As you read this, the Western assault on Libya to enforce last week’s UN resolution for a No-fly zone over the North African nation will probably have assumed a new dimension, one that may lead to an all-out, protracted civil war between the rebels and pro-Gaddafi troops.
Judging by the speed, enthusiasm and intensity of the ‘invasion’ on Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and Tripoli’s immediate reaction, it’s clear what started as a peaceful mass protest against another long-serving Arab government is fast turning into a full-scale bloody war. And the ordinary Libyans will no doubt suffer the most, directly or otherwise.
The most worrying thing is that, as of now, no one is certain about the outcome of the anti-Gaddafi crusade. Will the issues for which this revolution was started over a month ago be addressed at the end of it all? Will Libyans still be in control of their own country (as has been the case under Gaddafi) given the latest direct involvement of the western powers in what is likely to result in the overthrow of the man who has presided over a monarchy-like regime over the past four decades? And with oil in the equation, it’s hard to predict that the interests of the Western Coalition and their Libyan and Arab allies will not differ along the way. Already some voices in the Arab League, which backed an international intervention, suggest the Coalition’s firepower has been excessive.
Meanwhile, a propaganda war is raging with Libyan authorities claiming that the Saturday’s overnight raids left about 50 civilians dead and more than 150 injured.
Add the fact that time is not on the side of the major players in the Coalition. With 2012 American presidential elections knocking on the door, President Barack Obama, who has set his sights on re-election, will be cautious not to upset the US voters, by dragging their debt-laden country into a third foreign war at the back of a biting economic downturn and frustrating losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throw in a potential Al-Qaeda involvement and Libya could be descending into hell, with dire consequences for the wider region.
Well, the raid on Libya (by the US, UK, France, Canada and Italy) may be legal following the approval of the UN’s 1973 resolution –backed by 10 out of 15 members, with China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil all abstaining – but it will be extremely difficult for the Coalition to restrain from going beyond simply enforcing a No-fly zone, without forcing Gaddafi out. It’s also important to remember that not all UN-sanctioned military interventions have gone on to achieve their ‘noble’ missions.
Could it be that the West is seeing the Libyan unrest as the opportunity to get revenge on a man who has been such a thorn in their flesh for over the past 40 years?
What’s more, that the UN resolution, which also called for ‘all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”, was voted for by all of Africa’s current representatives to the Security Council (South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon) casts a dark cloud over the continent’s declared commitment to a peaceful settlement of the crisis. Just a week earlier, the AU appointed a team of Heads of State, to mediate between the warring parties and to report back to the organisation in the near future with a proposed course of action. However, with the African block supporting a rather forceful UN approach, the continent’s own have dealt a heavy blow to its preference for a more diplomatic approach.
Gaddafi and his loyalists, including his, arguably, most-influential son, Saif al-Islam Muammar al-Gaddafi, too, have not helped the situation, with their characteristic defiant language, and promises to use violent means against the dissenting ‘rats and drug addicts” of Benghazi, Misurata and other rebel-held cities.
In many ways, it’s difficult to argue that the Libyan situation is an internal problem, and that the rest of the world should keep a distance.
The author is a training editor with The New Times and 1st VP of Rwanda Journalists Association