What does it say about us that the Obama administration has such trouble even finding the words to describe the horrors that Muammar Qaddafi is now inflicting on his people? ~Matt Continetti
Perhaps it says that the U.S. government still regards its responsibility for its own citizens as more important than it does issuing satisfying, but practically irrelevant condemnations of another government’s crimes. Perhaps for once it says that the U.S. government is unwilling to undertake ill-considered military action when there is no American interest at stake and nothing like a national consensus in favor of intervention. Continetti is right that the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” is meaningless because there is no willingness to enforce it. One reason why there is no desire to enforce it is that all of those democratic national governments Continetti mentions have a responsibility to protect their citizens and interests first, and it is not their responsibility to aid Libyan rebels against their despicable government.
The “responsibility to protect” was a doctrine that had some of its origins in Blair’s “doctrine of the international community.” This was one of the earliest efforts to concoct a defense of the Kosovo war, since there was absolutely no legal justification for what NATO had done. The other people Continetti mentions were also prominent supporters of the Kosovo war. Intervening in Kosovo was unwise and illegal, and it has resulted in putting Kosovo in the hands of terrorists and criminals. If we reflect on that, it might not be such a bad thing that the “responsibility to protect” doctrine has started fading into irrelevance.