Since the imposition of a No Fly Zone over Libya on Saturday 19th March, I have been asked, by many, the same questions with regards to the implications of this significant decision; Is it really a good idea? Are we looking at another Iraq or Afghanistan? What does this mean for the future of Libya? Whilst it’s difficult to predict the exact repercussions and long-term consequences of such actions, one thing remains clear for me, and many Libyans alike: our cries for help have finally been heard.
The UN resolution was backed by ten UN Secretary Council members (nine were needed for it to pass) and included France, the UK, Lebanon and the US. So what does a No Fly Zone actually mean? Well firstly, I feel that I need to stress that by no means is it a foreign occupation force. “Operation Odyssey Dawn”, as it was named by the United States (or “Operation Darreg Zoomtak“ as the Libyans like to call it), imposes a ban on all flights in Libyan airspaces, and permits attacks on Libyan war ships if they were attacking civilians. Ground troops have been strictly prohibited from entering Libya, so in response to those who fear Western military control, we are certainly a big step from authorising that kind of intervention.
Now we have all heard the concerns that Libya may become the next Iraq or Afghanistan; you yourself may be holding this opinion and expressing your worrying predictions over Libya’s future. With regards to this, I think it’s very important to point out firstly that every country’s political dynamics is different. Libya is clearly not Iraq. Nor is it Afghanistan. Yes, we’ve heard these claims before in Iraq, that only ground troops will be used, so I can understand the fear of history repeating itself. But lets not forget how different this situation is; we have the UN resolution, the support of the Arab League AND (most importantly, might I add), the strong request of the Libyan people themselves. It is hugely essential to highlight that the Arabs here play a leading part; I like to think of it as an unstated alliance between the Libyan opposition and the West, rather than an invasion of Western troops.
Another viewpoint that has been expressed widely against this operation is the “true motives” behind it. Perhaps it is an attempt by Western forces to establish authority in a part of the world which they have long since sought to control. Perhaps oil is the reason, just as it was in Iraq. After all, it’s a well known fact that Libya has one of the richest oil revenues in the region, if not in the world. The conspiracy theories go on, but the real question remains: is humanitarian intervention merely a camouflage for these potential motives? There is no black or white explanation here, it is common knowledge that war and politics have always had various shades of grey. I would agree to an extent, that the No Fly Zone is in European and British interests; it would be an economic mistake to sever all ties with Libya. But that is not to say that we should be so quick to condemn an act that is, at the end of the day, saving innocent civilian lives! The whole basis of the Arab deal for regional support for the action under UN auspices, was because it was necessary for the protection of Libyan civilians from further massacres and bloodbaths caused by an evil relentless tyrant who has shown no mercy during his 42 year reign.
Above everything else, the majority of civilians in Libya want change, something that has been clearly evident to the world (aside from Gaddafi, who remains in a state of denial) since the beginning of this revolution just over a month ago. They have been chafing under the inefficiencies, the waywardness of their government, the corruption and the lack of involvement for too long and now that the time for change has come, there is no turning back. Ideally, it would be a change accomplished solely by the Libyan people. However, Libyan blood isn’t cheap, and although we are willing to sacrifice our lives for the freedom of our country, we are not willing to witness Gaddafi wipe out a whole nation, leaving Libya with very little future at all. So if a helping hand is what we need, then I say it is more than welcome. The West is now prepared to lend its force, but Libya is predominantly taking the lead towards victory.
2011 has been a year of significant history-making for the Middle East. A new Middle East is emerging that none of us could ever have imagined; not dominated by Al-Qaeda, but one which will be greatly welcomed by the West. They are going to be responsible members of the international community in ways that some dictators never were. Is this merely about regime change? Well, I say it is up to the Libyan people, and the people have spoken. The West is now acting to protect their lives and their freedom to choose the government that they want to choose. Of course, we can only be hopeful about how this will end, but one thing I am very clear about is that the risks attendant upon imposing this decision is far, far less than the risks that would have occurred without it. And if anyone has any doubt over whether this was the right thing to do, you only need to turn to the reaction of Benghazi two nights ago to hear the answer.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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