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The Folly of Protection

Is Intervention Against Qaddafi’s Regime Legal and Legitimate?

Courtesy Reuters

In classic United Nations Security Council language, Resolution 1973, passed on March 17, 2011, authorized UN member states to “take all necessary measures . . . to protect civilians and civilian populated areas” in Libya by establishing a no-fly zone and enforcing an arms embargo against Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime. The resolution gave teeth to the much-heralded “responsibility to protect” -- which, according to the 2005 UN World Summit Outcome, is the responsibility of the international community to “help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.”

The UN General Assembly adopted the principle of the responsibility to protect -- or RtoP, its UN abbreviation -- in 2005 in a unanimous resolution advocated by nongovernmental organizations; UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the high-level panel he appointed in 2005 to investigate how the United Nations could pursue reform; and Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun, co-chairs of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, whose 2001

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