Charli Carpenter blogging on Lawyers, Guns, Money (one of my favourite blogs) says the argument that the Libyan intervention is undermined by our failure to act on Bahrain (or Ivory Coast, and perhaps soon Syria) is specious: That the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine has set criteria, criteria that Libya meets [apparently] and the others do not:
The criteria include just cause (which I agree would be fulfilled in a case like North Korea or Bahrain) but also right authority (which in R2P requires multilateral consent – not feasible in Bahrain) and proportionality (requiring a judgment that the overall good to civilians outweigh the potential harm – unlikely in North Korea). In cases not meeting this threshold, the doctrine urges merely non-coercive protection measures, including humanitarian assistance and diplomacy.
Yes, restricting the boundaries of the discussion to the narrow confines of R2P, this is technically and legally correct. It’s also tone deaf. Bahrain, no matter how bad the crackdown becomes, will never achieve the necessary multilateral consent criteria and it will never achieve it precisely because Bahrain is our ally and the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is stationed there. The R2P criteria very much allows the West to pick and choose it’s interventions.
It may be “specious”, but it’s also 2-faced, with a legal fig-leaf.
Update: Edited to fix atrocious grammar.