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Rawls and the Responsibility to Protect Distributive Justice in Human Rights

Rawls and the Responsibility to Protect Distributive Justice in Human Rights

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Published by Dom Siravo

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Published by: Dom Siravo on May 13, 2012
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 Rawls and the Responsibility to Protect: Distributive Justice in Human RightsDomenic SiravoDr. TaylorSenior Thesis04 May 2012
Isaiah Berlin wrote “i
t may be that, without the pressure of social forces, politicalideas are stillborn: what is certain is that these forces, unless they clothe themselves in ideas,
remain blind and undirected”
Berlin’s elegant description
of political ideas acts as a commenton the need for philosophers to take relevant political conceptions seriously and to not avoidthem despite their ostensible inability to fit into the currently popular analytic tradition. In timesof sensationalized political movements or political paradigmatic shifts, it may be that only thosewho are trained to think critically are able to effectively criticize or curtail the political thoughtsthat create historic political realities like war or insurrection that often result in violence anddeath. When philosophers today look at pressing world issues like the civil strife in Libya andmore recently in Syria, they should not only take into consideration the moral or ethical problemssurrounding these issues but also the political ideas prevalent in the response of the internationalcommunity. It is a rather uncontroversial opinion to argue that a political idea which promotesthe mass killing of citizens by their own state should not be endorsed as a an ideal principle of apolitical theory, though what is less obvious is how the international community should respondto these situations and how philosophers should view the political and moral ideas embedded inthese potential solutions.One such political idea that has been put forward is the emerging international norm, orset of principles and standards of behavior, known as
the “Responsibility to Protect”
This normsuggests that sovereignty is not a right but a responsibility of governments and that if countriesfail to protect their citizens from egregious violations of human rights the internationalcommunity should intervene to protect these victims. While it is not the sole aim of theresponsibility, the act of humanitarian intervention is conditionally legitimized by the report and
Berlin, I. (1958) “Two Concepts of Liberty.” In Isaiah Berlin (1969)
Four Essays on Liberty 
.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ICISS Reponsibility to Protect
thus the security of citizens, through various enforcement mechanisms, may be enforced uponunwilling nations by international organizations and other countries. This poses numerouspolitical and economic pragmatic implications that are frequently at the center of policy debates,however it concurrently raises several philosophical implications as well that should not go
unnoticed if Berlin’s assertions holds any value. An issue of considerable philosophical import is
if this new norm is grounded in a reasonable and compelling theory of justice, especially in itscall for forms of security to be distributed from states to another state even if they are opposed indoing so. This particular issue is a matter that in part falls under the philosophical jurisdiction of distributive justice since one must consider if this is a just or right way of allocating this good ina global society.In this paper I defend the em
erging international norm of the “Responsibility to Protect”
 by turning to the concepts of distributive justice in Rawls
 A Law of Peoples
. I argue that thelimited type of distributive justice in the law of peoples effectively justifies the distribution of security for humanitarian intervention without needing a worldwide overlapping consensus or aglobal adherence to liberal principles of distributive justice. The Responsibility to Protect is atheory that reflects the compelling portions of Rawls general theory of justice while also beingable to avoid the philosophical baggage that accompanies the ideological political principles that
 persist in Rawls’ specific liberal
conception. Ultimately the principles of justice in the norm andthe law of people justify intervention without leading to a centralized global government or anunjust expansion of governmental power.
What is “The Responsibility to Protect” ?
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) emerged as a legal norm that has swiftly beenendorsed extensively throughout the United Nations and international political community. Its

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