This report begins the discussion of deciding to intervene by establishing the starting point as the principle of non-intervention, comparing this principle to the Hippocratic principle - first do no harm (para 4.11, pg 31). States should respect other states' sovereignty as a starting point and should only violate their sovereignty when culprit states "shock the conscience of mankind" (more Americans should read and think hard about this principle - and not just within the context of Syria).
The report then goes on to establish six criteria for military intervention:
- right authority
- just cause
- right intention
- last resort
- proportional means
- reasonable prospects
The primary purpose of the intervention must be to halt or avert human suffering. Any use of military force that aims from the outset, for example, for the alteration of borders or the advancement of a particular combatant group's claim to self-determination, cannot be justified. Overthrow of regimes is not, as such, a legitimate objective, although disabling that regime's capacity to harm its own people may be essential to discharging the mandate of protection - and what is necessary to achieve that disabling will vary from case to case.
- The intervening force overthrows the regime out of operational and/or strategic necessity. However, such a precedence calls into question the legitimacy of R2P as violating its own principles.
- The intervening force does not overthrow the regime, remaining compliant with R2P's principles, but renders the regime ineffective by destroying its ability to use force - which in cases like Syria effectively destroys the regime's ability to govern. The potential for greater instability is quite significant through a lack of governance or a more evenly-matched civil war.
- The intervening force only limits the regime's ability to project force into safe zones in order to prevent instability - through defensive or offensive methods. However, the regime maintains the ability to use force, which could be projected in the absence of a foreign military presence. If you like decades-long military operations with little hope of resolution, you pick this option (see: Kosovo, Sinai). Is this a reasonable prospect?