Protection for the Syrian people

Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 5:10 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media during his meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. Speaking about Syria, the president said he hasn't made a final decision about a military strike against Syria. But he says he's considering a limited and narrow action in response to a chemical weapons attack that he says Syria's government carried out last week.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

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Does the United States — and the rest of the world — have a responsibility to intervene in Syria? Michael Abramowitz at the Washington Post believes that under a scarce-mentioned international policy, we do.

“The 'responsibility to protect' — known in international-relations circles as R2P — is a straightforward, if often misunderstood, notion: Nations must protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and must take action to help other nations whose governments can’t or won’t protect their peoples.” And if anything is calling for R2P, it’s Syria, Abramowitz believes, citing information that paints the increasingly unstable Syria as ripe for genocide.

“(M)ore than 100,000 people have been killed, 5 million displaced from their homes, 2 million refugees sent fleeing and numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed, including with chemical weapons, according to independent human rights monitors and the United Nations. A recent study for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum concluded that genocidal violence against Christian, Sunni, Alawite and other groups is possible if the conflict escalates.”

Yet, Abramowitz is frustrated by Obama’s refusal to invoke R2P despite what he believes is clear justification to use it. “Yet the chemical weapons ban is not the only international norm at stake in the Syrian civil war. Although the U.S. government has endorsed R2P — most recently in the president’s 2010 National Security Strategy — U.S. officials appear unenthusiastic about invoking it as a rationale for combating mass murder and atrocities.”

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and a writer for the Deseretnews.com Opinion section. Email Freeman at fstevenson@deseretdigital.com

Read more about Syria on the Washington Post.

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