification for changing nondemocratic instability-inducing states, for the sake of emancipating ‘victims’ from political violence and securing the Liberal order.

b) The ‘International’-‘Local’ Nexus

Where is the reflexivity in thinking and praxis—the recognition that this Liberal peace project is ideological in some of its aspects, and in particular, that it is neoliberal and connected with the control of foreign policy, global institutionalism, territorial sovereignty and security instrumentalism? This transferable conception of universal peace privileges the dominant voices, expectations and methods of the Liberal, thus obfuscating the voices of the pacified recipients of the Liberal peace (Liden et al, 2010: 593). Hence, one of the fundamental legitimacy problems of contemporary Liberalism as it is practised in peacebuilding, statebuilding and the R2P (not mutually exclusive), is how it relates to the ‘nonliberal other’. Can the Liberal technology of R2P engage in the context of peacebuilding and help transform politically violent state structures, without resorting to coercion, or prioritising territorial statehood, security or the market, in ways that subvert the appeal of some of its dimensions (such as human rights and emancipation from state violence) in favour of virtual states, technocratic solutions and virtual peace (Liden et al, 2010: 593)?

Within the ‘institutional security democracies’ imagined by the R2P, the ‘them’/’other’ that contrasts the responsible and protective ‘us’, cannot be viewed as respected political adversaries in non-agonistic models of democracy (Springer, 2010: 531). Rather than legitimate political adversaries;  potential champions of an anti-order which seeks to resist violent systems of rule—the depoliticised ‘them’/’other’ can only be defined as moral, economic and juridical enemies, or enemies of reason. Such definitions of enmity construct recipients of R2P as the agents of violence and barbarism and passive subjects on whom peace and civility can be inscribed (Liden et al, 2010: 593-594).

Thus, in its current guise, the R2P’s engagement with the ‘local’ has been unproductive and hegemonic. Therefore, whilst extending its moral responsibility over the abjected, ‘non-liberal other’, it mystifies the Liberal peace, thus concealing the unequal power relations that exist between international actors and the most marginalised in conflict-affected zones. Hence, the practice of R2P by powerful Western states can only ever be partially emancipatory, since it tends to ignore the politics of the ‘everyday’ that engenders agency and resistance, from which a ‘local-liberal’ nexus arises (Richmond, 2010: 683). An emancipatory agenda for peace engages with such heterogeneity and alternative, probably non-Western/non-modern ontologies and epistemologies as well as received international wisdom.

The peace imagined by the R2P is a totalising and reductionist praxis of freeing individuals from threatening state practices through neo-liberal capacity-building. This reductionism of peace excludes the marginalised ‘Other’ from potentially emancipatory public space where they can demand social justice (Springer, 2010: 528). Alternatively, peacebuilding narratives must recognise the transversal, transnational and translocal agencies expressed in the ‘everyday’, which resist, negotiate and accept aspects of the Liberal peace, thus creating politically hybrid subjects. Hence, an externally-driven, policy-driven R2P which depoliticises the recipients in a securitised and institutionalised framing of peace, democracy and agency, can only ever be partially emancipatory.

A genuinely radical emancipatory agenda must imagine the ‘victims’ of political violence outside of the logic of preventative risk management of globalisation’s unruly borderlands.  Such an approach would uncover the Liberal metaphysical narratives of security, peace, order and emancipation, through the critical lens of contextual legitimacy. This hermeneutic approach to building peace would seek to re-politicise the ‘everyday’ as a dynamic site of politics, thus enabling the relatively autonomous agency necessary for democracy, rights, needs, justice, cultural plurality and identity (Richmond, 2010: 688).

 5         R2P in Practice: The Question of Emancipatory Effects

The ontological and epistemological regressiveness of R2P is most visible in extreme cases, when manifested in the destructive materiality of military intervention. Hence, in order to get to the heart of the mutual exclusivity between the practice of R2P and emancipatory peacebuilding, this chapter will seek to elucidate the effects of the practice of R2P in the context of the Libyan intervention—which has involved the United States, France, Britain and other NATO countries attacking the sovereign state of Libya with cruise missiles, stealth bombers, fighter jets and attack jets (Cohn, 2011: 1). Ban Ki Moon justified the use of military force in Libya in terms of humanitarian responsibility. This echoed Gareth Evan’s disputable contention that the practice of R2P in Libya is “legally, morally, politically and militarily based on protecting the people” (Bajoria, 2011)—initially of Benghazi—from the brutal repression of Muammar Qadaffi.

Legitimated within the emancipatory language of R2P, the Libyan intervention is the most contemporary example of the trend towards an internationalised and militarised response to major complex humanitarian emergencies, framed by a focus on the ‘victims’ of political violence (Bellamy, 2011). Launched to protect Libyan civilians, the military campaign in Libya was ostensibly initiated to enforce the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The resolution begins with “the immediate establishment of a ceasefire” and reiterates “the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population and reaffirms that “parties to the armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians (UN, 2011: 2). Representing the internationalised and interventionist logic of R2P, Resolution 1973 further authorises UN member states “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas of Libya” (UN, 2011: 2).

The Security Council’s response to the crisis in Libya is emblematic of the increasing willingness to authorise coalitions and peace enforcement operations to use “all necessary means” for human protection (Williams and Bellamy, 2011: 828). Pertinently, the repressiveness of UN Resolution 1973—the first time the Security Council has authorised force against a functioning government to protect civilians (Bellamy, 2011)—can be located in the fact that rather than pursuing an immediate ceasefire and political negotiation, the ‘International community’ took immediate military action against state targets and infrastructure (Cohn, 2011: 1). Such military action exceeds the bounds of “all necessary measures” authorisation, inasmuch as, the powerful intervening member states and NATO failed to exhaust peaceful conflict resolution measures, prior to commencing military operations (Cohn, 2011: 1-2). Moreover, the military action by the allied forces has gone far beyond the UN authorised no-fly-zone and the humanitarian paradigm of protecting civilians from oppressive state violence. Rather, the allied forces have launched deadly airstrikes against the Libyan military; provided military aid and strategic advice to the ‘Libyan rebels’ thus perpetuating civil war; pressed sanctions against Libya; frozen its assets and called for regime change (Prince, 2011).

The Obama administration has postulated that these acts constitute the emancipation of Libyan ‘victims’ from repressive political violence rather than war. However, there is a problematic relationship between violence and power inherent within the practice of R2P—based on Liberal war and the militarisation of Liberal internationalism. Hence, any political discourse which conceives of aerial bombardment, the perpetuation of civil war and Liberal regime change in terms of peace, security and the emancipation of the ‘wretched of the earth’ (Cuncliffe, 2011: 56)—must be confronted with the argument that the more peace is commanded by powerful Liberal states, the more war is declared in order to achieve it (Dillon and Reid, 2009). What are the ramifications of the practice of R2P warfare in Libya? Is violence being suppressed? Are civilians being protected? What about the zeitgeist of the ‘Arab Spring’—how is the allied bombing affecting civil resistance and the quest for radical democratic reform? This chapter will first interrogate the affects of the military operation on those it purports to protect: the ‘victimised’ Libyan population. Secondly, this chapter seeks to expose the problem-solving nature of the practice of R2P, by interrogating whether it functions to maintain the status quo or effects emancipatory transformation, both within the recipient state and internationally.

 5.1      Humanitarian Bombing of Libya

a) A Militarised Paradigm of Salvation

This chapter is not simply about the ‘yes’/’ ‘no’ to intervention; the ‘good’/ ‘evil’ character of Qaddafi’s Libya, or the selectivity of the practice of R2P—which seems to reflect the discretionary right of powerful states to interfere in the affairs of selected weaker states (Cuncliffe, 2011: 58). Rather, it is fundamentally about how the securitised logic of R2P, reinforced by rationalism and legal positivism, revives the focus on war, force and power and sanctions the use of violence (Richmond, 2007: 265) against ‘rogue states’. Locating the practice of R2P in Libya within the context of the West’s predilection towards instrumental violence pertinently reveals its incompatibility with the practice of emancipating Libyans from political violence. Hence, the Libyan intervention must be attacked for its Manichean normalisation of aggression and the exacerbation of armed conflict (Cuncliffe, 2011: 56), through the marginalisation of political dialogue and civil resistance. This reveals that there is something fundamentally incomplete with the very vision presupposed by the R2P doctrine, which continues to focus on and privilege the ‘International community’ when it comes to the actual commission of atrocities (Megret, 2009: 577).

Thus, despite being embedded within a broader conception of security, which emphasises the responsibility of the ‘International community’ to empower the marginalised to “help themselves”; the practice of R2P remains entrenched within a paradigm of ‘salvation’. This dominant trope is quite characteristic of earlier debates on humanitarian intervention (Pasic and Weiss, 2006); in which those who rescue through force are ‘outsiders’ (Seybolt, 2007) and those who are saved/emancipated are ‘others’ (Orford, 2003) or strangers (Wheeler, 2000). The R2P’s paradigm of ‘salvation’ is infused with the logic of war and security in the Libyan context, which precipitates the neglect of the contribution made by local non-state actors (or in the Libyan context, vying to be a state actor), civil society, social movements, indeed ‘victims’ themselves, to resist political violence and human rights atrocities (Megret, 2009: 577). This process of marginalising the very ‘victims’ purported to be at the heart of the practice of R2P in Libya, is revealed by the very privileging of armed struggle over politically conscious civil resistance.

Moreover, Western military involvement in the Libyan civil war has saved some lives, but the aerial bombardments and the militarisation of the resistance against the Libyan regime have ceased to reduce political violence. Hence, the Libyan conflict has become a protracted war characterised by increasing political and human costs and the galvanisation of the pro-Qaddafi machine, which is now fighting on two proud fronts: protecting Libya against revolutionary Libyans and against the Western imperialists (ICG Report, 2011: 28). The current military campaign has resulted in protracted violent conflict. This consequence of war reflects the depoliticised logic of the R2P’s paradigm of resistance, in that it serves to disempower non-violent civil resistance and the potential for ‘people polity’—both of which represent a push away from state-driven discourses and practices (Engdahl, 2011). In this sense, the practice of R2P in Libya has been counterproductive to resistance and emancipation.

 b) Liberal War and Libyan Resistance

The military intervention in Libya has been legitimated by its proponents in terms of the protection of civilians on the one hand, and the ‘Cameronist’ rationalisation of mitigating consequences of a ‘failed state’ on Europe’s periphery, on the other.  Thus, the legitimisation of militarised security policy towards Libya is achieved through the discourse of ‘balance’ between security imperatives and the protection of the liberty of Libyan civilians. Such a balance must not be romanticised as liberating or emancipatory, for it is inextricably linked to the critical grammar of war, which connects power and violence in the direction of antagonism against distinct and particular ‘others’ (Jabri, 2007: 51). Hence, the politics of security underpinning R2P comes to service exclusionary practices that constitute war and locates war at the centre of international relations (Jabri, 2007: 52). R2P-as-Liberal-war proceeds on the basis that ‘Others’ are the problem to be solved and the de-politicised subjects/objects (bare life) being primed for their own betterment (Evans, 2010: 420). The discourse of R2P therefore, constructs both the Libyan ‘victim’ and Quaddafi’s regime as objects of international intervention. That is, objects in the very attempt of the hegemonic Liberal order to instrumentalise, indeed universalise, war, in the pursuit of its own global project of emancipation (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 7).

Within this inevitably inequitable global project of emancipation, Liberal rule itself becomes profoundly shaped by war. As the product of Reform Liberalism, however much the discourse/praxis of R2P may proclaim Liberal peace, freedom and emancipation, its own allied commitment to security, violence and war subverts the very peace and freedoms it proclaims (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 7). In Libya the aerial bombardment of towns and cities has had limited emancipatory and humanitarian impact. It cannot prevent localised atrocities by men with guns, nor can it depose of pro-Qaddafi violence (Taylor, 2011). Although some lives have been protected and the battlefield between the regime and the opposition has been equalised, the violent practice of R2P in Libya has caused infrastructural damage and loss of life and risks morphing into a protracted Iraq-style stalemate and quagmire (Taylor, 2011). The practice of R2P in Libya is symptomatic of Western security practice in the ‘global borderlands’, which legitimates forms of exclusion, domination and destruction (Aradau, 2008: 72)—so that security can be attained through the manipulation, measuring, substitution and domination of the depoliticised ‘Other’. Pertinently, violent practices—state, rebel and foreign—could demobilise the very socio-political movements at the heart of the transformatory ‘Arab spring’.

As long as violence dictates the politics of opposition to and emancipation from authoritarianism, as it does in Libya today, the emergence of a democratic political order underpinned by an equitable social contract becomes less likely. The problem with violence as a means for democracy, anarchism and emancipation is the inevitable recognition that public space is a means without end (Springer, 2010: 548). Nevertheless, the violent revolution in Libya hints at the seemingly emancipatory potential of violence-from-below to open paths to political empowerment and democratisation. Emancipatory violence however is self-defeating—since violence is an act of domination and its use aligns an emancipatory agenda to the nomos of the oppressor (Springer, 2010: 548).

UN Resolution 1973 (2011: 2) authorises Member states to “take all necessary measures, to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”. It further demands the “intensification of efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people” and seeks to facilitate political “dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution” (UN, 2011: 3). Hence, whilst the practice of R2P in Libya claims to champion the protection of Libyan ‘victims’, dialogue and peace-inducing political reformation, its centralised, top-down, paternalistic, state-based and institutional character renders its claims to emancipation false.

Thus, the failure of R2P to valorise indigenous resistance and the Libyan political subject capable of harnessing unusual energies—including Western airpower—in the pursuit of survival and political revolution, represents the very antithesis of politically-conscious emancipatory transformation. As argued by Taylor (2011), the current military intervention in Libya is anti-democratic, since its very logic of violence has swept away any narrative of political strategy or democratic revolution that advances the original demands of the rebellion in Libya: an end to dictatorship and the construction of political institutions that protect both economic and political freedoms/rights.

Taken as the practice of warfare—where power relations become ‘intersecting relations of force’—Foucault’s perspective on control and pacification draws our attention to the ways in which R2P becomes a process of social domination, differentiation and hierarchisation (Shinko, 2008: 488). From this perspective, the militarisation of political struggle and the continuing violence in Libya leads us to regard war as the catalytic metonym for the eruption of antagonisms, confrontations and struggles within society (Shinko, 2008: 488). Arguably, one of the lasting effects of the practice of R2P by Western states in Libya could be the entrenchment of war, which infiltrates civil institutions, laws and its very structure of order—raging as it does within the mechanisms of power which constitute the entire social body (Shinko, 2008: 488).

 5.2      Maintaining the Status Quo or Emancipatory Transformation?

a) Western Emancipation

Whilst the humanitarian bombing in Libya has located the protection of civilians from state violence as its central tenet, the legitimising discourse has been couched in the post-humanitarian language of the responsibility to capacity-build and promotion of good governance (Chandler, 2011). Moreover, the Libya campaign does not present an undermining or rolling back of sovereignty. Instead, it is posed as the strengthening of the Libyan state through enabling the forces for democracy (anyway, those supporting the disparate opposition forces), to strengthen their influence (Chandler, 2011). In this sense, the Libyan intervention conceives of R2P in terms of capacity-building, which serves to inscribe the freeing of Libyan individuals within a statist discourse that perpetuates the inequalities and insecurities of the Liberal system of states.

Hence, the practice of the R2P in Libya does not represent a radical commitment by powerful Liberal states to emancipate suffering bodies from oppressive state structures, in order to empower political agency and indigenous civil society insurrections. Conversely, it represents the instrumental prioritisation of risk management via opportunistic violent action against a selected instability-inducing sovereign. The primary purpose of which is the emancipation of Western citizenry from unruly state failure on its periphery. In this sense, the practice of R2P is falsely emancipatory, because the protection of Libyans only becomes pertinent to the extent that it ensures Western security.

 b) Securing the Liberal Order

R2P’s Liberal and lethal commitment to making live through the execution of Liberal war represents the solidification of prevailing security knowledge (Booth, 2007: 100). Thus, the traditional tendency of powerful states to use violence—even in ‘last resort’—does not make violent state structures less likely, but proves to others that strategic violence can have political utility (Booth, 2005: 273). Furthermore, the logic of R2P is illuminated by the righteousness of the contemporary Liberal mission, which posits that the populations existing beyond the Liberal pale should be integrated via the pacification/elimination of all forms of political difference (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 5).

Such processes of pacifying or eliminating non-liberal entities, carry the hope that Liberalism might secure itself through the incorporation of illiberal sovereigns into a system of stable Liberal states. Dillon and Reid’s (2009: 5) ‘Liberal war’ thesis helps to reveal these onto-theological dimensions of the R2P doctrine. Thus, the R2P depends upon a certain religiosity in the sense that war has now been turned into a veritable human crusade with only two possible outcomes: ‘endless war or the transformation of other societies and cultures into Liberal societies, cultures and polities (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 31).

Unlike the strategic comforts of Clausewitzean confrontations where there are clear demarcations between war and peace and soldiers and citizens, unending wars such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the ‘war on terror’, no longer benefit from the possibility of scoring outright victory, retreating, or achieving a lasting peace by means of political negotiation (Evans, 2010: 422). Hence, ‘any such war to end war becomes a war without end’—a project where the removal of war from the life of species becomes a lethal and unending process (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 32). The military operation in Libya can be understood in the context of what Duffield (2008) has termed the ‘global civil war’, which pitches contrary modalities of life—insured/uninsured, Liberal/illiberal—and interconnects security, development and containment.

In this sense, what is at stake in the intervention and control of Libya, is not the West’s ability or willingness to aid the transformation of political and social relations, so that Libyans can become autonomous political subjects capable of controlling their own peace and security.  Rather, the crux of the Libyan intervention relates to the West’s ability to contain the pervasive security risks of globalisation’s ‘unruly borderlands’, while maintaining the ability of mass society to consume beyond its means (Duffield, 2008: 162).  In conclusion, the practice of R2P in Libya represents false emancipation, inasmuch as; it privileges the ‘International’ as the primary agent of resistance and emancipator of Libyans, thus marginalising Libyan forms of resistance calling for democratic revolution and the construction of equitable institutions. The violent means used by R2P states in attacking state targets and precipitating civil war by arming and advising the ‘rebels’—is incommensurate with the quintessence of genuine emancipation. That is, the empowerment of social and political movements capable of contesting violent power and orchestrating political transformation from within.

6         Conclusions

6.1      Has the R2P Ever Had Emancipatory Potential?

The R2P is heralded by many as making political power more responsible and accountable, both to the domestic citizenry and ‘international community’. It has sought to democratise humanitarian intervention in a way which reconceptualises sovereignty as responsibility and looks to protect the ‘victim other’ from imminent mass death at the hands of irresponsible state power. This ‘solidarist’ discourse purports to bear emancipatory potential and legitimacy, both in terms of its normative commitment to protecting ‘victims’ and its cosmopolitan deconstruction of sovereign immunity.

Indeed it is difficult to think of alternatives to R2P-generated intervention when conditions of insecurity are such that mass death is imminent and the potential ‘victims’ are incapacitated to the point of powerlessness. However, by reducing ‘solidarity’ to the strategies of coercive external intervention, the R2P forecloses its emancipatory imagination. Enshrined within a Reform Liberalism, which pervades UN-centric practices of international security, (new) humanitarianism and peacebuilding—the practice of R2P conforms to a problem-solving approach to international crisis and conflict. The R2P’s focus on incremental reform and resisting political violence via the moralisation and externalisation of responsibility for judging state legitimacy—is incommensurate with emancipatory social change.

Tied to the idioms of security and emergency, R2P suspends the democratic structures of recipient states—in favour of a full identification with the foundational subject, which can be manipulated, measured, substituted, dominated and ordered (Sutzl, 2010: 414-415). This reduction of the ‘Other’ to a depoliticised ‘victim’ incapable of holding power to account, is symptomatic of the violence of Western security practices, which buttress institutional arrangements and legitimise forms of domination and exclusion (Aradau, 2008: 72). R2P re-securitises and collapses the political agency and citizen rights of its recipients in the particular modalities of neo-liberal interventionism.

The R2P’s neo-liberal paradigm of salvation casts the ‘international community’ as central agents of resistance and emancipation. This partial construction of resistance and ‘victimhood’ marginalises the very ‘victims’ purported to be at the heart of R2P. Hence, by excluding the potential of an autonomous political voice of citizens (Sutzl, 2010), the R2P disempowers the socio-political agency required for emancipatory transformation. Thus, R2P is only emancipatory to the point of saving selected ‘strangers’ from imminent death. It fails to recognise that the transformation of power and the empowerment of the marginalised—only become manifest through their indigenous processes of resistance, their contestation of sovereign legitimacy and the rejection of concentrated violent power.

The R2P’s neo-liberal strategy does not imagine a state characterised by an active civil society, political contestation or democratic accountability. Rather, the ‘international community’ privileges the construction of an administrative security/governance state controlled by Liberal states, NGO’s and IFI’s (Richmond, 2005), capable of population management, control, regulation and order. In this sense, R2P represents false emancipation, as it prioritises risk management via opportunistic violent intervention against ‘failing states’. Hence, the epistemological violence of the Liberal peace, which valorises Liberal governmentality as the only legitimate strategy for maintaining peace and security—re-inscribes the freeing of individuals within the hegemonic and insecure Liberal system.

Furthermore R2P permits indigenous democratic movements, resistance movements and state formation, only insofar as they serve the purpose of managing and suppressing internal conflicts, in conjunction with external support (Branch, 2011: 113). In Libya for example, the ‘International community’ has privileged armed struggle over politically-conscious civil resistance. Such militarisation of the resistance is not a bottom-up political strategy based on political empowerment and indigenous democratisation, but rather a hegemonic Liberal strategy based on mitigating the consequences of a ‘failed state’ on Europe’s periphery. The practice of R2P by powerful Liberal states seeks to eliminate or pacify selected forms of political difference, so that Liberalism might secure itself through the integration of instability-inducing illiberal sovereigns. Hence, the practice of R2P in Libya represents an attempt by the hegemonic Liberal order to instrumentalise, indeed universalise war, in the pursuit of its own global project of emancipation (Dillon and Reid, 2009: 7). R2P-as-emancipation ultimately prioritises the emancipation of Western citizenry from the ‘unruly borderlands’ and is thus mutually exclusive from the emancipation of the ‘victims of world politics’ (Chandler, 2004).

 6.2      The Future of R2P

With Qadaffi on the brink of ‘defeat’ in Libya at the hands of the ‘internationally-supported’ rebel movement, there is a real risk that the practice of R2P will be lauded as emancipatory and progressive, in the context of the ‘Arab Revolutions’. This could further de-legitimise criticism of R2P’s theory and practice and forestall the ‘International’s political imagination, in relation to humanitarian intervention, peace and security. Our critical task is not to eschew all forms of international action—which can be vital in conditions of extreme insecurity. Rather, our task is to interrogate the ‘International Security Regime’s’ violent conception of ‘order’, the ‘victim’ and its’ securitisation of ‘failing states’. The current language of rights has become a language of power (Mamdini, 2009: 131)—one that seeks to turn ‘victims’ into certain proxies—rather than agents in their own resistance.

R2P must be addressed as an example of peace understood as strength—whose theory and practice remains dependent upon on the relationship between violence, subjectivity and war. Rather than abolishing war, R2P’s peace-as-strength has secularised warfare—so as to reject wars of national pride or selfish power, in favour of progressive wars fought for sublime humanitarian motives (Sutzl, 2010: 422). This kind of perpetuation of violence with changing legitimations, poses a significant challenge to conceptualisations of peace. Future thinking on peace must move beyond a unitary and universal concept of peace—towards peace(s) seen as independent from security, a notion that derives its meaning through emancipation from subjectivity (Sutzl, 2010: 422-423). Emancipation from subjectivity means a move beyond the violence of R2P’s metaphysical notions of subjectivity and objectivity.



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Written by: Nicholas Glover
Written at: University of Bradford
Written for: Nick Ritchie
Date written: August/2011

Publisher: e-International Relations