March 2012: Responding to Syria


 Introduction to the Month's Focal Piece Editor's introduction: Responding to Syria

Save Us from the Liberal Hawks” by David Rieff. Foreign Policy, February 13, 2012.



Christine BellWho Let the Dogs Out? R, R2P
by Christine Bell

“However, R2P is not a simple statement of a moral obligation to protect, or a simple restatement of existing human rights commitments. Rather, it operates to reconfigure the concept of state sovereignty, and thereby to reconfigure our understanding of international law as the law of sovereign and equal states. Crucially, it does so in order to reconfigure the starting point for assessing when military intervention against a sovereign state is both lawful and justified.”


Joel PruceMoral Ambivalence is No Recipe for Engagement 
by Joel Pruce

“While it is one thing to present reasonable, self-reflective commentary on human rights advocacy, there is a point at which such an approach provides defense to one’s enemies rather than constructive criticism of one’s allies. Rieff has never been aware of that distinction, nor concerned with it. I am not clear where Rieff stands vis-à-vis the human rights community, although it seems as if he is trying desperately to distance himself. He leaves us with a morally bankrupt non-policy toward Syria.”


Matthew S. WeinertThinking Through, and Beyond, Triumphalism
by Matthew S. Weinert

“So what are we to do? That question assumes there is both a “we” and, moreover, some kind of obligation (legal, moral, or otherwise) to do something. Rieff indicates why we should be wary of seemingly knee-jerk (liberal) interventionism. Ultimately, the real message comes down not on the side of unflinching commitment to principle, whether sovereignty/non-interference or R2P, but to thinking pragmatically and systematically through the issue. ”


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