Matt Steinglass gets a bit carried away:
Ten years back, America often found itself isolated, struggling to pull together “coalitions of the willing” packed with small client states. Lately, we have been finding ourselves in the majority, along with the democratic world, while Russia and China front a dwindling coalition of the unwilling.
Right, because the coalition that intervened in Libya was a global, pan-democratic one filled with members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Oh, wait, that’s not true. It was a much smaller coalition than the one that supported the invasion of Iraq made up entirely of U.S. allies and client states that pursued a policy opposed by the largest democracies in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. There’s no question that some of the democratic governments that opposed military intervention in Libya came around to support the recent resolution on Syria (e.g., Germany, India, etc.), but this is partly because the resolution was watered down as much as possible and because the resolution made no suggestion of authorizing military intervention. If it had been a more punitive resolution, India would have sided with Russia and China. The section of the vetoed resolution that affirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria seems to have been worded specifically to satisfy Indian concerns. It is much easier to have a consensus when governments don’t have to commit to anything controversial.
The vote on the resolution represents “foreign policy success” only if the goal of the resolution was to sour U.S.-Russian relations and harden Russian and Chinese opposition to any U.N. action. In the last year, both of these governments have gone from acquiescing to Western-backed intervention to opposing the most anodyne symbolic resolution. It’s hard to see how that counts as an improvement by Steinglass’ standards.