, Volume 91, Number 4

Jason Ralph and James Souter
In the summer of 2014 Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emerged as a threat to the Iraqi people. This article asks whether the UK and Australia had a ‘special’ responsibility to protect (R2P) those being threatened. It focuses on two middleranking powers (as opposed to the US) in order to highlight the significance of special responsibilities that flow only from the principle of reparation rather than capability. The article contends that despite casting their response in terms of a general responsibility, the UK and Australia did indeed bear a special responsibility based on this principle. Rather than making the argument that the 2003 coalition that invaded Iraq created ISIS, it is argued that it is the vulnerable position in which Iraqis were placed as a consequence of the invasion that grounds the UK and Australia’s special responsibility to protect. The article addresses the claim that the UK and Australia were not culpable because they did not act negligently or recklessly in 2003 by drawing on Tony Honoré’s concept of ‘outcome responsibility’. The finding of a special responsibility is significant because it is often thought of as being more demanding than a general responsibility. In this context, the article further argues that the response of these two states falls short of reasonable moral expectations. This does not mean the UK and Australia should be doing more militarily. R2P does not begin and end with military action. Rather the article argues that the special responsibility to protect can be discharged through humanitarian aid and a more generous asylum policy.

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