[Marxism] New Texts Out Now: Ayca Cubukcu, The Responsibility to Protect: Libya and the Problem of Transnational Solidarity
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 29 07:18:28 MDT 2013
Ayça Çubukçu, “The Responsibility to Protect: Libya and the Problem of
Transnational Solidarity,” Humanitarianism and Responsibility, special
issue of Journal of Human Rights 12 (2013).
Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this article?
Ayça Çubukçu (AÇ): This article originated in a piece I wrote for
Jadaliyya during the vitalizing days of the Arab Spring, in the heat of
debate about the virtues of an international military intervention in
Libya. As Jadaliyya readers would recall, following the February 2011
uprising against Colonel Qaddafi in eastern Libya, there were calls for
the international community to intervene, if necessary with violence,
into Libyan affairs. A global public was told, left and right, that the
international community had the responsibility to protect Libyans from
impending massacres by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces.
Yet proposals for the use of international military force against the
Qaddafi regime led to passionate disagreements, even among familiar
proponents of humanitarian intervention. Such proposals also divided
those traditionally opposed to military interventions along
anti-imperialist lines. This article emerged as an effort to make sense
of these disagreements and to identify some of the conflicting (as well
as common) political and ethical dispositions grounding them. While I
attempt to distill from these debates different visions of what
transnational solidarity demands in the contemporary political
conjuncture, I also adopt a historical perspective in analyzing the
Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and the sensibilities of
cosmopolitanism that it mobilizes.
I must add that the impetus for this article was a desire to clarify my
own thinking in conversation with political and intellectual companions
who either took an explicit stance in support of the military
intervention in Libya or decided to oppose it publicly. Then, of course,
there were those who could not but inhabit a space or moment of
“indecision,” for lack of a better characterization.
J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the article address?
AÇ: The first part of the article examines some of the legal, ethical,
and political dimensions of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine by
engaging with cosmopolitan proposals for its application to Libya before
the international military action to enforce it was initiated in March
2011. It presents reflections of a historical kind on state sovereignty,
international community, and the political theology of humanitarian
intervention. In this section, I also attend to the nature of the moral
imperative underpinning cosmopolitan assertions of responsibility to
save lives in Libya.
The second part reflects on the official recognition of the Transitional
National Council as the sole legitimate authority on Libyan territory by
the enforcers of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and situates
this act of recognition within a history of colonial practices in the
domain of international law. It argues that the language of “protection”
deployed throughout the intervention in Libya should occasion more than
a passing thought on the similarities between actual practices now
associated with the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and the colonial
practices that European empires effected within the legal framework of
“the protectorate” in the late nineteenth century. In this section of
the article, I also discuss the prominence of imperial sensibilities in
the Responsibility to Protect doctrine.
The last and the most provisional part of the piece evaluates
disagreements among certain anti-imperialist commentators—Gilbert Achcar
and Alain Badiou, to name two—over the desirability of a military
intervention in Libya. Here, by analysing arguments over its proper
requirements in the case of Libya, I explore the politics of a
transnational solidarity with anti-imperialist commitments. While
calling for a renewed critique of violence, I conclude the article by
highlighting telling difficulties that afflict attempts to differentiate
acts of “foreign intervention” from acts of “transnational solidarity.”
I argue that what resides in the difficulty of distinguishing acts of
transnational solidarity from acts of foreign intervention are the
mutable borders of the political communities we imagine, the importance
we attach to their autonomy, and who we take to be the proper subject of
politics within those borders. Without those borders, neither the
distinction between “national” and “foreigner,” nor the distinction
between “solidarity” and “intervention,” would make much sense.
As for particular literatures that “The Responsibility to Protect: Libya
and the Problem of Solidarity” addresses: I am thinking in the article
alongside critical scholars in the fields of political and social
theory, international law, intellectual history, international
relations, and postcolonial studies. There are also a variety of public
commentators outside academia who are my interlocutors in this piece.
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