The Right of Might


WASHINGTON/BERLIN/YANGON (Own report) - A military intervention in Myanmar is supposed to help create a precedence for an institutionalized right to armed interventions in other countries. This is demanded by Western pressure groups supported by prominent German politicians. They are calling for the application of the "Responsibility to Protect", (R2P) concept that began appearing in Western documents in 2001, and was discussed for years in the UN - in spite of the resistance put up by states opposing Western hegemony. Disregarding their opinion, the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon has appointed an "R2P" special advisor to promote the institutionalization of this right of intervention. It justifies using military means in cases ambiguously defined as "crimes against humanity." It is currently alleged that this crime is being committed, if, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, a government refuses to allow all of the offered relief personnel into its country. It is not necessary to have the authorization of the UN Security Council. De facto, this right of intervention can only be applied by the major Western nations with powerful armed forces. An influential German officer assisted in the elaboration of their concept. He also declared recently that nuclear first-strikes were admissible.


"R2P" is a concept that Western governments have been trying to institutionalize for years. It is centered around the basic assumption that each state has a responsibility to protect its citizenry ("Responsibility to Protect"). As "R2P" proponents argue, the fulfillment of this duty could be imposed from abroad through economic and political pressure, but above all with military means. Controversial is whether or not the UN Security Council must agree to the intervention. Leading "R2P" proponents argue this is not the case.[1] Also unclear is what kind of violation of a government's duty to protect warrants armed operations. Categories usually mentioned are genocide, war crimes, racist motivated mass murder and "crimes against humanity". Particularly the term "crimes against humanity" is open to interpretation and considerably lowers the threshold to intervention. Proponents of the "R2P" concept claim that national sovereignty must therefore be scaled back.

Commission Report

Since 2000, the "R2P" concept has been systematically gaining prominence. In August 2000 the Canadian government set up the "International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty," (ICISS) that studied the question for about a year. The commission's work culminated in a report, which has laid the basis for discussions and was transmitted to the UN General Secretary in late 2001. The commission, which also included hand-picked members from non-Western countries, was mainly financed by Canada and the USA.[2] One of the commission members was the German general Klaus Naumann, formerly the Inspector General of the German Bundeswehr. Naumann is also co-author of a recently published study, that proposes a new Western military strategy. This study has drawn attention around the world, because its authors explicitly declare that a nuclear first strike is permissible.[3]

Special Advisor

Ever since the public introduction of "R2P" through the Canadian paper, Western politicians have been seeking to have it anchored as a basis of UN policy. They are having success, in spite of the resistance of numerous nations defying Western hegemony, including the Peoples Republic of China and Venezuela. At the United Nations Summit in September 2005, 150 nations approved a declaration containing "R2P" formulations.[4] Following a heated dispute, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has appointed a "special advisor", whose job is to promote "R2P" as a basis of UN policy. The advisor, a US citizen, is seeking to impose this concept and has already reached agreements with the German Foreign Ministry.[5]

Natural Disasters

The most recent offensive, using the pretext of the natural disaster in Myanmar, demonstrates the extent of the "R2P" proponents' plans. The local military government has for years felt under attack from the West, and for the past few months been confronted with threats of US air strikes, which is why it is not willing to unconditionally open up its territory to Western relief personnel, including soldiers.[6] The "International Crisis Group" (ICG) says this refusal by the Myanmarian government could be considered a "crime against humanity" and - in accordance with "R2P" - trigger a military attack.[7] In fact the Canadian "R2P" basic principles paper provides for "overwhelming natural or environmental catastrophes" as possible triggers for foreign intervention.[8]

Government Advisors

These ICG findings are not so amazing. After all Gareth Evans is the ICG chairman, a leading proponent of "R2P," who, as co-chairman of the Canadian commission, played a leading role in the elaboration of the "R2P" basic principles paper. The ICG, one of the most influential organizations of global government advisors, has for years been campaigning in favor of "R2P." Among its members are influential personalities from various Western nations, such as the US financier George Soros and the expert Zbigniew Brzezinski and German politicians. Also with ICG membership are the former German Foreign Minister, Josef Fischer (Green Party), on the senior advisory board is Volker Ruehe (CDU) and Uta Zapf (SPD). According to its own indications, the German Foreign Ministry is one of its financiers.

Inter-Party Consensus

Several government ministers have already declared their accord with a military intervention against Myanmar and thereby signaled their agreement with a liberal interpretation of "R2P." In Berlin this interpretation finds inter-party consensus. Even in the "Left Party" - which is critical toward the Bundeswehr - a prominent parliamentarian is in favor of an intervention in Myanmar. "One goes in with the military and distributes the relief supplies. And if the local military gets in the way, one takes measures to be able to continue to distribute the supplies."[9] Relief organizations, such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), are urgently warning against this approach, because in addition to the fatal consequences of a natural disaster, it would provoke armed conflicts - at the expense of the civilian population, whose suffering is allegedly supposed to be relieved.

Disparate Rights

If "R2P" is institutionalized, this would mean that the right of might will be formalized as the valid norm in global relations. The certain amount of protection afforded by the principle of sovereignty to weaker nations - in force in international relations since the 17th Century - would now be defunct. The major powers would only have to choose a pretext, to accuse an annoying government of "crimes against humanity," to justify military operations. The inappropriate handling of a natural disaster could possibly be grounds enough. The thought that "R2P" will be implemented against major powers because of the growing human rights organizations' protests, can be excluded and the thought that weaker nations would be entitled to the same rights and could militarily intervene in Europe or the USA is absurd.

[1] The Responsibility to Protect;
[2] Neben US-Stiftungen und dem kanadischen Staat trugen die Regierungen Großbritanniens und der Schweiz kleinere Beträge bei. Der Bericht ist unter dem Titel "The Responsibility to Protect" erschienen und unter abrufbar.
[3] see also The Grand Strategy
[4] "Art. 139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity." World Summit Outcome Document, September 2005
[5] "The Responsibility to Protect". Podium Globale Fragen mit Prof. Edward C. Luck am 26.02.2008 im Auswärtigen Amt in Berlin;
[6] see also Overt or Covert
[7] Gareth Evans: Facing Up to Our Responsibilities; The Guardian 12.05.2008
[8] The Responsibility to Protect. Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, December 2001;
[9] Die Linke: "Da muss man militärisch eingreifen"; Tagesspiegel 13.05.2008