“At first glance, the intervention in Libya looks like a textbook case of how the new U.N. doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was supposed to work,” writes David Rieff in a New York Times op-ed titled R2P, R.I.P. In fact
The White House, 10 Downing Street, and, above all, the Elysée Palace, are now patting themselves on the collective back. But a far more qualified reaction may be in order. [R2P is] about protecting civilians, and emphatically not about regime change. The Security Council resolutions that authorized an R2P-based intervention to protect Benghazi did not authorize outside powers to provide air support for the subsequent rebellion against Qaddafi. … for all intents and purposes, R2P was NATO-ized. As a result, everywhere outside Western Europe and North America, R2P is losing what little ethical credibility it ever commanded.
“A doctrine of intervention,” Rieff concludes, that “claims the moral high ground … but under which the interveners are always from the Global North and the intervened upon always from the Global South is not moral progress; it is geopolitical business as usual.”
Looks like before it can be used to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes — defined as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity — R2P needs to be protected from Western powers that would use it to their own ends.