Moral Responsibility in International Relations: The US Response to Rwanda, Darfur and Libya

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Topic and Research Questions. The research paper shall include the detailed conceptualization of the international ethics, critically evaluating the issues faced by the US and the responses it provided to the three states of Darfur, Rwanda, and Libya. These states shall be examined considering the international moral responsibility involved in the international relations, thereby addressing the research questions as listed below carefully:

  • How are moral responsibilities a significant aspect of international relations?
  • What were the responses of the US to the issues faced by the states of Rwanda, Darfur and Libya?
  • What are the apt responses of the US regarding the issues prevalent in the concerned states?

Importance of the Topic. The event that shall be highlighted in the research paper is the moral complexity that has been evident through the violation of human right. In the three states of Libya, Darfur, and Rwanda, severe cases of human right violations were observed foer which the US has unfavourably responded. The US had failed to take adequate actions and intervene in these issues due to which huge amount of civilians were mercilessly massacred. It was in this context estimated that the instances of massacre resulted in the death of 700,000 to 1,450,000 citizens, which indicated that national self-interest was more important in the context of international relations than the lives of the civilians. For maintaining healthy international relations, ethical reasoning and moral values have an important role to play. In addition, a country should keep in mind that political challenges will be faced while managing the international community, efforts should also be made to protect the territorial security of the states and economic well-being. All these aspects can possibly be addressed by considering the moral values. Interstate relations should also be equally taken into account for the betterment of the global society by considering the moral responsibilities. Moreover, global problems such as genocide and human right violation should be collaboratively addressed with the support of moral responsibilities implemented in the international relations. This shows that, understanding the complexity in maintaining moral responsibility in the international relations particularly in case of the US responses for the issues of states such as Darfur, Libya and Rwanda is highly important.

Ethical Theories

To obtain a detailed understanding, ethical theories can be studied considering the Rawlsian approach, which generally applies the difference between a non-ideal and an ideal theory for determining the apt ethical considerations on international laws. However, there may be a possibility that ethical theory based on the ideal-non-ideal differences can fail to meet the objective of practicing more justifiable international law with the help of policy makers. The key reason for such a situation is the value pluralism

Similarly, it has been stated that at a time of crisis, there needs to be an ideal theory to guide the policymakers and the economies, so that moral good can be achieved. It has contextually been observed that many a times, countries have taken wrong actions, which were unavoidable due to the lack of any alternative means. However, ethical theories such as anthropological theory for undertaking humanitarian actions to address the requirement at the time of crisis or disasters can be utilized by the economies to align itself with the virtue ethics. A hybrid approach can also be taken into consideration such as the theory of non-utilitarian consequentialism, with the help of which an economy can address the moral as well as ethical problems by providing an improved methodological scope. Moreover, ethical dilemmas in the case of disasters and global issues are often complex and can naturally occur. This must be avoided by the economies through the effective application of the ethical and moral theories so that the situations can be brought under control. Therefore, these ethical theories have been developed to address the issues considering human rights violations, moral and ethical issues and doing moral good. This, in turn, proves the significance of moral responsibility in the context of international relations because each member of international community wants to apply the most suitable ethical theory to improve the situation at the time of critical situations. 

Structure of the Research Paper. A basic structure shall be followed in the final research paper, comprising introduction, discussion and conclusion. In the final research paper, brief understanding of the topic and the main discussion part of the paper will be outlined in the introduction part of the paper. Thereafter, the research questions will be outlined in the discussion part, thereby providing specific details of the issues highlighted in this paper. In the later part, conclusions will be drawn along with the future recommendation for the US to favorably respond to the issues of the states considering the provision of morality and moral responsibility involved in the international relations. Furthermore, the evidences required to find the answer of the research questions would be books, journal articles, governmental websites, news articles as well as international organizations’ websites relevant to the issue of concern. These evidences can be easily accessible and are even freely available in the Google scholar and other databases. The type of research that shall be carried forth in the proposed study is qualitative and descriptive approach with the inclusion of evidences from the previous research papers and peer-reviewed articles as well.


Introduction. The main concern of the paper is the application of moral responsibility in international relations. With consideration to this concept, the response of the US has been evident particularly in the case of the issues by three states namely, Rwanda, Libya, and Darfur. In order to possess a detailed understanding of the issue, the questions that will be addressed in the paper along with the types of moral responsibilities that are involved in the international relations. Furthermore, a country such as the US should comply with the moral responsibilities in order to have a positive relationship with the states associated with it. In addition, with particular consideration of the three states individually, the US responses shall be studied in details so that appropriate implications are made for making better decisions in the future instances. This can hence be done by critically analyzing the protection responsibility of the US towards the three states. Thus, critically understanding the complexity involved in international relations, it can be concluded that the response of the US was not that favorable for all the three states because it prioritized its decisions and was not able to curb or minimize the problems that these states were facing at the time of necessity. 

The significance of Moral Responsibilities in International Relations. There are huge responsibilities that must be fulfilled by the member states due to the presence of the responsibility notion in the global politics. Practical reasoning, as well as the empirical challenges faced, has increased the significance of considering the moral and ethical responsibilities. These concerns have hence created the emergence of the norm ‘Responsibility to Protect’ which further emphasizes the protection of human rights in the states at the time of severe violations. This shall include the political responsibility as well, which may be accountable for the unfavorable responses of the intervening countries such as the US and the UN. Thus, it is highly essential that apart from other responsibilities of the member countries, moral responsibility should also be taken into consideration in order to protect the human rights of the people. 

Although the US has been evident to utilize military interventions for diffusing the values of cosmopolitan issues, however, in these human right violation cases, it failed to protect these states. This failure led to the massacre of several civilians, which proved that the US continued to consider only its own interest rather than considering the betterment of the people in these states. This implied that, in all cases, self-interest was considered more important than humanitarian concerns towards maintaining the international relations. It can also be noted that the English School shows international relations to be the significant element between power and morality, solidarist, and pluralist, justice and order as well as history and theory. Therefore, it can be stated that it provides a holistic framework for applying the theories to facilitate moral values and collectively work for humanity, which is hence the most challenging aspect to maintain in the international relations. In order to address these requirements, the international community has made efforts towards solidarism, thereby maintaining the state sovereignty to a large extent

The community had thereafter decided to pose a collective moral responsibility for protecting people in those situations, in which the states failed to protect its own people. However, the intervening countries may fail to consider its primary duty of safeguarding its own states, therefore, the R2P norm has been recently implemented in the community. This may be particularly evident while protecting the violation of human rights of the citizens. In addition, the evolution of solidarism has increased complexity in the concept of moral responsibility, especially at the state level. It was due to this increased complexity that numerous states faced massive issues such as genocides, when the international community had limited understanding of the moral responsibilities particularly the pluralist concept

US Responses. 

In case of Rwanda

In the entire history, the occurrence of genocide in the state of Rwanda was the most intensive massacre. There was also an incident, which occurred on 6th April 1994, in which the plane of President Habyarimana was shot while it was about to reach Kigali airport. This incident sparked the implementation of a solution for the problem of Tutsi in the state of Rwanda. The action that was undertaken resulted in the death of innumerable Tutsis, which was estimated to be around 800, 000 along with a few Hutus, who were put to death using ‘machetes’ as the weapon. This huge devastating massacre took place within mere two weeks at a breathtaking and a rapid pace. This incident was termed as the first unequivocal type of case particularly considering genocide. It was further observed that the rate of killings in the daily basis was five times more than that of the Nazis. At the end of the month, it was observed that half of the population of Tutsis in Rwanda was put to death. Corresponding to this incident, the members of the international community was able to only observe such devastating event but not act favorably. The impending genocide that had occurred in Rwanda indicated a serious warning to the members as a result of which, all the members of community pledged that this kind of incident shall never be witnessed without immediate actions. However, all the policymakers in the US, UN, Belgium, and France were considered as the major actors of international relations, who failed to understand the warning of the disaster that could possibly occur in the world. In addition, they were not able to recognize the occurrence of this massive genocide in the beginning which later resulted in half of the Tutsi population facing brutal killing

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This case became even more serious when the troops sent for the rescue were withdrawn, this could have saved the lives of several people and the fear of genocide would not have been that prominent in the minds of the people. The only decision that the international community could take to help these people was to continue sending troops to protect the people, who were still then alive. Hence, this case reveals the importance of decision-making at the time of crucial situations particularly considering the implementation of foreign policies. In addition, the trouble that was faced by the US government while attempting to settle the disputes and fulfilling the commitments was more evident in this case. Thus, it can be stated that it was the case of paralysis and mere avoidance. However, there is the necessity to make the framework of responses towards international security stronger, so that the states such as Rwanda do not have to face the high magnitude of genocides. The US, one of the significant members of the international community, was expected to protect the state but did not act within the required time, rather the troops that were sent for rescue also returned. This shows the negligence of the international community towards their moral responsibility commitment. After the occurrence of the massive genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the English School analyzed the situation. This event reflected the hesitant response of the government on the issue that depicted the pluralist concept of international relations. This seemed to challenge the notion of moral responsibility towards the states and the citizens across cultures as well as political boundaries. Therefore, it can be noted that this created an opportunity for the US to offer moral as well as political leadership towards the development of collaborative security responses particularly in cases of mass atrocities. However, the expectation of the government of Rwanda was not fulfilled because the UN forces were withdrawn due to the presence of domestic politics. This changed the public expectation of receiving help from the intervening countries although the apology made by Clinton in this issue demonstrated the importance of differentiating the individual interest and state morality in these situations. This therefore shows the moral complexity that is present in the state leadership, due to which the moral responsibility of the policymakers should be considered different as compared to the individual moral standpoints

In case of Darfur

Another instance of genocide was evident in the state of Darfur, which was considered as an ambiguous one. This incident was contrasting to the case of Rwanda because the international community struggled to term the conflict that was occurring as genocide. However, the decision was made by the then President, George W. Bush to term it as genocide and called the members in order to protect the citizens of the state to respond based on the norms of moral responsibility. This response of the US president, in this case, gained recognition in the global context but the US government was a little hesitant to take the necessary actions. As a result, the US was unable to justify the Sudan government about the estimated deaths of 400, 000 citizens of Darfur. This was because the UN commission stated that genocide had not taken place in Darfur which enabled the US to avoid its engagement in the issue as well as the stigma associated with it. It was, therefore, stated that the US response, in this case, was harsh and the matter was dealt with the help of misguided justifications and their attempts to address the issue. It can also be inferred that clarity of matters should be considered in the international community along with the expansion of the moral responsibility with solidarism.

The conflicts that were witnessed in Darfur started in the year 2003 and could be controlled only in the year 2007. In 2004, the estimated death toll had reached 70,000, but still no actions were undertaken to intervene in this massive violation of human rights. This situation aroused when the government of Sudan armed the militants of Arab to suppress the insurgent groups of Africa, thereby leading to intensive violence affecting the black Africans. The situation could be managed by the international community but the US was unwilling to take necessary actions without the permission of the Sudanese government rather they decided to introduce a series of resolutions to express their concern for the issue

In case of Libya

Another situation of violence was witnessed in the state of Libya, in which the contribution of US leadership by the then president, Barack Obama was limited through the UN intervention. This constricted response of the US explored the international as well as the domestic factors that influenced the decision-making regarding the humanitarian intervention. The case of Libya was totally different from the cases of Darfur and Rwanda, and this time the UN Security Council immediately responded to the upheavals being witnessed during the year 2011. The swiftness in the response from the international community was the result of concern for solidarism in the international relations. However, the situation was not in control, Gaddafi continued their violence against the rebellion. This created a doubt about the willingness of the international community to invest their finances and human resources in order to prevent the violation of human rights in this case. In particular, this violation was the case of a revolt that created political unrest since 2010. In this case of conflict that was witnessed in Libya, military intervention was implemented to protect the lives of the people by adopting the Resolution 1973. This resolution authorized immediate cease-fire in protecting the citizens of Libya, thereby ending the violence once and for all. It further allowed the member states to take necessary actions to protect the civilians of the state with the help of which victory was achieved towards the end of the year. However, the participation of the US was not witnessed and was later justified by stating that its participation in the military campaign would lead to a serious threat to the lives of its own civilian population

Appropriate Responses of the US. All these three cases showed the importance of considering international moral responsibility and the way it conflicted between the domestic and interest-based concerns. In addition, it was seen that the decision-makers or the policymakers was often confronted with the choice of moral imperatives. It is often observed in such cases that the concerned authorities were confused with the selection of the most appropriate imperative. This situation is often noted, particularly in cases which involves military interventions because it carries uncertainty of favorable outcomes. Therefore, it can be further inferred that this might be the main reason for the unfavorable or half-hearted responses to the violations of the three states. Thus, the suggestion can be made on the ground of moral complexity involved in the state leadership that should be thoroughly examined by the member countries of the international community especially the US. Furthermore, the complexity that is observed in the statecraft should not be neglected while addressing the issues such as genocide and other conflicts. All these complexities should be effectively addressed by the international community keeping in mind its pledge of ‘never again’ so that inconsistency of responses such as in the case of the US can be mitigated. Therefore, the unique ethical considerations of statecraft can also be used to address these complexities. In all these cases, the US has been particularly considered because it is the strongest member of the international community and has been an essential part of the humanitarian initiatives particularly in the decision-making of the military interventions.

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The consideration of statecraft should be effective enough to meet the requirement of international relations, thereby adhering to the moral responsibilities of the sovereign states. This is mainly because these states act as the foundation of the international community. Moreover, the actors of the international community are the primary subject of international ethics. Hence, it can be noted that international ethics act as a special sphere of statecraft. International ethics should further be integrated with the ethical consideration of statecraft with the collaborative efforts of the leaders i.e., states-people because they possess the ability to affect the lives of the people in the world. This power and responsibility mainly considers the military strength. However, statecraft is a sphere, which is different from its own ethics, wherein every sphere is related to the human activities and is associated with the ethical consideration of responsibilities and power

In addition, the English School has been considering statecraft’s moral dimension. Thus, by understanding the situational ethics involved in the statecraft, the international community can facilitate its initiatives effectively. The ethics that are basically involved in the statecraft are applicable to the state leaders for implementing the necessary foreign policies, thereby addressing the normative criteria. These may involve hard choices e made by the state-people for the welfare of the citizens throughout the world. It can also be noted that these choices can not only involve political or economic costs but may also have moral liability. Therefore, proper choices should be made especially by the members such as the US, taking into high consideration the moral responsibilities by understanding the choices and the consequences involved in the ethics of statecraft for effectively maintaining the international relations.

Apt Response to Rwanda

With response to the Rwanda Genocide, the international community could not act accordingly at that time to protect the human rights of the citizens, for which appropriate choice between the actions could have been better. It can thus be observed that there is no appropriate norm of the humanitarian interventions that allow the states to take the necessary military initiatives. However, through the initiatives of the international community, there has been an emergence of ‘Responsibility to protect’ norm which allows the states to undertake military actions as the last resort to any case of genocide such as that of Rwanda. In this case, it has been increasingly observed that the US had used the humanitarian consideration as one of the justifications of its unwilling response. Therefore, these interventions should be governed by a separate legitimate authority, which can take decisions in an unbiased manner, thereby focusing more on the well-being of the people at times of severe problems rather than on the fulfillment of their personal interest. Thus, the Security Council should possess the power to take necessary actions so that the future implementation of these interventions may be effective and successful. Having a detailed analysis of the situations that persisted in this case, it can be noted that political will was the main obstruction towards effective response hence, appropriately NATO interventions could have been applied such as in Kosovo. This intervention was able to stop the transition of a civil war from becoming an ethnic cleansing campaign. It was therefore a perfect example of an effective intervention, which could have been the appropriate response of US in the case of Rwanda genocide.

Apt Response to Darfur

In case of Darfur, there was observed lack of effective response even though the doctrine of ‘responsibility to protect’ was enforced since 2005. Thus, it can be inferred that this doctrine did not ensure effective action against the occurrence of genocide or mass atrocities. In lieu of this aspect, the international community produced a document in 2005, which clearly stated the differences between the responsibility and the sovereignty. These types of development should hence be encouraged so that decisions in these crucial situations can be made easier. In addition, the US engagement in the issues of Sudan should be improved by assessing the human rights of the civilians at the time of facing violations. This can therefore help strengthen the normalization of relations between the Sudan and the US, through certain benchmarks complying with the international norms. These benchmarks may include, protecting the civilians, taking account of the criminal activities and monitoring of human rights with the help of international institutions. Moreover, essential reforms should also be improved so that the international security can be improved such as the sanctions policy. The US should also take the responsibility for imposing individual sanctions against severe human right abuses along with the appointment of a special representative for Sudan. The US should revise its policies, targeted sanctions, and update the human rights benchmarks accordingly to improve the conditions. These responses of US could, therefore, improve the situations in Sudan, especially in Darfur.

Apt Response to Libya

In the third case of the US response towards the problems faced by Libya, there was humanitarian crisis observed. According to which the initial response of the international community to the crisis was unsatisfactory. The appropriate response to the crisis would have been to act immediately under the framework of ‘Responsibility to protect’, as a result of which more and more forces were used against the protestors that in turn resulted in mass atrocities. Sooner or later, the international community called on to stop the violence but a huge amount of people was already killed by then. Therefore, there was the requirement to act immediately especially from the regional actors, UN bodies, and individual states so that the civilians could be protected. Hence in this aspect, the international community with the leading decision maker to be the US should have involved the regional organizations to help curb the problem. This could not only help the intervention of the violence in the state but have also stimulated increased magnitude of international responses. The member states of the international community could utilize their economic and diplomatic measures earlier. The lessons that shall be learned from this case are that the decision maker of the member states i.e., the US could have mainly thought about protecting the people of Libya in the best possible manner. The NATO mission that was carried out could have been more effective keeping in mind the ‘responsibility of protecting’ notion in mind

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Conclusion. With a detailed analysis of the situations that was prevalent in all the three cases, it was the moral responsibility of, not only the US but of the entire international community to respond effectively and immediately towards maintaining a peaceful environment in the world. Thus, the controversies that were surrounded by the concept of moral responsibility in the domain of international relations can be considered as a reflective action of the community striving to establish its foundation of solidarist and pluralist. However, positive implications were also observed through these cases because solidarism was evolving through these instances keeping in mind the complexities involved in it. Therefore, it can be suggested that new complexities arising from solidarism especially at the state level should be dealt by implementing ethical theories and stricter compliance to the moral responsibilities. This shall, in turn, allow the US and the international community to adhere to the requirements of the member states and maintain peace and harmony among the people therein. 

Thus, conclusions can be drawn that the decisions undertaken by the international community with the main consideration of the major member states such as UN and US were not that appropriate that lead to severe consequences. The US in certain cases escaped from appropriate responses by mere excuses for their inactions. Irrespective of the pledge taken by them after the Rwanda case, the other two cases that occurred after the case was dealt with same negligence and lack of immediate actions in the name of limited pluralist understanding. These countries were idle while mass killings, human right violations, and genocides were occurring. Therefore, in response to these flaws, the dimensions of pluralist, solidarity, justice, order, and theory should be effectively made to co-exist. This, in turn, should be followed by removing the tensions that shall be created in adhering to these requirements, thereby considering moral responsibilities in the context of international relations to foster peace and unity in the world. 

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