Were the Russians, Chinese right to veto Syria resolution?

Most recently in Libya, before that in Kosovo, western powers claimed on the basis of dubious facts that a humanitarian disaster was unfolding.

UNSC vote on Syria resolution 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Allison Joyce)
UNSC vote on Syria resolution 390 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Allison Joyce)
America’s United Nations ambassador pronounced herself “disgusted” by the Russian-Chinese double veto of a western-sponsored UN Security Council resolution to facilitate armed intervention in Syria. Particular venom has been aimed at Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Effused one commentator, “Putin has sent a message to his own people: He... supports using violence and murder to help tyrants maintain power.” The Wall Street Journal suggested: “Having been humiliated by the Russians, the US could now try a Plan B.
One precedent is Kosovo in the 1990s, another case where the Russians tried to block the world from acting. President Clinton ignored the Security Council and led a coalition to stop Slobodan Milosevic’s genocide against Kosovo Albanians.” (The Journal neglected to mention that the US Congress voted down Clinton’s authorization to use force – but he launched his illegal war anyway.) Such a reading of the Syrian situation betrays both a faulty understanding of the rule of law and contempt for truth.
As the United States has demonstrated repeatedly, often in defense of Israel, the UNSC veto exists for a reason: it is dangerous to world peace and stability for a Permanent Member to be backed into a corner and have its views and interests disregarded. Even when in the minority, Russia and China, no less than France, Britain, and the US, have a legal right to “just say no.”
Having seen NATO’s abuse of the Libya resolution as carte blanche for a NATO attack, Moscow and Beijing refused to be burned again.
As to the question of truth, we’ve seen this movie before, most recently in Libya, before that in Kosovo. Supported by pliant media, the western powers claimed – on the basis of dubious facts (impending slaughter in Benghazi) or outright fabrication (the “Rajak massacre”) – that a humanitarian disaster was unfolding and that only armed intervention could prevent it.
Such claims were just a mask to hide the reality: Western support for an armed insurgency (the Libyan “National Liberation Army,” the “Kosovo Liberation Army”), to convert a political confrontation into a civil war, even a jihad; and falsely depicting any government defense as “attacks on peaceful demonstrators” or (in the case of Kosovo) as “genocide,” to serve as moral justification for military action.
Then NATO moves in, the “tyrant” (Milosevic, Gaddafi) is eliminated, and the rebels are installed as the “democratic government.” Congratulations all around.
Except that after each putative success, nobody bothers to look back at either the lies that justified the intervention or its actual results. “Genocide” in Kosovo turned out to be about as real as Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – unless one counts the actual extreme harm done to Orthodox Christian Serbs by the NATO-supported Kosovo Liberation Army terrorists. In Libya, now that the world’s gaze has shifted to Syria, fighting has emerged among tribal and ideological factions, with some areas even recaptured by ex-Gaddafi loyalists. But who cares about such details – on to Damascus! Advocates of intervention claim the need to support the “Syrian people” (read: the “Free Syrian Army”) against the Assad government – as if government supporters aren’t also Syrian citizens. This facile division of “the people” versus “not the people” has an eerily Bolshevik ring to it, in which total victory can only mean the elimination of the designated losers. In Syria, that would mean first of all Alawites, Christians and other minorities.
Instead, Russia and China call for genuine domestic dialogue and a political settlement. What is wrong with that?
The writer is a principal in a public advocacy firm based in Washington, DC. Prior to entering the private sector he was senior foreign policy adviser to the Republican leadership of the United States Senate and served as as an American Foreign Service Officer, in the Office of then Soviet Union Affairs.