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Covert Actions and the Responsibility to Protect

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image of Global Responsibility to Protect

Fifteen years on, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is still facing questions over its content, scope and attendant obligations. Recent conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq show, how, when and if states intervene is a matter of political will and calculation. Yet the question of political will remains largely unaddressed, and many ignore the conceptual and practical distance between stating that the international community should encourage and assist states to fulfill R2P obligations and requiring third parties to use diplomatic, humanitarian or ‘other’ means to protect populations when states fail to do so. I propose we acknowledge this distance and minimize it through covert action. Embracing the reality that some states cannot intervene due to political constraints entails that we can theorize about other ways to uphold R2P. Moreover, covert action involves a range of means and types of targets and is a flexible option for R2P.

Affiliations: 1: University of Denver, heather.roff@Colorado.EDU


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