Kyrgyzstan: dangers from outside and inside threaten stability

Kyrgyzstan has recently experienced an upsurge in tensions around the issue of pollution in the Kumtor Gold Mine, which it has not known since the ethnic riots of June 2010. Oppositional nationalists are using this tension to put Kyrgyzstan again on the edge of stability, at a moment when Islamist are growing strong in the region and Afghanistan is going through a security transition that could affect the rest of Central Asia.

By Alejandro Marx, 8th September, 2013

Since its independence in 1991, with the dissolution of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan has known stability until the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in 2005 when its first president Askar Akayev, elected in 1990 was succeeded by Kurmankek Bakiyev. Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 as a result of violent street protests, followed soon after by ethnic riots. After the transitional presidency of Roza Otunbaeva, Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated president  in December 2011. Atambaev is the leader of the Kyrgyzstan Social Democratic Party, which has 26 out of 120 seats in parliament. He previously held the post of prime minister in the governments of Bakiyev and Otunbaeva. His party rules an unstable coalition with the other parties, apart from the nationalist Ata-Jurt party.

Continue reading

After Moscow: Will There Be War or Peace – Part II of II

In the second part of this interview, Iranian researcher Shirin Shafaie interviews Russian scholar and independent analyst Dr. Nikolay Kozhanov on US/Russian relations over Iran, the implications of UNSC Resolution 1696 and the potential for a peaceful outcome after Moscow. It was conducted ahead of the next round of meetings in Moscow between the P-5+1 and Iran. As tensions rise and negotiating parties stick to their scripts, who will take the first positive step?

By Shirin Shafaie, 20th June 2012.

The Russian scholar and independent analyst Dr. Nikolay Kozhanov shares his in-depth insight into the Russian approach towards the upcoming Moscow negotiations between P5+1 and Iran with Shirin Shafaie. Dr. Kozhanov was an attaché at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Tehran from 2006 to 2009, where he worked on Iran’s nuclear issue among other socio-economic and energy-related issues. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute, a scholar at the nongovernmental Institute of the Middle East and a visiting lecturer at the School of Economics of the St. Petersburg State University. Dr. Kozhanov’s monograph, Economic Sanctions Against Iran: Aims, Scale and Possible Consequences, was published in Moscow in June 2011. This is part 2 of 2.

Read Part 1 here. Continue reading

United Nations Security Council: Prospects for Reform

In this essay, the author examines the current composition of the UN Security Council and discusses prospects for reform.


By Anna Rabin, 18 Jan, 2012

Established as one of the principle organs of the United Nations (UN), the Security Council bears the ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.’[i] The Council’s mandate, outlined further in Article 24 of the Charter, coupled with its ability to make legally binding decisions, makes the Security Council arguably the most powerful organ of the UN. The Council has retained its importance in international relations and is arguably of increased importance as a result of heightened international co-operation in the post-Cold War era.[ii] The lack of reform since its creation, has however led to doubts over the Council’s legitimacy and effectiveness in contemporary politics. One observer even referred to its lack of reform as ‘one of the most successful failures in the history of the United Nations.’[iii] The most commonly debated areas for reform revolve around the veto power, the size of the Council and in the event of an enlargement, the powers and selection of new members.

Currently, the Security Council is comprised of five permanent members, referred to as the P-5,[iv] and ten non-permanent members, each elected for a two-year term. In addition to having a permanent seat on the Council, Article 27 of the UN Charter grants the P-5 a veto power. Reform of the Council requires support from two-thirds of the General Assembly and all of the P-5. Whilst reform is not impossible, as seen by the successful 1965 reform that enlarged the Council from eleven to fifteen members, consensus on necessary reform is hard to achieve.

With a seat of the Council seen as ‘a proxy for global influence on peace and security issues’[v] competition for the ten non-permanent seats is high. The size of the Council is therefore a key concern for member states. With the Italian delegation pointing out that 77 countries have never had a seat on the Council and 47 have sat just once,[vi] questions over the Council’s size have been raised. This disparity is due to the fact that, having increased in size just once since its formation, the size of the council is no longer proportionate to the size of the General Assembly. At its formation, the number of member states compared to seats at the Council was 11 to 51, representing a ratio of 1 to 4.6. In spite of the increase in the number of seats on the Council from eleven to fifteen, the dramatic increase in the General Assembly, largely as a result of decolonisation and the break up of the Soviet Union, has seen this ratio increase, reaching 1to 12.[vii]

The significant increase in the number of States in the General Assembly indicates that enlarging the Council is a necessary reform. Enlarging the Council, however, must not hinder efficiency.[viii] The majority of proposals for an increased Council have therefore varied between the low to high twenties. Proposals such as ‘In Larger Freedom’[ix] [x] and ‘Uniting for Consensus’[xi] [xii] for example, recommended an increase to 24 and 25 seats respectively, aiming to enhance ‘both the legitimacy and the efficiency of the Council.’[xiii]

Whilst referred to as ‘the apex body of the United Nations’[xiv] the Council’s current composition is no longer representative of the values of the General Assembly. Formed in the aftermath of World War II, the Council’s composition has not adapted to reflect contemporary political realities, notably decolonisation. The stagnant nature of the Council in turn undermines its legitimacy as according to Hurd, social institutions derive their power from their perceived legitimacy. This means that a reformed Council ‘will find compliance with its rules more easily secured, than in the absence of legitimacy.’[xv] Unlike the large consensus that surrounds calls for the increased size of the Council, plans such as ‘In Larger Freedom’ that call for an increase in permanent members have led to fierce debate. Vocal calls for inclusion as permanent members of an increased Council have largely come from the G4 countries[xvi] and developing countries.

The G4 members states, in particular Japan and Germany, the second and third largest financial contributors to the Council respectively, argue their case for permanent membership on the grounds of Article 23 (1) of the Charter. The Article states that selection to the Council must take into account the country’s commitment to the ‘maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization’ and ‘geographical distribution’.[xvii] This argument is supported by advocates of the functionalist perspective such as Schwartzberg, in what he refers to as the ‘entitlement quotient’ for entry into the Council.[xviii] Under a functionalist framework, such as Schwartzberg’s, Japan for example would be a more favourable candidate than Nigeria. Whilst Japan contributes more to the UN, this approach does not take into account the fact that Japan has a 4.91 trillion dollar economy and that an Asian country is already a member of the P-5. Nigeria on the other hand is Africa’s most populous country and although home to the most UN members, no African country has a permanent seat at the Council. Whilst taking a more literal approach to Article 23 (1), a purely functionalist perspective places too much emphasis on the financial capabilities and neglects geographic distribution.

The financial requirement of the functionalist perspective also gives preference to developed countries, therefore ensuring the continued underrepresentation of the developing world. It is important to note that the majority of population growth is occurring in the developing world with predictions that in fifty years, the populations of India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia and Nigeria will exceed four billion.[xix] Representation by region would minimize this disparity and give increased geo-political legitimacy to the Council by rewarding both contribution and ensuring regional representation.

The existence of the veto power is possibly the most contentious feature of the Council. Whilst arguably an inevitable reaction to the failure of the League of Nations, the P-5 no longer represents the great powers in international relations. The two-tiered structure of the Council reinforces the notion that ‘some states are more equal than others’[xx] resulting in entrenched institutional elitism within the UN. Whilst ‘a splendidly egalitarian idea’[xxi] to abolish the veto, with the P-5 eager to ‘cling fiercely to their veto privileges’[xxii] and reform requiring unanimous P-5 support, debate surrounding the abolishment or expansion of the veto is largely redundant.

Whilst reforming the veto is unlikely, enlarging and altering the composition of the Council would significantly increase its legitimacy and ensure it remains of contemporary relevance. Although a country’s contribution to the Council is important, the exponential growth of the developing world indicates that regional representation in an enlarged Council is imperative to ensure legitimacy.



[i] David M. Malone, ‘Security Council’, in Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws (eds), The Oxford Handbook on The United Nations, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.117.

[ii] ibid., p.131

[iii] Terraviva Europe, ‘United Nations: Security Council Reform Remains Deadlocked’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), 6 August, 2009, p.1.

[iv] The P-5 members of the UN Security Council are the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France.

[v] David M. Malone, The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations, 2007, p.132.

[vi] W. Andy Knight, ‘The future of the UN Security Council’, in Andrew Cooper et al., (eds), Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, Tokyo, UNU Press, 2002, pp.24-25.

[vii] M. J. Peterson, ‘General Assembly’, in Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws (eds), The Oxford Handbook on The United Nations, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.106.

[viii] Global Policy Forum, ‘Pros and Cons of Security Council Reform’,  (accessed on 24 March 2010), 19 January, 2010, p.1.

[ix] In Larger Freedom offers two different plans. Plan A would create six additional permanent members and three non-permanent members. Plan B would create eight new members, each of which would hold a four-year renewable seat, and one non-permanent seat.

[x] In Larger Freedom, ‘V. Strengthening the United Nations’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), p.1.

[xi] Uniting for Consensus would increase the number of non-permanent seats on the Council to 20.

[xii] Press Release GA/10371, ‘United for Consensus’ Group of States Introduces Text on Security Council Reform to General Assembly’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), 26 July, 2005, p.1.

[xiii] Global Policy Forum, ‘Pros and Cons of Security Council Reform’, (accessed on 24 March 2010), 19 January, 2010, p.1.

[xiv] W. Andy Knight, Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, 2002, p.19.

[xv] ibid., p.24

[xvi] The G4 countries are Germany, Japan, Brazil and India.

[xvii] Global Policy Forum, ‘Pros and Cons of Security Council Reform’,  (accessed on 24 March 2010), 19 January, 2010, p.1.

[xviii] W. Andy Knight, Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, 2002, p.27.

[xix] W. Andy Knight, Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, 2002, p.26.

[xx] Paul Kennedy, The Parliament of Man, London, Penguin Books, 2006, p.52.

[xxi] Paul Kennedy and Bruce Russett, ‘Reforming the United Nations’, in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 5, Oct. 1995, pp.56-71.

[xxii] Terraviva Europe, ‘United Nations: Security Council Reform Remains Deadlocked’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), 6 August, 2009, p.1.



Responsibility to Protect: A rebranding of Imperial Intervention

By Aditya Sakorkar, 8 Oct, 2011


Humanitarianism or Humanitarian intervention has attracted immense controversy and popularity since the end of the Cold War. Humanitarian intervention is usually employed to deliver a country and its people from war crimes, genocide and so forth. As Kuperman opines, humanitarian intervention is based in the altruistic desire to protect others (Kuperman, 2008, p.49). This essay examines the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, one of the most controversial ideas in modern times, from the perspective of John Stuart Mill’s ideas on intervention and non-intervention. The primary objective of this comparison is to identify if the R2P doctrine amount to a rebranding of imperial intervention. The essay begins with a brief discussion on Mill’s notions of intervention and non intervention; followed by an examination of the R2P doctrine and a conclusion that sums up the findings.

Mill’s Notion of Intervention/Non-intervention

John Stuart Mill, a philosopher and politician from Great Britain spoke on the notion of intervention/non-intervention, in his essay titled ‘A few words on Non-intervention.’ Mill, of course, wrote this essay in the context of the Suez Canal crisis and the Crimean War. However, the ideas he has proposed transcend these two scenarios and can easily be applied to other similar contexts. This section discusses Mill’s ideas on intervention and non-intervention in detail.

Mill wrote this text at a time when imperial rivalries were really getting more and more aggressive. He starts the article by describing Great Britain’s place in the world. In many ways, most people would agree, the opening section looks like a eulogy for Great Britain. It must be noted that he is candid about his views on this subject and intervention/non-intervention.

Mill puts forward the distinction between civilised and barbaric lands through three very clear points. In fact, he’s so specific about these distinctions that, together, they could easily pass as a model of some kind and could be used to justify interventions in the so called barbaric lands. It’s really not possible to incorporate the whole section of the text that distinguishes between barbaric and civilised lands. However, I will provide a short summary of the same.

Firstly, Mill speaks about the level of civilisation in a country. According to him, there is a big difference between 2 countries on par with each other in terms of their civilisation and one country which is highly civilised and the other one is low (Mill, 1859). Mill’s idea, however, of civilised nation is largely vague. That said, in one of the paragraphs he refers ‘Christian Europe as an equal community of nations.’ Christianity is what Mill had in mind when he was assessing the level of civilisation in a country, most likely. However, I would think that Christianity was only one of the parameters to assess the level of civilisation in a country.

Depending on how civilised a nation was, Mill assessed if the rules of international morality could be applied to it. If the nation is civilised, any rules that constitute international morality would be applicable. If the nation is not civilised or barbaric, these rules cannot be applied (Mill, 1859). Once again, what constitutes the rules of international morality is mostly not clear. However, sections of the opening paragraph could be used to formulate rules of international morality#.

Finally, Mill argues, if the rules of international morality are to be applied, the capacity of a country to reciprocate accordingly is essential. Civilised nations have the ability to reciprocate so they can be subjected to such rules. However, barbarians are in no position to reciprocate and consequently can’t be depended on to observe such rules. According to Mill, the barbarians’ minds are just not fit to perform a task of this kind (Mill, 1859). This argument or distinction is clearly stated by Mill as compared to the previous ones. However, this distinction in some ways reflects the prejudice that many Europeans had in this period that it was down to them to civilise the world.

Based on these distinctions, Mill creates three scenarios where intervention would be justified. Firstly, according to Mill, intervention is justified if the concerned nation is still barbarous. This is because invasion and subjugation by foreigners will only benefit such a nation. Also, Mill says that barbarians have no rights as nations except a right to be made fit to become a nation (Mill, 1859). This idea has a very strong racial basis to it. In fact, this justification, in many ways, echoes Hobson’s justification of imperialism: It is desirable that the earth should be peopled, governed, and developed, as far as possible, by the races which can do this work best, i.e. by the races of highest social efficiency (Hobson, 1902, p.154).

Secondly, Mill says that intervention by a civilised nation in a barbaric nation is justified if they share boundaries. Mill argues that the civilised nation cannot continue to have a defensive stance against a barbaric nation for too long. Eventually, the former will have to act so that the latter gets completely conquered or is so subdued that it becomes dependent on the civilised nation (Mill, 1859). This argument is applicable in other places as well. Meaning, a civilised state could intervene in a barbaric land anywhere in the world.

Thirdly, Mill argues that intervention is justified, if one nation calls another nation to assist in the suppression of its own population (Mill, 1859). It could be argued that this justification for intervention has, in some ways, a resonance of humanitarian intervention. An appropriate example of this scenario would be how General Franco came to power in Spain with Hitler’s and Mussolini’s assistance. On the basis of what Mill says, it would not have been a violation of the rules of international morality if the other European powers had intervened to prevent these developments. In fact, as Walzer argues, some military response is probably required at such moments if the values of independence and community are to be sustained (Walzer, 1977, 97).

For Mill, intervention is also justified in a country which subjugates its own people with the help of foreign arms and especially if they have what it takes to use and free institutions effectively (Mill, 1859). Like the previous condition, this also has a strong resonance of humanitarian intervention. A good example of this would be the Indian intervention in East Pakistan in the early 1970s.


Mill also spoke about non-intervention just as candidly as he did on intervention. Like most liberals, Mill was very much for self-determination and self-help. In fact, he clearly says that in case a civil war is happening within a state, it should be left alone. For Mill, intervening in such situations, even to assist the citizens, would be violation of their right of self-determination. Mill also says that any group of people wanting use popular institutions need to brave the labours and peril of a revolution to become free. In essence, passing such a test would make them worthy of any popular institutions (Mill, 1859).

It could be argued that self-determination is something very close to Mill’s heart. Though he doesn’t mention it clearly, Mill may have been talking of democratic form of government and everything that is associated with it when he refers to popular institution. Also, he’s willing to let people take their own chances to reach such a stage, irrespective of the possible failure that they might encounter while they are at it. As Walzer argues, there is no right to be protected against the consequences failure, even if it means repression (Walzer, 1977, p.88).

One example of such a scenario would be the protests and the Tiananmen Square massacre in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1989. The people who participated in the protest endured the perils and labours of revolution for the sake of liberty. However, their success never materialised because of massive repression by the government. Most importantly, as negative it might seem, there was no intervention by any other country. This however, was also because of the fact that the PRC is a force to reckon with militarily and no country would want to antagonise it by initiating intervention.

Also, at first sight, this idea looks highly idealistic and, for Mill, this is the only foolproof way to do it (Mill, 1859). However, not everyone would share this view. According to Walzer, there is no shortage of revolutionaries who have demanded external help for their causes (Walzer, 1977, p.88).

Mill says that countries should have the love of liberty to maintain their freedom. However, such feelings may not arise if the country is ruled in ways that does not permit it. Such a government may be tyrannical or may have some other way of keeping its population from getting such thoughts; Mill does not clarify this. However, he says to develop such sentiments, the country needs to undertake an arduous struggle to gain freedom (Mill, 1859).

Mill’s argument about non-intervention in states having revolutions is a little problematic. What happens if the concerned state is, as Mill classifies it, barbaric? In that case, he would probably support and even highlight how important it is to intervene and subjugate the populace in order to make them fit to have popular institutions or democracy.

The Responsibility to Protect

The debate on humanitarian interventions came to the fore in the post Cold War period. The 1990s saw a range of conflicts within states which involved large scale genocide and ethnic cleansing and similar crimes. In some cases, these acts went to such an extent that the international community had to step in to put a stop to them. Certain cases such as Bosnia (1991-92) required full scale military action to stop the conflict. Ironically though, the international community did not intervene in Rwanda, where a large genocide began a little later than the Bosnian crisis. These problems fuelled the debate surrounding humanitarian intervention which paved way for the doctrine of R2P. This section takes a close look at the doctrine of (R2P) to assess if it is different from Mill’s notion of intervention. Also, this section explains concepts like failed states, rogue states and states that violate human rights because these almost form the core of the R2P discourse.

The idea of having a broad consensus on humanitarian interventions came to the fore in 1999 and 2000 in the UN General Assembly. It was the then Secretary General, Kofi Annan who posed a question to the international community (ICISS, 2001, p.VII):

…if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?

This resulted in the establishment of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) under the auspices of the Canadian government and a group of major foundations. The sole objective of the commission was to prepare a report that addressed the moral, legal, operational and political questions associated with humanitarian interventions (ICISS, 2001, p.VII).

The report presented by the ICISS was titled “The Responsibility to Protect.” It recognises and reiterates the fact that a state has a legal identity in international law and that all states are equal irrespective of their size or capabilities. Each of these states has the right to make decisions within their territories regarding people and resources, as enshrined in the UN charter (ICISS, 2001, p.12). However, this right also brings certain responsibilities. Firstly, states have to protect their citizens and strive for their welfare. Secondly, states are responsible to their citizens and the international community through the UN. Thirdly, states or their agents are accountable for their actions (ICISS, 2001, p.13).

Under R2P, the state has three more responsibilities. The first one, the responsibility to prevent, expects states to address the direct and root causes of a conflict which may occur within its boundaries. The second one is the responsibility to react under which the states need to respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures (including military action). The third one is the responsibility to rebuild which asks states to provide the necessary assistance for recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation; especially after a military intervention (ICISS, 2001, p.XI).

Besides, in case of interventions, issues need to be assessed from the perspective of the ones seeking support or help and not the interveners. The primary responsibility to protect lies with the concerned state. However, if the state can’t fulfil this responsibility for whatever reasons or is the perpetrator, the international community can step in. There are three responsibilities that need to be embraced by states under R2P doctrine (ICISS, 2001, p.17).

Similarly, the report of the UN Secretary-General, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, of January 2009, reiterated 2005 World Summit Outcome: Operationalisation of the R2P. The participating Heads of State mandated a three pillar strategy. Pillar one outlined the protection responsibilities of the states to protect its citizens from genocides, ethnic cleansing, war crimes etc. Pillar two called for international assistance and capacity building so that states can carry out their responsibilities. Pillar three calls for timely and decisive response to crisis scenarios if the state has failed to provide the necessary protection (Ban Ki-moon, 2009, p.8 & 9).

So, where is the R2P doctrine applicable? To put it simply, the R2P doctrine is most applicable in failed states, rogue states and in states where there is gross violation of human rights. Let’s take a look at these categories more closely.

Failed States

The Failed States Index explains that a state has failed when its government has lost control of its territory or its monopoly on the legitimate use of force (Foreign Policy, 2005, p.57). However, this may not be the only cause why a state comes to be known as failed state. According to Rotberg, state failure can also be caused by a nation’s geographical, physical, historical and political circumstances, which include colonial errors and Cold War policy mistakes (Rotberg, 2002, p.127). There is also the human element that may result in state failure. As Rotberg argues, destructive decisions by leaders may also pave way for state failure (Rotberg, 2002, p.128).

Rogue States

Rogue States has become quite a common term in international politics. The most regular user of this term is the US. In fact, the term Rogue States, as Litwak argues, is efficient political shorthand that leaves no doubt any country’s place in the world of nations (Litwak, 2000). In essence, a rogue state is one, according to Litwak, that has violated accepted international norms (Litwak, 2000). George Bush’s famous ‘Axis of Evil’ comprising Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and other states could also be referred to as rogue states.

States that violate Human Rights

As the name suggests, this category constitutes states which have been involved in human rights violation at a considerable magnitude. The violation could be through a number of ways. For instance, it could be genocide at varying degrees or setting up and sending people to labour and concentration camps or war crimes which include unjustified destruction of cities. Basically, any breach of humanitarian law would amount to violation of human rights.

Analysis: Responsibility to Protect or Right of Intervention   

This section directly compares R2P, and the three categories of states mentioned above and where it could be applied, with Mill’s idea of intervention/non-intervention in barbaric and civilised lands. In other words, I attempt to find out if the doctrine of R2P amounts to a rebranding of imperial intervention. For reasons of simplicity I would like to refer to Mill’s notion of intervention/non-intervention as Mill’s doctrine through the rest of this section. Also, for organisational purposes, I have included sub-headings in this section in the hope that they will make reading this section easier.

Most Important Differences and Additions

The first strikingly visible difference between the two doctrines is their clarity. As elaborate as the doctrine of R2P is, I would argue that Mill’s ideas are more profound and clearer simply because his core context is of imperialism. Also, his doctrine largely reflected the leading ideas of his time and was not as controversial as the R2P. In terms of the ideas, I would argue that the R2P and Mill’s idea of intervention are largely similar. One major difference between the two doctrines is the introduction of the “Responsibility to Prevent” through an “Early warning capability” (Ban Ki-moon, 2009, p.4) under R2P.

I would argue that this idea is not new one per se but it reflects the notion in Mill’s doctrine that if civilised states have barbaric neighbours, the former cannot and should not hold back for too long, but just intervene and take over from that government or make it militarily dependent. The only difference is that under R2P, states should try to address the root cause and prevent any conflict within the state. This, however, is easier said than done. As the ICISS observed in its report, prevention of a conflict is tough because strong support of the international community is needed almost at all times (ICISS, 2001, p.19).

This was the case in the Kenyan crisis that began in 2007. Thanks to the intervention of the Kofi Annan, mandated by the AU (African Union) and the support of the Secretary General of the UN (United Nations), a power sharing argument was concluded between the warring parties thereby preventing the conflict from escalating into any crimes against humanity.  Having said that, the Responsibility to Prevent is an important inclusion in R2P especially against the backdrop of the intra-state conflicts in Yugoslavia, Rwanda etc. through the 1990s, whose root causes were never addressed.

Rebranding of Imperial Intervention?

This brings us to the more important issue of whether the modern doctrine of R2P is a rebranding of imperial intervention or the kind of intervention Mill spoke of? My answer to this question is yes, the doctrine of R2P is, largely, a rebranding of imperial intervention as proposed by Mill.

However, R2P is not as overt as the Mill doctrine. For instance, Mill supported intervention in the so called barbaric states and non-intervention in the so called civilised ones. The reasons: intervention would benefit of the natives of the so called barbaric state and that annexing another civilised nation would be immoral, unless the nation chooses to do so willingly (Mill, 1859). On this note, it would be interesting to have a look at the current situation. In the current scenario, terms like civilised and barbaric may not be used anymore, at least not overtly. They have been replaced by terms like failed states, rogue states and states that violate humanitarian rights. The characteristics of such states (as highlighted in the previous section) could easily replace Mill’s notion of barbaric states (even though he did not really elaborate on what constitutes a barbaric state). This kind of state branding has become more popular since the end of the Cold War.

Mill also spoke about a vague notion of international morality. Though he did not elaborate on its principles, it’s not very difficult to guess what these might have been. The world, for Mill, was divided into civilised Christian nations and barbaric states completely unfit to have rights as nations. So, international morality would have comprised of the principles and beliefs (probably based on Christianity) of the so called civilised nations.

On a similar note, it could be argued that the new international morality is global peace and security. Any violations of the same would first result first in the state getting branded as a failed state or rogue state and followed by sanctions and other punitive actions. In essence, intervening states might carry out their Responsibility to React and even the Responsibility to Rebuild, if military action is undertaken. This, however, can be slightly problematic. As Finnemore argues, if the situation warrants military intervention it usually means a change of government (Finnemore, 2004, 136).

What’s more, the R2P doctrine also sanctions the use of military force (ICISS, 2001, p.32). It’s perfectly possible that a state or group of states might use this as a licence. As Finnemore points out, intervention and change of government is not undertaken for altruistic reasons but sheerly because the states believe it’s the best solution (Finnemore, 2004. p.136). A good example here could be the global war on terror which began after 9/11 attacks under US leadership. The other problem with regard to the R2P doctrine is that it is definitely prone to abuse by the powerful states. For instance, Russia justified its intervention in South Ossetia, against Georgia, through R2P. The Russian leadership maintained that atrocities committed by the Georgian troops amounted to genocide. The Russian claim was rejected by almost everyone who witnessed this episode (Bellamy, 2010, p.151). To sum up, the doctrine of R2P does amounts rebranding of imperial intervention or the Mill doctrine and because of the creation of the R2P doctrine, classical imperial intervention has become more institutionalised than it was during 19th century and the 1st half of the 20th century.


This essay compared and examined Mill’s notion of intervention/non-intervention and the doctrine of R2P to assess if the latter is a rebranding of imperial intervention. This was demonstrated by first presenting Mill’s ideas on intervention and non-intervention which included his distinction between civilised and barbaric states and the scenarios where interventions would be justified. The next section covered the R2P doctrine by explaining its main points as conceived in the ICISS report and their implementation by the UN. This section also examined the notions of failed states, rogue states and states that violate human rights.


  • Ban Ki-moon. (2009). Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Report of the Secretary General. 12 January, 2009.
  • Bellamy, A, J. (2010). The Responsibility to Protect: Five Years On. Ethics and International Affairs. Vol No.: 24. No.: 2. 2010: 143-169
  • Foreign Policy. (2005). The Failed States Index. Foreign Policy. No.: 149. Jul-Aug 2005: 55-65.
  • Finnemore, M. (2004). The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs about the Use of Force. Cornell University Press, New York. 2004
  • Hobson, J, A. (1902). Imperialism: A Study. George Allen & Unwin, London. August 1902.
  • ICISS (International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty). (2001). The Responsibility to Protect. International Development Research Centre. 2001.
  • Kuperman, A. (2008). The Moral Hazards of Humanitarian Intervention: Lessons from the Balkans. International Studies Quarterly. 2008. 52: 49-80.
  • Litwak, R, S. (2000). A look at Rogue States a Handy Label but a Lousy Policy. The Washington Post. February 20, 2000.
  • N.B: There are plenty of reports on this link. Please use the find feature (Ctrl+F) and search using author’s name or the topic.
  • Rotberg, R, I. (2002). Failed States in a World of Terror. Foreign Policy. Vol No.: 81. No.: 4: 127-140.
  • Walzer, M. (1977). Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. Penguin. 1977.