Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Thoughts on Libya

BENGHAZI, LIBYA - FEBRUARY 25:  Halifa Awad Ta...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
I haven't had much to say on this blog about the Libya crisis/uprising/civil war.

That vacuum has partly reflected my lack of time and partly my vacillating opinions on the issues involved in the western powers' military action arising from UN Resolution 1973.

Here, belatedly and in a slightly disorganised note form, are some thoughts:

  1. If no action had been taken a month ago by the international community, I wonder what the outcome would have been. The fear was of a Darfur-like bloodbath in Benghazi, but a number of commentators have expressed doubt about this. Stephen M Walt, for instance, has argued that in the absence of western military intervention, Gaddafi's forces would have overrun Benghazi at the end of March and would have arrested and executed the leading opposition figures in the city, both political and military, but would not have undertaken a systematic butchering of the civilian population. Gaddafi's promise to show "no mercy" to the rebels should be understood in these terms - a violent crackdown on dissenters rather than a widespread killing of the city's population. Which is not to say that the former scenario would have been at all pleasant.
  2. The UN resolution's call for an "immediate ceasefire" is being cited less by Western powers than its provisions for a no fly zone. I have not heard many British or French diplomats talking publicly about the need for a negotiated ceasefire. The only serious efforts in this regard seem to be coming from the African Union rather than the west.
  3. Regime change is not part of the UN resolution - though it is evidently part of the French foreign policy. Indeed, such an action would presumably be against the UN Charter and sets a dangerous precedent for the international community.
  4. The claim from some that the west's intervention is "all about oil" is predictable, but I think a little simplistic as a total explanation for where we are now. 
  5. I agree with Gavin Hewitt's view that the western-Arab League alliance is starting to show signs of disunity and confusion over its objectives. 
  6. Arming the rebels is about the most stupid suggestion to have been voiced so far during the Libya crisis, in my opinion.Apart from anything else, there is an arms embargo on.

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