Foreign interventions never turn out quite as planned, writes former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri. The author served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations at the time of America’s invasion of Iraq and the regime change in Libya, among other fiascos. Puri underscores the often bloody, costly outcomes of such undertakings: Iraq and Libya descended into chaos, and the ill effects linger even today. To his credit, Puri doesn’t only chastise the West for its misguided military adventures. He also pillories Russia for its invasion of Crimea and Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen.
All too often, world powers rely on questionable rationales to justify the use of force in far corners of the world.
After the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica in the 1990s, the international community adopted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. The R2P calls on all nations to protect their citizens from mass atrocities. In cases where the state is too weak or dysfunctional to fulfill that mission, the R2P allows for foreign intervention. When or how to invoke the R2P remains an open question, however – a fact underscored by the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) uneven responses to various threats over the years.
In 2003, alleged weapons of mass destruction served as the pretext for America’s invasion of Iraq. In 2011, the UNSC aimed to protect civilians by invading Libya. It’s no secret that attacking countries and arming rebels often leads to chaos and bloodshed. As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned in 2011, “Societies cannot be reordered from outside using military force.” Yet the UNSC continues to authorize such operations; and invaders keep couching these “perilous...