Hypocrisy and War

When our common humanity is under threat, even if we can’t do everything we should, shouldn’t we at least do what we can? Libya and Côte d’Ivoire pass the five tests of legitimacy that any outside military intervention must meet, whereas Bahrain, Syria and Yemen do not, partly because other options have not been exhausted.

MELBOURNE – All the world hates a hypocrite. When states preach virtues they do not practice, or set lower hurdles for allies, trading partners, or co-religionists than they do for others, irritation and non-cooperation are the least they can expect. International policymaking is a hardheaded, cynical business, but tolerance for double standards has its limits.

Russia discovered that when it invoked the “responsibility to protect” doctrine to try to justify its 2008 invasion of Georgia. Democracy promotion by the United States and the European Union generates ridicule when it extends only to elections producing winners found palatable, as Gaza’s vote for Hamas in 2006 did not. Nuclear-weapons states keep learning the hard way that strengthening the non-proliferation regime is a tough sell when they drag their feet on disarmament.

And the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a gift that keeps on giving to the world’s malcontents: embracing the Security Council only when you get your way, but ignoring or undermining it when you don’t, is no way to promote a cooperative rule-based international order.

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