The CSS Blog Network

Duties Without Borders

Young girl protesting outside US Embassy in Amman, courtesy of Freedom House/flickr

CAMBRIDGE – More than 130,000 people are said to have died in Syria’s civil war. United Nations reports of atrocities, Internet images of attacks on civilians, and accounts of suffering refugees rend our hearts. But what is to be done – and by whom?

Recently, the Canadian scholar-politician Michael Ignatieff urged US President Barack Obama to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, despite the near-certainty that Russia would veto the United Nations Security Council resolution needed to legalize such a move. In Ignatieff’s view, if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is allowed to prevail, his forces will obliterate the remaining Sunni insurgents – at least for now; with hatreds inflamed, blood eventually will flow again. » More

Debating the Use of Force: When Should We Intervene to Stop Mass Atrocities?

 Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft leaves RAF Marham for operations overseas.

A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft leaves RAF Marham for operations overseas. Photo: Cpl Babbs Robinson/Wikimedia Commons

No two crises in recent memory have done more to test the proper use of force by international actors than Libya and Syria. What kind of humanitarian crisis demands international military action, and what kind does not? When should international actors intervene in a recalcitrant country to protect civilians, and when should they not?  The contrast between international action in Libya and inaction in Syria has brought to light the problem of selectivity—the sense that international interventions to protect civilians are not based on consistent principles but on capricious politics. When it comes to military intervention, national strategic interest often trumps international humanitarian norms.

Last year, Robert Pape proposed a new “pragmatic standard for humanitarian intervention,” which stimulated a critique from Gareth Evans and Ramesh Thakur in the spring 2013 issue of International Security. A further response from Pape to Evans and Thakur was also printed. » More

Intervention in Mali: Does R2P Apply?

Mali refugees in Niger

Mali refugees in an inofficial refugee camp in Niger. Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection/flickr

Six months ago, a coup d’état toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure (“ATT”), the democratically elected leader of Mali, and soon thereafter ATT went into exile; armed groups in the north, inspired by a strict and austere interpretation of Islam and the desire to impose Sharia law on the entire country, have engaged in jihadism, terrorism and arms trafficking; and many of Mali’s cultural treasures and riches have been destroyed by the same armed groups who consider much of modern civilization – i.e., the West – to be decadent and depraved and thus in need of purification.

Lamentably, most of these developments – marauding and irredentist Islamists linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the destruction of cultural relics and objet d’art, threats to World Heritage sites – have been overlooked or ignored. To be sure, some outlets – notably The New York Times and the BBC – have done their part to sound the alarm, and Alain Juppé, the former foreign minister of France, was told in March that if these groups gained control of the north, Mali would be turned into another Afghanistan. » More

The New Ethical Order

Just one day before the 35th G8 summit in the earthquake-torn town of L’Aquila, Italy, the Holy See released the third encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. who will meet with US President Obama on Friday.

photo: Kevin Dooley, flickr

The passion of Christ / photo: Kevin Dooley, flickr

Being the Holy Father’s first social encyclical, the 144-page “Caritas in Veritate” profoundly examines the depraved morals of market economy, the inhuman side-effects of globalization, consumerism and relativism, the need for a sustainable protection of the environment, the role of media and technology in modern life, the strengthening of workers’ rights and, above all, the imperative of “love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace”.

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