Waiting on the Security Council

Once again, human rights activists and proponents of a “responsibility to protect” are decrying the inaction of the United Nations Security Council. The current unease is over the failure of the world body to promote resolution of the Syrian bloodbath.

After the successful 2011 intervention in Libya, human rights activists have grown weary after 17 months of repression and civil war in Syria. If we look closely at the public statements of Russia and China, though, we should not be surprised at their present opposition to more concerted action on Syria. Both Asian powers chafed at what they saw as NATO’s stretching of the Security Council mandate on Libya. For Russia and China, active support for regime change was not supposed to be part of the UN intervention in Libya.

With Libya behind us, it is no surprise that Russia and China have returned to their default stance of non-intervention in the “internal affairs” of sovereign states. We now seem to be back to a much longer pattern of mixed and disappointing results from the Security Council, as described in an excellent book by Paul Kennedy. Yes, democratization in Russia and China would promote more coherent action by the Council over the longer term. Even so, a permanent five membership composed solely of democracies would still face struggles over lack of political will for interventions. And, as some have observed about the present crisis in Syria, aggressive intervention could actually lead to a greater conflagration.

*** Did you like what you read here? You might be interested in the new book by this blog’s author, Failed States: Realities, Risks, and Responses.

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