Libya: Why did US intervene?
March 25, 2011
Why Us has attacked Libya when already immense hatred is found in Muslim world against US and European states ? Once again the United States is bombing a Muslim country to liberate its people from their own sanguinary rulers. Once again we are told that innocent civilians are being massacred and that the United States must intervene as a matter of moral duty, in its capacity as a great and good nation. But in this case — even as part of a broader, U.N.-sanctioned coalition to enforce a no-fly zone — the U.S. should not have intervened at all.
No humanitarian appeal should ever be lightly dismissed, and indeed many Americans justifiably recall with deep regret the failure of the Clinton administration to intervene against the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when a few thousand lightly armed soldiers on the ground could have saved hundreds of thousands.
So why is Libya different? Why shouldn't the United States intervene there?
First, because it has oil and gas, and any U.S. military action will be seen by many people around the world as motivated exclusively by the urge to steal the country's resources. Absurd, of course, but the enemies of the United States will repeat that accusation, all too plausible for most people around the world, who cannot imagine that any government would be benevolent enough to expend blood and treasure to disinterestedly help foreigners, and foreigners of another religion to boot.
The second reason why Libya is different from Rwanda is its religion. Look to our experience in Afghanistan, for example. Imams all over Afghanistan routinely denounce the U.S. intervention as a disguised attack on Islam, as a means to opening the way to Christianity. That includes imams salaried by the U.S. taxpayer by way of the Afghan government, which actually disburses the funds.
An American-led military campaign to destroy Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said, despite some fighting reportedly
The campaign against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces drew fresh condemnation on Tuesday as China called for an immediate cease-fire, India said there should be no foreign presence in Libya and Brazil urged a cease-fire and “the start of dialogue.” India and Brazil joined Russia, China and Germany in abstaining from the United Nations vote last week that authorized the intervention.
State television in Libya said on Tuesday there had been more attacks by what it called the “crusader enemy,” Reuters reported, but the broadcaster struck a defiant tone. “These attacks are not going to scare the Libyan people,” state television said.
Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.
The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?
The answer could determine the course of both the Libyan uprising and the results of the Western intervention. In the West’s preferred chain of events, airstrikes enable the rebels to unite with the currently passive residents of the western region around Tripoli, under the banner of an essentially democratic revolution that topples Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
He, however, has predicted the opposite: that the revolt is a tribal war of eastern Libya against the west that ends in either his triumph or a prolonged period of chaos.
The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. But their commitment to those principles is just now being tested as they confront the specter of potential Qaddafi spies in their midst, either with rough tribal justice or a more measured legal process.
Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.
, "We have not put this in front of the American people in any meaningful way," Webb said in an MSNBC interview. "This isn't the way that our system is supposed to work.We do not have a clear diplomatic policy or a clear statement of foreign policy accompanying this military operation," he said. "We know we don't like the Gadhafi regime, but we do not have a clear picture of who the opposition movement really is." Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.
“The US and Western (allies) claim they want to defend the people by carrying out military operations or by entering Libya... You did not come to defend the people, you’ve come after Libyan oil. Iran utterly condemns the behaviour of the Libyan government against its people, the killings and pressure on people, and the bombing of its cities... but it (also) condemns the military action in Libya,” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The question is whether this will be enough to stop his attacks. Colonel Qaddafi’s forces are operating in urban areas where it is extremely difficult to use airpower without killing civilians. His soldiers pulled out of Benghazi after the initial bombing on Sunday, but a rebel attack on the strategically important town of Ajdabiya was repulsed on Monday.
Will the rebels be able to root out Qaddafi loyalists? If not, are we prepared to use Western ground forces? So far President Obama has ruled out that option, which runs the danger of a protracted stalemate. Colonel Qaddafi could simply cling to power, while international support for the whole operation frays.
Even if Colonel Qaddafi steps down — an outcome that I believe we must now seek but that hasn’t been declared as a formal aim — the problems hardly end.
In some ways Libya presents fewer risks than Afghanistan or Iraq. While Libya is bigger geographically than those countries, its population is much smaller (just 6.4 million people) and much more heavily concentrated in a thin strip along the coast.
While it has a Berber minority along with an Arabic-speaking Muslim majority, it is not divided by a bitter ethno-sectarian line. Nor is Libya surrounded by hostile neighbors (like Pakistan or Iran) that seek to foment insurgencies. We are lucky that Colonel Qaddafi has few if any outside backers, with even the Arab League endorsing intervention.
But there is still much that could go wrong in a post-Qaddafi Libya. For one, the country has had an active Islamist movement that has sent many fighters to Iraq. The collapse of Colonel Qaddafi’s police state would mean greater freedom for all Libyans, including jihadists who could try to instigate an insurgency as they did in Iraq.
There is no perfect formula for military intervention. It must be used sparingly — not in Bahrain or Yemen, even though we condemn the violence against protesters in both countries. Libya is a specific case: Muammar el-Qaddafi is erratic, widely reviled, armed with mustard gas and has a history of supporting terrorism. If he is allowed to crush the opposition, it would chill pro-democracy movements across the Arab world.