Soon after the implementation of resolution 1973 in the UN Security Council, debates have unfolded as to whether it was justified and whether this was some Western imperialist, neo-colonialist attempt to control Libya. Sorry, but let’s be honest foreign intervention in Libya in the form of the no-fly zone or Operation Odyssey Dawn was justified.
The no-fly zone is succeeding in its main aim, that being the protection of Libyan civilians under article 4, ‘to take all necessary measures…. to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack’. The no-fly zone rescued the Libyan rebel fighters from near total defeat by Gaddafi military forces as they were closing in on the rebel stronghold of Ben-ghazi in the 19th of March. The vote passed with 10 yes votes and 5 abstentions. The resolution is immensely important as it provides a bridge of assistance between the international community and the Libyan opposition. There is no doubt that the majority of the international community and even the Arab world support the Libyan opposition against Gaddafi, who has remained in power since 1969 and eroded all forms of freedom in the nation and has been responsible for terrorist attacks aboard, but this resolution was the biggest step in helping the opposition until the final inevitable defeat of Gaddafi.
Even the Arab League strongly supported the use of the no-fly zone even before the resolution 1973 was drafted, which was a surprise as they supported military operations against ‘one of their own’ as stated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the no-fly zone was conducted, immediately Gaddafi’s forces halted and were pushed back, followed be scenes of cheering of rebel fighters over scrapped Gaddifi tanks, it prevented the collapse of the rebel forces.
Many within the left, anti-war, anti West camp were against the no-fly zone for fearing it was an attempt by the west to manipulate the revolution there, this is understandable particularly with the history of the US during the cold war and its two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but it is one of these exact points people fail to see. One notices that mostly Europe in particular France are at the forefront of Libyan intervention and US has remained at the sidelines, it’s because the Obama administration have been careful not to get too involved in this conflict. The US is already involved in two other wars in two other Muslim countries during a slow recession it can’t take the risk of getting stuck in a long-term war in Libya. Not to mention Obamas support for resolution 1973 and bombing of Libya technically means he made war upon a country without the consent of Congress thus putting him in another issue domestically, however most Congressman especially Republicans such as Senator John McCain supported the action.
One must only imagine what would of happened if the no-fly zone wasn’t issued. Ben-ghazi, the rebellion strong-hold and flag-ship of the revolution would have been captured, hope and morale would have dropped, rebel forces would have broken up and retreated to Egypt, and the remaining people who supported the rebellion would have been systematically purged. It seems some of us have forgotten our history, of what happened in Rwanda, Bosnia and the Congo. Perhaps if the UN sent more troops to Rwanda instead of out in 1998, they could have protected most of the 800,000 killed. Perhaps if the UN kept their UN Dutch troops in Srebrenica in 1995 instead of their Commander surrendering to the Serbs they could have saved those 8000 Muslims. Thankfully in Libya because of UN action they not only saved thousands of people they kept the revolution going. The rebel forces consist of about 5000 fighters while Gaddafi forces consist of about 8000 fighters, the opposition was always going to need support from somewhere else. The very same people who criticise this intervention would be the same people to say in 20 years, ‘hey why didn’t you save those people in Libya.’
What are these so-called imperialist plots the West is interested in Libya, is it the oil? How can that be when the West was already buying its oil. There is unfortunately a massive amount of mistrust surrounding the US and Western governments due to the Iraq war, people are quick to assume the worst and believe in some over-aggregated conspiracy, some see Obama as worse than Bush, people have forgotten of Obama’s attempts to increase relations between Islam and the West.
The common person always expects ‘the West’ to respond to world problems and when it does it will always be judged, analysed and criticised for what it’s done. So when it responds to one global issue rather than others we become sceptical to why it has. There are of course legitimate concerns to this sudden action from ‘the west’ and International Community, I mean there have been worst incidents happening elsewhere for longer, why didn’t the West react to the extent, it has then. Such as with Sudan, an estimated 300,000 people have died in Darfur, yet the West was not only slow to react but didn’t react strongly enough, even now in South Sudan people are being killed in their dozens by rebel leader George Athor. Or what about in the Congo, still till this day women are being raped and villages destroyed in Eastern Congo by Tutsi rebels, the world not just the West has seemed to have forgotten or just not cared about what’s happening in the Congo. Or what about as recent as Ivory Coast, some 1 million people have fled the country due to increased rebel fighting ignited by the President Laurent Gbagbo refusing to step down in an election he lost.
Perhaps the main causes for Western focus to concentrate on Libya is primarily the media. The world media is entirely focussed on the Arab region which is seeing the biggest political shakeup since the 1920s, the amount people pressure on their government does vary to global issues which is affected by the what the media shows. The second reason in regards to conflicts mentioned is the usual one which is, Africa is Africa. Across the world people have accepted this stereotype of Africa as a continent constantly having problems that can’t be solved, the image of hunger, starvation, famine, aids, death, men with AK-47s slung around their arms while wearing a adidas t-shirt are common images of Africa, so what possible interest is there in this depressing conflict soaked continent. Not much of a chance in a bump in ratings there. Thirdly is international economic and political interest, the Middle East & Arab world are the main issue in American and Western foreign policy, and also economic interest because entire region is the main supplier of their oil, after the political protests in the Middle East and conflict in Libya the price of oil went up to $100, therefore the quicker there is a resolve the less chance of a fire.
What happened in Tunisia, Egypt, (who themselves are feeling left out of the media spotlight) Bahrain and Yemen is part of a growing political fashion and trend people are getting attracted to. It’s not only the pornography of violence but also the image of ‘people power’ at a time when many countries are experiencing protests at financial cutbacks due to the economic recession. Back to the point on Africa, even Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami is receiving more media airtime then the conflicts in Africa, ‘A tsunami! Wasn’t that so 2004?’ Arabs in particular are forgetting that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are in Africa, buts it’s because they have always seen those nations in the Arab political context, thus Africa is not mentioned.
Overall the act of foreign intervention in Libya is an important and historic one as it saved the Libyan opposition and means they have the support of the International Community and particular the West which will be important for Libyas future development as hopefully a free and democratic nation. We of course can’t be fully sure of any deep, hidden secret motives of the West in Libya but it’s very unlikely. What happened in Libya was desperate situation in which people were being systematically killed by their own leader, the world not just the west had to respond to save them, time was of the essence. Now thanks to foreign intervention the Libyan opposition has a proper fighting chance of winning this conflict and hopefully freeing Libya once and for all.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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