Thomas G. Weiss


The chasm between normative development and international practice regarding humanitarian intervention is wide, as evidenced by the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Rarely are political reality and pious rhetoric in sync. Depicting the normative development on a graph would reflect a steady growth since the early 1990s, whereas the curve depicting the operational capacity and political will to engage in humanitarian intervention would resemble the path of a roller coaster. This article examines the trajectory of norm building about military intervention for human protection purposes, emphasizing the concept of the ‘‘responsibility to protect.’’ While considerable progress has been made toward resolving the fundamental tension between the principles of state sovereignty and human rights, the actual practice of military humanitarianism has reached a nadir at present. The article highlights five impediments to human protection in genocidal contexts: the resistance from the Non-Aligned Movement; the blowback from 9/11; a distracted superpower; spoilers, war economies, and privatization; and the civilian humanitarian identity crisis itself.