Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya and the issues of Intervention

Muammar Qaddafi has always been an erratic, violent and unpredictable head of state since he came to power in a military coup in 1969. He refers to himself as the "King of Kings of Africa" and his assumed sense of omnipotence has led to his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. As his power has eroded in the last weeks he has accused dissidents in his country as dupes of al-Qaeda who have been slipped hallucinogenic drugs in their Nescafe. How should the international community deal with such a man who is now on a murderous rampage against his own subjects.

This week, the United States and NATO entered into military tactics that would hopefully keep Muammar Qaddafi from attacking rebel groups and civilians in the eastern provinces of the nation. However, this military action raises more problems than solutions.

The Libyan rebels, unfortunately, do not have the power and unity of the rebels whom Hosni Mubarak faced in Egypt. Some of the rebels are even proffering views that Qaddafi must fall because he is a Jew, a view certain to be dismissed but indicative of the pervasive anti-Semitism of much of the Middle East.

Of course, NATO, the UN and Obama have averred that this war will last only a matter of days. This statement, however, was said at the start of the American Civil War and the First World War, both of which lasted over four years. George W. Bush also told us that an incursion into Iraq would be quick and effective. Prognostications about how  long wars last are often wrong.

What exactly are the goals of this tactic?  This is the most disheartening questions because there does not seem to be a clear answer. Is Qaddafi's removal from power the goal? If so, there seems to be no one or group ready to fill the position. Do these rebels have the power and unity to find an interim government before elections take place. The UN resolution stated that NATO powers were to protect civilian lives from Qaddafi's brutal thugs.

Obama correctly argued that the United States should step back and Britain, France and other NATO powers must take control of the situation. It appears that Libya is becoming a hot potato. Even though Nicolas Sarkozy took an early lead in this affair by refusing to recognize Qaddafi as the head of Libya's state, Sarko now seems unwilling to follow through with any commitments to aid the rebels. David Cameron, the conservative PM of the UK, has cut his budget so drastically in the last year that the cost of this incursion would negatively effect his grand budgetary schemes.

Hopefully, Qaddafi will leave peacefully and a coalition of dissidents will come together to form an interim government before a constitution with broad civil liberties and republican institutions can be formed. We can only wait to see.

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