There’s no doubt the Libya experience has made certain Council members averse to meddling any further in the Arab spring. But will that aversion be so strong next year in some other political or regional context? Who knows. Recent history lends little support to the notion that a controversial–or even failed–mission couched in humanitarian terms threatens the entire genre.
I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of future military interventions carried out by ad hoc groups of states, which is what happened in Kosovo and Iraq. We could quibble over how important the humanitarian justification for invading Iraq was. It was part of the pre-invasion rhetoric, but it wasn’t the reason for the invasion. When no WMDs turned up in Iraq, that effectively wrecked the idea of waging a war in the name of preventive counter-proliferation. The Libyan war was principally and almost entirely justified in terms of the “responsibility to protect,” and it was because of this doctrine that the U.N. could claim to have the authority to intervene. If Libya sours enough governments on the doctrine, as it already seems to be doing, there won’t be a consensus in favor of similar interventions.
What I am saying is that Libya has made it very difficult to imagine the Security Council authorizing a similar military intervention in accordance with R2P requirements. As Bosco knows, an intervention would very likely fall short of the standards set down by the creators of R2P if it is not authorized by the Security Council. Having been burned by what they perceive as an abuse of the authorization provided by UNSCR 1973, both the permanent and non-permanent abstaining members are very likely to revert back to outright opposition to such actions. That may not stop the U.S. or other intervening governments from taking action without authorization, but it is this authorization that separates a formally lawful international intervention from an illegal attack on a member state.