Why Resources Matter

In my last post, I mentioned Nordic nations not having economic and politic power in international settings in my larger discussion on the danger of socialist (or social democratic) policies and values that Mr. Bernie Sanders expressed. A lot of American voters agreed and supported his values and views.

I would like to briefly introduce a paper by Doeser (2014) on Sweden's participation in the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, or Operation Unified Protector, widely believed to be based on the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). R2P has three elements: 1) Responsibility to Prevent, 2) Responsibility to React, and 3) Responsibility to Rebuild. Operation Unified Protector is controversial, as the military intervention took place with unprecedented urgency after UNSCR 1973 was adopted on March 17, 2011. It was only two days later when NATO implemented the Resolution. The swift action was welcomed and praised by a number of political leaders around the world.

Some scholars, however, asserted that it was not Gaddafi but the rebel militias that had been committing the crime against humanity and that this "swift action" should have taken place after a more thorough investigation on the situation.  Moreover, the Operation Unified Protector lacked two elements out of three listed above.  It may be possible to say that the US antagonism against Libya started in 2003, when Gaddafi agreed to relinquish the country's desire for nuclear weapons. President Bush expected that Gaddafi would also grant the US access to its crude oil resources, which did not happen. It has never happened. I cannot say for certain, however, that this accounted for the US support for the "swift action" against Libya to remove Gaddafi.

Doeser's (2014) discussion on the reason for Sweden's participation in the intervention had five points:

  1. a sense of altruism, expected of a Nordic nation by many in the world
    • the desire to do the right thing, or to help those in need
  2. the legal basis
  3. an intent to increase its international presence and influence through the participation in the NATO operation
    • Sweden has had a limited authority in international settings and participation in the humanitarian intervention, supported by the majority of the "International Community", could have contributed to its increased global visibility and authority.
  4. resource availability
    • Even if the participation in the intervention were the right thing to do, Sweden would participate if it did not have enough military or economic resources available.
  5. parliamentary support for the operation
The third point is interesting, as this coincides with how women won the first-class citizen status and suffrage through active military participation, which is an ultimate form of self-sacrifice, in the early 1900s (Enloe, 2000). It is quite amazing how power and authority can be manipulated - given or withheld - to influence the behavior, cognition, and action of certain groups with certain interests. This is not to claim that the UNSCRs 1970 and 1973, and the following Operation Unified Protector were intended to manipulate political power, or access to political power. My point is that resource acquisition - resource needed to influence others - may often be a valid and strong motivation for countries with less power to determine courses of action in controversial situations.

President Trump, as well as Mr. Bernie Sanders, do not wish to become the "policeman of the world." It is the reality, however, the one with resources have stronger power to negotiate and seal deals, at least in the current system. Being a policeman and being a leader are two different things, and just like every ship needs an anchor to sail the often turbulent ocean, the world needs some sort of hierarchy, not total egalitarianism, as total egalitarianism or anything near it could lead to the diffusion of responsibility where altruism is unlikely to be practiced.

Key Citation
Doeser, F. (2014). Sweden's participation in Operation Unified Protector: Obligations and interests. International Peacekeeping, 21(5), 642-657. doi: 10.1080/13533312.2014.963325

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