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The Obama Administration and R2P: Progress, Problems and Prospects

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image of Global Responsibility to Protect

This article examines the policies of the Obama administration relevant to ‘Responsibility to Protect’ along four dimensions - core doctrine, as established in key foreign and national security policy statements and documents; executive branch institutional changes, focusing particularly on the 2011-12 Presidential Study Directive-10 (PSD-10) and the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR); actual policy in key cases; and particular focus on the Libya case - to assess the progress made, problems that have arisen, and prospects going forward. I argue that the Obama administration is to be credited for shifting the US R2P debate from “if” to “how” and “which”: i.e., no longer if the United States should adopt R2P as an international norm and genocide and mass atrocities prevention as a priority US policy objective but how best to do so and in which cases to do so. This by no means resolves all the issues; indeed it opens up many, domestically and internationally, that were less pressing when we still were at if. And much remains to be seen.

Affiliations: 1: Duke University, Email:, URL:


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