Costs and Collateral Damage of a Failure to Protect in Syria

Leah Sherwood


This article reviews humanitarian intervention and Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Syria arguing that inaction has had greater repercussions than action would have had. It begins by engaging a wide range of policy literature on humanitarian law and broader international relations theory to locate R2P and Syria’s case. Using the Kosovo precedent, it shows an intervention was justifiable and then explains why one did not occur. The consequences of failing to act (when it was possible) is said to have undermined respect for human rights and R2P. The article concludes that the failure to protect in Syria has had international reverberations, which are intensified by concurrent global trends. The damage Syria has done to the human rights regime has bearing on the post-WWII (especially post-Cold War) liberal and normative world order because central values were left undefended. Regionally, inaction destabilized the Middle East and created problems in Europe – and beyond. Inside Syria, the costs of the war will last generations. Unintended collateral damage created by the failure to protect in Syria includes less future respect for human rights, R2P, US global leadership and the liberal world order as well as challenges to Middle Eastern stability, European refugee policy and counterterrorism policy.

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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