Monday, August 25, 2008

Testing New Doctrines in International Relations

One of the things I found most interesting was reading the various Russian justifications for the operations in Georgia--and perhaps it should be a bit sobering for those who have been proponents of new reasons to justify interventions. I don't want to in this note or the comments get into the specific merits of the Russian claims (and counterclaims about what NATO, the U.S., the EU, the French, etc. have done); in the end, any intervention is in the eye of the beholder and those who choose to agree or disagree.

Three claims were put forward:

1) Russia had a right under "responsibility to protect" (R2P) to intervene to defend a civilian population and could intervene without the permission of the Georgian government or of any international body

2) Russia had a right as the "guarantor" of regional security

3) Russia had a right under prior agreements that created the cease-fire and peacekeeping missions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Russia did not seek the approval of any regional body--the CIS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but it will be interesting to see whether the SCO summit this week produces any sort of retroactive endorsement.

All three of the above rationale were first proposed at a time when the power of the U.S. individually and of the West collectively seemed to dwarf possible challengers and when the only real initiator of military action might be the United States. Will, in the future, proponents of R2P, for instance, want to see China use this as a rationale for action?

I assume that in the next several years we may see a return to enhancing the position that the international system should be defined by sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and the importance of the imprimatur of the Security Council for any military action other than self-defense, or perhaps the international system will become more anarchic. But I do think that some of the notions about an "international community" which were fashionable earlier may be coming in for some serious re-examination.

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