In her keynote speech at the Black Policy Conference at Harvard Kennedy School on Friday, the Honorable Susan E. Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, emphasized that while the U.S. is committed to protecting the people of Libya, it will limit its involvement to actions dictated by a larger international effort.
Rice described the U.S. mission in Libya as one that is “limited in time, scope and purpose.”
She emphasized that the decision to intervene against Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi was ultimately left to the U.N. Security Council rather than to the U.S. She added that the U.S. would not have intervened if other countries had not supported the decision.
The vote to approve a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians was approved by the U.N. Security Council in a 10-0 vote with five abstentions last month.
Because of the U.S. commitment to working within the guidelines set by the United Nations and to conducting missions only from the air rather than through ground troops, Rice recognized that the U.S. ability to protect civilians is imperfect.
“We are doing what can be done with our partners as part of a coalition pursuant in an international mission,” Rice said. “There are limits to what you can do in terms of civilian protection from the air.”
Rice said that international attitudes towards intervening in countries undergoing humanitarian crises has been shaped by many events in the last two decades, including the situations in Darfur, Rwanda, and Kosovo.
“Since 1994, there has been a great deal of evolution in ideas about humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect,” Rice said.
However, she added that there is no “cookie cutter answer” and that every situation warrants an analysis of its own set of circumstances.
Organizers of the event said that Ambassador Rice was an excellent choice to begin the conference because she has set a powerful example for the African-American community.
“The first (and youngest) African-American female to hold the position of US Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Rice is a role model not only for communities of color, but for females and young professionals,” Gabrielle L. Wyatt, a Kennedy School student and one of the organizers of the event, wrote in an emailed statement. “At this historic period in our nation, we have the opportunity to become visible examples of hope; Ambassador Rice’s character, heritage, and career represents just that.”
The Black Policy Conference hosted many speakers on both Friday and Saturday, including Kasim Reed, the Mayor of Atlanta, and Kaya Henderson, the Chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools.
—Staff writer Monica M. Dodge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.