Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Myanmar and the death of Responsibility to Protect (update 11)

John Holmes was asked about the New York Times's idea of an unlicensed airlift of food to the people on the ground. His response is something that is worth considering for would-be interventionists:

"It is something that could be contemplated. The experts are pretty unanimous that this is not an effective way of delivering aid, not an effective way of reaching those who need the aid most, because by definition it's going to be pretty untargeted, and some of it may disappear altogether. But clearly if all else fails and we feel there are people who are not being reached at all, we might have to look at it. But the risks of us losing what we have already, in terms of access, however unsatisfactory it may be, that risk will be there. So the only criteria for me for considering this is whether it actually helps the people on the ground."

Meanwhile, Holmes was asked precisely the question that has been at the head of Ambassador At Large's series of Myanmar posts: is this a test, and failure, of Responsibility to Protect? His answer:

"Is this a test of R2P? Honestly I don't think it is. You can argue about whether it's applicable. It obviously wasn't designed to be applicable, particularly to these kinds of situations. But I think it would be very dangerous if this was seen as a test of R2P and R2P to have failed, because R2P is a very valuable concept which we are still developing, which we still need to operationalize more, and it's more than a question of whether there are airdrops against the wishes of the Myanmar government. It's a much more complicated issue."

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