Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

R2P’s “Ulterior Motive Exemption” and the Failure to Protect in Libya

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Abstract:  Mass atrocity prevention has been controversial, both when members of the international community have taken action as well as when they have failed to do so. In 1999, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged the international community to reconcile the need to respect state sovereignty with the need to protect populations from egregious human rights violations. R2P’s emergence offered an opportunity to move past the discourse and practice associated with its predecessor—“humanitarian intervention.” However, while R2P has succeeded in changing the discourse, it has failed to make a change in practice. A source of this failure is R2P’s “ulterior motive exemption.” Using the R2P intervention in Libya as a case study, this article concludes that because ulterior motives existed: (1) NATO’s primary intent of civilian protection quickly evolved into the intent to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi; (2) in exceeding its mandate, NATO committed an act of aggression; (3) NATO continued to militarily support the rebels while they were committing war crimes and severe human rights violations; (4) NATO’s actions resulted in civilian casualties, which NATO has refused to investigate; and (5) NATO abdicated its responsibility to protect Libyans from the human suffering that continued subsequent to Qaddafi’s execution.

Keywords:  humanitarian intervention; Libya; NATO; R2P



© Jeffrey Bachman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.