It should not come as a surprise that R2P (Responsibility to Protect) the doctrine of intervening on humanitarianism is losing international support. In Libya, as the advocates of humanitarian intervention opine, the aforesaid doctrine has been applied. They have expressed optimism in the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1973 which endorsed the doctrine by authorizing the military action to save Libyans. Whether more lives in Libya are endangered or protected in the aftermath of enforcement of UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over the country is still uncertain.
As the Libyan crisis turns into a protracted war with no side seemingly winning the battle, the likelihood of fissures emerging among the NATO coalition partners increases. The air campaign led by the West against Libya is slowly coming under strain because some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council have started criticizing it. Their frustration at the lack of progress on the ground is becoming deeper, more so due to civilian casualties to avoid which the intervention has been launched.
At the time of resolution’s passage on March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council could not become unanimous for understandable reasons. Veto-wielding members of the Security Council such as China and Russia did not vote for the resolution rather they abstained, which displayed their uneasiness to embrace intervention on humanitarian ground. They were followed by other non-permanent members like Brazil, Germany and India.
Commenting on the loss of civilians in Libya the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, during his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi has forewarned that NATO should not take sides in the conflict. Obviously, he is showing Russian disapproval for strikes against the Qaddafi loyalists who are civilians. Concerns have also been expressed by Brazil, China, India and South Africa demanding that NATO should comply with mandate of resolution 1973, which is to protect the Libyans.
While the application of humanitarian intervention is displaying growing displeasure even among the members of the UN Security Council, Edward Luck, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General is euphoric that Libya has provided a test case for R2P. He is quoted saying, “The very fact the UN Security Council invoked the responsibility to protect without any dissent is a recognition that this is becoming an accepted principle and standard for national and international behavior”.
More troublingly the controversy in Libyan intervention may be seized as an opportunity by the followers of Osama bin Laden pronouncing that their grievances attributed to Western oppression remain as deep as ever. The conflict in Libya, a Muslim country, is crafted by the Qaddafi regime as another assault from the Americans against the Islamic world. The coalition countries engaged in war are predominantly Western, whom the Libyan leader has been accusing of being conspirators.
The U.S. has been projected hypocritical in pressuring Syria and Libya but ignoring violent crackdown in Bahrain as evidenced in Arab revolutions. Unless such double standards are jettisoned, the R2P doctrine has little chance of receiving wider support internationally.