“Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) Is Nation Building

By Morgan Norval l June 23, 2011

Inaugural Session of Peacebuilding Commission Opens UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras  http://usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/e2/-images/2008/03/07/13396/size0-army.mil-2008-03-10-121001.jpg Iraq-2009-10696
UN Peace Building Commission                Photo/U.S. Army News Service             Photo/Department of Defense
Photo/Paulo Filgueiras


What is the dirty little secret the internationalists are hiding from the public regarding the Libyan campaign? Is it what happens after Muammar Gaddafi’s removal under the UN’s doctrine of Responsibility to Protect or R2P that President Obama has adopted as his own and used to justify U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war? The answer: the “international community” claims it must ensure that a stable democracy evolves from the ouster of the Gaddafi regime.

In a previous article I exposed R2P and described it as the interventionist pursuit of human rights doctrine under the auspices of United Nations multilateralism. It’s also important to note that R2P originated from the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention in State Sovereignty (ICISS) advocated by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as early as 1999.

R2P promotes global government and pushes the “international community” to override national borders and use military force to intervene in the invaded nation’s internal affairs. It is the reason U.S. forces are engaged in Libya.

The end of the Cold War ushered in an era of military intervention and nation-building beginning in 1991 with Kuwait, Somalia in 1992, Haiti in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003. Six of these seven countries are Muslim.

Until September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush had been opposed to nation-building and, in fact, had campaigned against it. The Foreward to the ICISS Report states:

“At least until the horrifying events of 11 September 2001 brought to center stage the international response to terrorism, the issue of intervention for human protection purposes has been seen as one of the most controversial and difficult of all international relations questions. With the end of the Cold War, it became a live issue as never before.”

RAND Corporation has produced a series of publications involving nation-building including, America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq (2003), The UN’s Role in Nation-Building: From the Congo to Iraq (2005) and more recently The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building – a literal how-to handbook. RAND describes its Guide as “organized around the main components from which nearly all nation-building missions are formed, including soldiers, police officers, civil administrators, and experts in political reform and economic development.” Accordingly, RAND defines nation-building as involving:

“the use of armed force as part of a broader effort to promote political and economic reforms with the objective of transforming a society emerging from conflict into one at peace with itself and its neighbors.”

Besides the obvious need to rebuild war-torn Europe and a devastated Germany and Japan following World War II, nation-building did not resurface again until the early 1990s “as the leading post-Cold War military endeavor” according to the RAND Beginner’s Guide. Interestingly, RAND reveals, “With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, constraints imposed by superpower competition on both UN-and U.S.- led military operations fell away.” As a result, nation-building has become an institution both within the U.S. government, at the UN and abroad, specifically among U.S. allies lasting on average five to 10 years.

The international institutional framework for nation-building was first established within the U.S. government, with initiatives at the Departments of State, Defense, the White House, and abroad in the UK, Canada and Germany. The Department of State (DOS) Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) was created in July 2004. National Security Presidential Directive 44 was issued in December 2005 and is supported by DOD, Directive 3000.05, Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations. The UN Peace Building Commission was created in 2005 at the urging of world leaders and is intended to integrate with the UN’s “family of agencies” and multinational financial institutions.

The international formula for success requires a mix of organizations that includes the Western alliance led by the United States, the United Nations and NATO. The RAND Guide helps to clarify the necessary mix:

“The United Nations does not do invasions, however, and seldom deploys more than 20,000 troops in any given operation. For missions that require forced entry, or that demand more than a reinforced division of troops, a coalition led by a nation or by an alliance such as NATO will probably be necessary, at least for the first phase of operation. However, although NATO is military much more potent than the UN, it possesses none of the other attributes needed for successful nation-building.”

Nation-building’s success rate, however, is questionable when looking at Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and even Afghanistan. Iraq in particular, where one would have thought the U.S. had not had any prior experience with nation-building, the U.S. was not prepared for the chaotic circumstances following the invasion such as the looting of Baghdad, the consequences of a disbanded military and the complete collapse of Iraqi institutions followed by the emergence of organized resistance. In fact, the U.S. military won the war in Iraq but lost the peace, costing countless American lives.

According to the RAND Guide, the financial cost framework places the lead nation, usually the United States, at the head of the “consultative machinery” whereby, “The first, inner circle should include the major powers that care most about the success of the enterprise and are prepared to commit personnel and money to it. The second circle should involve the major financial donors. The third should involve the neighboring powers.” Whether it’s a U.S. or NATO force, the annual cost per soldier is $200,000 whereas, the annual cost of fielding a UN peacekeeping force comes to $45,000 per soldier.

The responsibility for nation-building or post-conflict stabilization falls under the Department of Defense, which, based on necessary funding levels, questions the feasibility of doing so. In an article published in the Military Review of March-April 2009, U.S. Army Colonel Shin opened by stating:

“The Department of Defense (DOD) should challenge the assumption that it must prepare to perform all stability lines of operations as a ‘core mission’ as specified in Directive 3000.05 and subsequent Army operations doctrine FM 3-0 because it does not have sufficient resources to accomplish all the assigned tasks on its own.”

For the moment, let’s assume the Libyan intervention succeeds and Gaddafi is removed from office, then what?

Let’s also step back for another moment and consider the political conditions facing R2P advocates of military action. There are really only three possible political conditions affecting societies: freedom, tyranny, or chaos. Political systems are combinations or variations of these.

In spite of the American and international elites’ assertion that people all over the world are like us and have the same political desires as we, reality is quite different. Most of the Muslim world wants little or nothing to do with Western societies and their mores. Western ideas of democracy are not taught in their schools. In fact, in most madrassas , the main source of schooling in parts of the Muslim world, the education consists of memorizing the Koran.

Many Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, are ripe targets for the R2P intervention crowd. Syria, for example, seems to be conducting more of a campaign against its civilian citizens than Gaddafi. You would think, however, that our recent interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan would give pause to the R2P crowd, not to mention situations in non-Muslim countries such as Zimbabwe, where there seems little interest to intervene.

Other areas of the world that are producing conditions ripe for R2P intervention by the “international community” may want to embrace Western-style freedom and liberty but are ill-prepared to do so. We in the West are steeped in the writings of freedom advocates such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the U.S. and eighteen-century writers in Europe, especially French. Even though U.S public schools today are down-playing the roles of our Founding Fathers and their ideas, their efforts over two-hundred years ago still resonate with the American people.

Where are the Jeffersons and Madisons writing in the areas ripe for R2P interventions? Their education systems and controlled media spouts what the ruling thug wants. Teenagers around the world are not all reading the same textbooks as are read in the U.S. and Europe. These people have no tradition like the U.S. in understanding the value system of freedom and liberty. Of the three political conditions, their daily choice is tyranny or chaos, or a combination of both.

Having a democratic election, in spite of the “international community’s” assertion, doesn’t square the circle. Democracy is majority rule and, when all is said and done, mob rule. [Remember, our Founding Fathers realized this and established a republic with its checks and balances on government power.] Recall what happened in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia held a democratic election and democratic chaos ensued with rampant inflation and state looting by former high-level Soviet bureaucrats. By the end of the 1990’s millions of Russians were impoverished and looking for the man on the white horse to rescue them. Putin answered their call and a creeping form of tyranny, but milder than communism, now holds sway in Russia. That country, one could say, is fascism with a democratic face in that it holds elections on a regular basis. Consider, however, the historical Russian experience with democracy is extremely limited. It was a monarchy for centuries, ruled by czars, until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Over seventy years of tyranny—communist rule—ensued, followed by a period of democratic chaos during the Yeltsin years until the current Putin-Medvedev era of creeping fascism. Russian history has no Thomas Paine, Jefferson, Franklin or Madison to promote Russian democracy. The Russians are returning to what they historically know: tyranny, albeit, so far, mild.

For democracy to work there has to be a lot of trust involved: trust in the system, trust in the people elected in the system, and trust in the laws enacted, to name just a few. In most states ripe for the interventionists this trust is absent. In these states, many of which are an agglomeration of tribes, there is trust within the individual tribes but often deep mistrust of other tribes in the mix.

In regimes run by tyrants little trust exists, instead, replaced by a climate of fear. This lack of trust in tyrannies makes it difficult to establish an instant successful democracy upon the removal of the tyrant—assuming another tyrant doesn’t replace him, which just continues the tyranny with a different face.

One headline in the Wall Street Journal of Thursday, June 21 that details this widespread mistrust and hatred reads: “Libya City Torn by Tribal Feud.” Reporter Sam Dagher quotes Lisa Anderson the president of the American University in Cairo: “The longer this [fighting] goes on, the more it reinforces deep mistrust across all social cleavages.” Dagher reporting from Mistrata says, “In the Nafusa Mountains southwest of Tripoli, rebels from the Zintan tribe are now pitted against their old rivals the Mashashya, who are mostly pro-government.”

The R2P advocates are quick to push for intervention, like in Libya, but are quiet about what happens if they accomplish their goal? Are they going to cease meddling after Quadaffi is gone? Not likely, as talk begins to emerge about aid and assistance to a post-conflict Libyan regime to ensure democracy. That sounds like nation building to me.

Richard N. Haas, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying whether or not Gaddafi stays or Libya remains a unified country, the future will require international physical presence—boots on the ground. This would require, Haas said, “enormous multi-year effort to help this country essentially become a functioning country.” No matter what the “international community” will try to call it, at the end of the day, it is nation-building.

Since 9-11 we have been involved in nation-building in two other Muslim countries: Iraq and Afghanistan. We have been in Afghanistan for a decade and are currently spending $2 billion a week and employing 100,000 troops to turn a 7th Century feudal conglomeration of tribal societies into a modern nation state with little or no evidence of success.

Our eight-year effort in Iraq, at the cost of immense blood and treasure, has only imposed a facade of democracy on a state that is challenged by religious factions—Sunni versus Shi’ite, ethnic tensions—Kurds, Turkoman and Arabs against each other, and cursed with tribal rivalries within each of these. With the removal of U.S. forces, Iraq, at best, will become a puppet regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran and, most likely, will fragment into three or four separate entities based on religion and ethnicity, with tribal rivalries adding to the mix of each. A fragmentation like this will enhance Iran’s influence in the area and pose a threat to oil transiting the Persian Gulf.

Nation-building is a long, slow and expensive process even where it succeeds such as post-WW II Germany and Japan, which involved occupation “boots on the ground” and expenditures of billions of dollars in both countries. The conceit that political tinkering and social engineering can remake the world in America’s image is a formula for ensnaring the U.S in expensive and bloody quagmires.

Former RAND analyst, David Ronfeld, puts his finger on why tribal based societies such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are poor targets for R2P intervention advocates to effect transformation to the intervener’s end state: “Deeply tribal societies often have great difficulty advancing beyond their traditional ways,” he said. “Indeed, many of the world’s current trouble spots—in the Middle East, South Asia, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Africa—are in societies so riven by embedded tribal and clan dynamics that the outlook remains bleak for them to build professional states and openly competitive businesses, much less democracies, that are unencumbered by tribal and clan dynamics. Some so-called failed states are really failed tribal societies.”

None of this, however, will deter the R2P advocates but it is clear Responsibility to Protect is joined like Siamese twins to nation-building.

With the looming U.S. debt crisis staring us in the face, the last thing we need is to spend our diminishing treasure on R2P nation-building efforts around the world.

Responsibility to Protect is just a preliminary step to a long, costly and often bloody, policy of nation-building where the odds of success are not high. Perhaps RAND’s Guide states it best: “This purpose may be achieved quite quickly, but the intervening authorities will then be left with the more difficult, time consuming, and expensive task of refashioning the society in which it has intervened.” In the case of Libya, where no vital U.S. interests ever existed, the purpose has not been achieved as quickly as expected.

Morgan Norval is the founder and Executive Director of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to

SFPPR News & Analysis.