Encircling Empire: Report #14—Foreign Military Intervention in Libya: A Report on Neo-colonial dependency and humanitarian imperialism
Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period. They are intended to be useful for those interested in: ● contemporary and critical political anthropology ● public anthropology ● imperialism and imperial decline ● militarism/militarization ● the political economy of the world system ● hegemony and soft power ● counterinsurgency ● revolution ● rebellion ● resistance ● protest ● activism ● advocacy ● critique.
This report is being published just as the UN Security Council is moments away from voting on a new resolution against Libya, that could significantly escalate and internationalize the violence there. More than that, in response Libya’s leader has promised to retaliate against all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean, which would lead to a further escalation and internationalization of the war. France is promising military action within mere hours of the passage of the UN Resolution. Now, as I finish these words, news that the UN has in fact passed a “no fly zone” resolution. See this, just published: “UN Votes for Libya Air Strikes,” by Lenin’s Tomb. An early copy of the resolution can be obtained here.
In this report ZA continues from the last one, by presenting a media roundup that focuses on arguments for and against foreign military intervention in Libya. (As usual, the reports are listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent.) Many of the arguments have centered around the imposition of a no flight zone, although frequently the argument for intervention includes proposed air strikes on Libyan government targets. First to be presented are those articles that criticize humanitarian imperialist premises and the (re)turn to validating military humanism, as they tend to be the most cogent and continue to be largely unanswered. Second, a listing of key rebel statements calling for Western intervention, and some articles about the Libyan opposition. Third, articles and essays that promote and justify foreign military intervention. Also, ZA’s top recommendations.
COMMENT: As the author of this report, what I specifically protest are minds instantly made up, with absolute certainty, when just a little over a month ago hardly anyone was speaking about Libya. The way those instantly certain minds repeat many of the exact same “humanitarian” justifications for war in Iraq and Kosovo, in the most absolute terms, with little attention to any lessons learned, is shocking and disappointing. We know from Google Trends that Libya was almost not mentioned at all just over a month ago, and yet so many speak as if they are ready-made experts on Libya, and have a deep familiarity with the rebels, who they are, what they want, and what is their depth of popular support. In addition, few remark on the fact that almost from the very start of the anti-Gaddafi protests there were suspiciously fast calls for a Western-backed no fly zone: the Libyan protests began on February 17—and yet it was, as far as can be determined using Google news archives, on February 20 that the first articles began to appear that coupled the terms Libya and “no fly zone.” One opposition leader said: “We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one” (source). This ought to raise more questions, for anyone who is a free thinker and values the importance of skepticism. What determination did Gaddafi’s opponents have to see this struggle through to the end, by their own efforts? What political groundwork, consciousness raising, and network building did they engage in before rebelling? What kind of estimate did they make of the regime’s strengths? What level of popular support do they enjoy, outside of Benghazi? Given that the army was kept deliberately weak by Gaddafi himself, to preclude any viable military coup, how has it managed so many gains when the rebels claimed to have won all sorts of defections?
- “Another NATO Intervention? Libya: Is This Kosovo All Over Again?” by Diana Johnstone, CounterPunch, 07 March 2011.
- “Libya and the folly of intervention: After turning a blind eye to Gaddafi’s violent rule, the West has no legitimacy to enforce a no-fly zone,” by Sami Hermez, Al Jazeera English, 07 March 2011.
- “The Old Gang’s All Here: Libya and the Return of Humanitarian Imperialism,” by Jean Bricmont, CounterPunch, 08 March 2011.
- “Seeing Through the ‘Humanitarians’,” by Marko Markanovic, Antiwar.com, 12 March 2011.
- “The revival of imperialist ideology,” Lenin’s Tomb, 01 March 2011
- “Why a no-fly zone means no freedom for Libyans— Those looking to the West to intervene against Gaddafi degrade the name of internationalism and deny Libyans the right to control their fate” by Mick Hume, Spiked, 15 March 2011.
- “On Libya, too many questions,” by George F. Will, Washington Post, 08 March 2011.
- “Don’t Use U.S. Force in Libya!” by Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast, 13 March 2011.
- “Iraq Then, Libya Now,” Op-Ed by Ross Douthat, New York Times, 13 March 2011.
- “Will We Ever Learn? Kicking the Intervention Habit,” by Richard Falk, 07 March 2011.
- “Pack Journalism Promotes War on Libya,” by Stephen Lendman, IntelDaily, 11 March 2011.
- “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya: Calls for a no-fly zone over Libya ignore the perils of intervention. Long-term solutions aren’t as simple as the click of a mouse,” by John Hilary, The Guardian, 10 March 2011.
- “It’s Their War, Not Ours,” by Patrick J. Buchanan, Antiwar.com, 08 March 2011.
- “Don’t Think, Recognize! Sarkozy’s Stupid Move on Libya,” by Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 11-13 March 2011.
AGAINST FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION IN LIBYA
“No-fly zones, easy to announce and expensive to impose, have, at best, a checkered history. In Bosnia, a no-fly zone failed to prevent the massacres at Srebrenica. In Kosovo, a full-blown bombing campaign was subsequently needed to dislodge Serb forces. In Iraq, more than a decade of being under a no-fly zone didn’t topple Saddam Hussein and an invasion by more than 100,000 U.S. ground troops was needed in a war that lasted six years. Only Britain and France, backed by Lebanon, the only Arab League nation currently among the 10 rotating members of the Security Council, are clearly pushing for a no-fly zone.” (source)
17% of Americans favour more direct U.S. intervention—see this, and other notes, compiled by the military blog, Fabius Maximus in “About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq.” See especially: “67% Say U.S. Should Steer Clear of Political Unrest in Arab Nations,” Rasmussen Reports, 23 February 2011.
“Libya: The illusion of force—A no-fly zone will deliver too little, too late. The Libyan rebels’ greatest asset is who they are,” Editorial, The Guardian, 10 March 2011: “Their [the rebels’] biggest weapon remains their cause and who they are. Not agents of al-Qaida or the proxies of western colonialism, but Libyans who have risen up after decades of brutal repression. Tripoli is unlikely to fall militarily, but the regime is still capable of imploding if and when the military tide turns. We should not forget the lessons of Egypt and Tunisia in Libya. The more brutality Gaddafi employs, the quicker he hastens his own end.”
For an extensive series of strong criticisms of John Kerry’s arguments for Western military intervention in Libya, read the comments in response to his article here.
We already know that past “no fly zones” were remarkable failures in achieving their stated objectives, and often provoked the opposite. Yet some still cling to the notion that the northern NFZ over Iraq was a “success” and that it “protected the Kurds” for a decade—in fact, it was only imposed after forces under Saddam Hussein had annihilated Kurdish opposition: “The largest populations of Kurds in Iraq, living in the plains below the mountains, became easy targets for Iraqi gunships. Helicopters strafed civilian convoys with gunfire as the Kurds fled to higher ground. It was only after the Kurdish rebellion became a rout, after thousands of Kurds had been killed and more than one million became refugees, that a no-fly zone was implemented by British, American and French forces” (source).
“Against American interventionism: Before we heed calls for US military action against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, just remember the recent history of foreign wars,” by Clancy Sigal, 11 March 2011: “There is no such thing as a surgical, clean, no-consequences military operation, despite all the assurances beforehand. Inevitably, we end up killing the wrong people and lying about it. You know the game is up when our deeply opportunistic defence secretary Robert Gates, his cynical eye on retirement and a Bob McNamara-style self-purification, tells army cadets ‘any future defence secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined”, as General MacArthur so delicately put it.’ As Gates slams the office door shut behind him. Sure, let’s impose a no-fly zone over Tripoli. Then comes the urgent necessity to protect our Awacs and fighter planes; then comes urgent need for a stable air base and a surge of soldiers to protect it against malcontents with AK-47s; then comes …Matt Damon, one of my favourite actors and an avowedly leftish movie star who produced a TV version of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History, recently announced his disappointment in Obama. ‘I no longer hope for audacity,’ Damon laments. Listen, Matt: maybe, in this case, audacity is the last thing we want from our commander-in-chief.”
“Why a no-fly zone means no freedom for Libyans— Those looking to the West to intervene against Gaddafi degrade the name of internationalism and deny Libyans the right to control their fate” by Mick Hume, Spiked, 15 March 2011: “The irony of the Saudis claiming to support action against Gaddafi while sending in troops to help the Bahraini royals put down protests should not have escaped even the G8…. Let us cut out the pious crap and be clear about what these demands for a Western no-fly zone over Libya represent. However it is dressed up as a humanitarian mission to protect the Libyan people from Gaddafi’s repression, and however token Cameron might imagine it could be, a no-fly zone would be an act of political and military intervention by foreign powers to shape the fate of Libya. That is anti-democratic in principle, taking the struggle for power out of the hands of the people themselves. History suggests it would also be a disaster in practice that could escalate and perpetuate a civil war. Western intervention by any other name will still risk imposing a no-freedom zone on the Libyans…. the liberal pro-interventionists are able to strike a high moral pose in support of a ‘humanitarian’ no-fly zone. Even if they fail to persuade their governments this time, this influential lobby is using the Libyan case to re-establish the moral case for Western intervention after the disaster of the Iraq invasion. And that is potentially a more dangerous development for the world than anything happening in Libya. The cri de Coeur of our age is that ‘we’ should intervene to save the Libyans and others in the name of international solidarity. It is a telling sign of the degradation of political language and the defeat of the left that intervention by Western powers in the affairs of Africa and Arabia should now be glorified with the title of internationalism.”
“Germany blocks plans for Libya no-fly zone: G8 talks stall after Germans refuse to support military intervention backed by Britain and France,” by Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, 15 March 2011: “Speaking during the meeting, Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said his country remained ‘very sceptical’ about the prospect of a no-fly zone. He recommended instead more ‘political pressure’ against the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. He said Germany did not want ‘to get sucked into a war in north Africa’. ‘We need to send a clear signal … Gaddafi must stop his civil war against his own people, he must be held responsible for his crimes. The security council must take action.’ But Westerwelle also made clear Germany would not support military intervention. His comments echoed the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who told an EU summit last week that the no-fly zone idea was potentially dangerous. ‘What is our plan if we create a no-fly zone and it doesn’t work? Do we send in ground troops?’ she said. ‘We have to think this through. Why should we intervene in Libya when we don’t intervene elsewhere?’…”
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“Don’t Think, Recognize! Sarkozy’s Stupid Move on Libya,” by Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 11-13 March 2011: “There is something frivolous and absurd about France’s sudden recognition of the Libyan rebel leadership in Benghazi as a sort of quasi-government. Presumably it’s intended to give the impression Nicolas Sarkozy has a grip on events, it is evidence he does not know what to do any more than other European leaders. The recognition of unelected and self-appointed leaders in countries in which civil war is raging is a reminder, rather, of 19th century imperialism, when the British, for instance, would choose a leader in a country like Afghanistan who was most likely to be co-operative. There is usually a price to be paid for this. Leaders backed by outside powers may obtain arms and money, but their local credibility is unlikely to be enhanced. In Libya, Gaddafi can more easily deride his opponents as foreign dupes. If recognition of the Benghazi junta is aimed at providing political cover for later military intervention it is again unlikely to convince anybody that Libyans are taking the decisions. What makes France’s move all the more surprising is that US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq shows the devastating consequences of not having a credible local ally. The only thing known about the rebel leadership in Libya is that it is divided and ineffective.”
“Iraq Then, Libya Now,” Op-Ed by Ross Douthat, New York Times, 13 March 2011: “Five years ago, in the darkest days of insurgent violence and Sunni-Shia strife, it seemed as if the Iraq war would shadow American foreign policy for decades, frightening a generation’s worth of statesmen away from using military force. Where there had once been a ‘Vietnam syndrome,’ now there would be an ‘Iraq syndrome,’ inspiring harrowing flashbacks to Baghdad and Falluja in any American politician contemplating an intervention overseas. But in today’s Washington, no such syndrome is in evidence. Indeed, it’s striking how quickly the bipartisan coalition that backed the Iraq invasion has reassembled itself to urge President Obama to use military force against Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi….there are lessons from our years of failure in Iraq that can be applied to an air war over Libya….One is that the United States shouldn’t go to war unless it has a plan not only for the initial military action, but also for the day afterward, and the day after that. Another is that the United States shouldn’t go to war without a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower. Moreover, even with the best-laid plans, warfare is always a uniquely high-risk enterprise — which means that the burden of proof should generally rest with hawks rather than with doves, and seven reasonable-sounding reasons for intervening may not add up to a single convincing case for war…. They have rallied around a no-flight zone as their Plan A for toppling Qaddafi, but most military analysts seem to think that it will fail to do the job, and there’s no consensus on Plan B. Would we escalate to air strikes? Arm the rebels? Sit back and let Qaddafi claim to have outlasted us?… If we did supply the rebels, who exactly would be receiving our money and munitions? Libya’s internal politics are opaque, to put it mildly….And if the civil war dragged on, what then? Twice in the last two decades, in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, the United States has helped impose a no-flight zone. In both cases, it was just a stepping-stone to further escalation: bombing campaigns, invasion, occupation and nation-building.”
“Don’t Use U.S. Force in Libya!” by Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast, 13 March 2011: “Hold your wallets and hang on to your military-age children. Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and McCain, along with hordes of humanitarians and neoconservatives, have converged with one aim, to push the U.S. into war in Libya. Yes, it would be war, though they like to call it ‘humanitarian action’ and pretend it’s just a simple matter of declaring and enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. What they’re really proposing is a potential tragedy—for the U.S. and for Libyans. Better to let Libya’s neighbors do the heavy lifting with restricted U.S. help, as President Obama seems inclined to do….
“Violence on a significant scale has been occurring in Africa for decades in places like Sudan, the Ivory Coast, and Congo. Did Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and McCain propose U.S. military intervention in those countries? Were these catastrophes any less deserving of humanitarian intervention?
“The real question is this: If the rebels gained power, would they be any better than Col. Gaddafi? I haven’t found many Americans, or anyone else, for that matter, who know much about them….The troubling truth Americans need to learn is that they know little or nothing about these societies and even less about the monsters who might emerge after a civil war. The United States would be crazy to hitch its star, in any military manner, to the new ‘freedom fighters’.”
Editorial: The U.S. can’t afford to get involved in another civil war | rgj.com | The Reno Gazette-Journal, 13 March 2011: “Any use of the military by the U.S., by NATO or the U.N. would be met with fierce resistance. Are Americans, the British, the French or even the Italians, just a short hop away from Libya, prepared for more military action? Equally important, are they willing to make the commitment that comes with getting involved in someone else’s civil war?
“That is one of the primary lessons that we should have learned in the aftermath of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It took just weeks to accomplish our missions in both countries: to unseat Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, many years later, we’re still not able to disentangle ourselves in either country. Just this week, there were reports of negotiations in Iraq over extending the deadline for the remainder of our troops to leave, and it’s long been clear that some troops would remain even after the deadline. How long we’ll stay in Afghanistan is unknown.
“All this comes at a time when the federal budget is running unsustainable deficits that may result in large cuts to programs that directly affect the people in this country, including many veterans who fought in the very wars that have taken so much of the taxpayers’ money.
“We do not need another war; we cannot afford another war. Nor can we single-handedly rid the world of every leader we don’t approve of.
“Yes, we should keep a close eye on what happens in Libya to ensure it doesn’t spread. But it’s the Libyans’ fight, and it should stay that way.”
“Seeing Through the ‘Humanitarians’,” by Marko Markanovic, Antiwar.com, 12 March 2011: “With clashes in Libya ongoing it was inevitable two types of opinion makers would make a comeback. First the smug humanitarian calling for a return to the good old days of Clinton and the Kosovo War. That morally invigorating episode in which NATO went after Yugoslavia’s civilian economy, massacred around two thousand non-combatants from the air and made itself complicit in the killing of at least a further eight hundred and the expulsion of 200,000 at the hands of the KLA. And secondly, the sober skeptic whose words of caution and anti-interventionism are worse than useless. In recent days the nagging from the something-must-be-done brigade has been followed in close lockstep by contrary opinions that are a waste of space. Cautioning against intervention on the grounds of technical difficulties and unforeseen consequences or fiscal obstacles is worthless unless tied down to the issue of the right to intervene….”
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: “Military Intervention in Libya: for a categorical rejection of NATO/Saudi intervention” 12 March 2011: “The voices for military intervention in Libya are now increasingly alarming and suspicious. I get more suspicious when I read the liberal (read always Zionist) commentators screaming for direct military intervention when those same people never showed any concern for Arab victims before, especially during Israeli war crimes sprees. Somebody sent me a tweet by none other than Nicholas Kristof (responsible for outrageous and racist commentaries about Arabs in the last year and is known for his utter cowardice towards ALL Israeli crimes against Arabs) who is invoking the authority of “the Arab League” to call for military intervention. In other words, Kristof and other liberals or right-wingers are invoking basically the authority of Saudi autocracy to call for support of the democracy movement in Libya. What is left of the Arab League except Saudi Arabia and its tool Amr Mousa? George Will, a right-wing and Zionist commentator (who at least writes well and can make an argument) has a strong piece in which he refuges many of the conventional arguments about Libya…”
“In Search of Monsters,” Op-Ed by Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 12 March 2011: “The Iraq war hawks urging intervention in Libya are confident that there’s no way Libya could ever be another Iraq. Of course, they never thought Iraq would be Iraq, either.
All President Obama needs to do, Paul Wolfowitz asserts, is man up, arm the Libyan rebels, support setting up a no-fly zone and wait for instant democracy. It’s a cakewalk….You would think that a major architect of the disastrous wars and interminable occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have the good manners to shut up and take up horticulture. But the neo-con naif has no shame….”
“Crooked Global Cops Go After Libyan Gang Leader Muammar Gaddafi,” by Saman Mohammadi, OpEd News, 12 March 2011: “The U.S. government and NATO don’t have the moral authority to intervene anywhere in the world. Backing the U.S. and NATO against Gaddafi is like backing big Satan against small Satan. It is sad that the world is still operating on the law of the jungle, but that is the truth. Western powers are not a just force in the world, and the U.N. is not a serious organization. And it should be kept in mind that the traitorous war criminals who control America’s shadow government are not concerned about human welfare or freedom….The idea that revolutions can be won by foreign military force is the craziest idea in the world. The price of freedom must be paid by the Libyan people for it to be truly their freedom, which means that the international community must not intervene. The day will eventually come when enough military leaders in Libya come to their senses and take out Gaddafi with a bullet to the head, or the rebel forces become so strong that Gaddafi becomes nothing more than a frail, old gang leader waiting to be killed the day he lets his guard down. Gaddafi will be better removed by the angels from below in Libya than the devils from above who control the U.S. military and NATO. So let’s not be fooled by the warhawks and ‘humanitarian’ interventionists who are calling for U.S. military force in Libya….”
“Gen. Wesley Clark says Libya doesn’t meet the test for U.S. military action,” by Wesley K. Clark, Washington Post, 11 March 2011: “Understand the national interests at stake, and decide if the result is worth the cost….Africa killed several million and when fighting in Darfur killed hundreds of thousands. So far, the violence in Libya is not significant in comparison. Maybe we could earn a cheap “victory,” but, on whatever basis we intervene, it would become the United States vs. Gaddafi, and we would be committed to fight to his finish. That could entail a substantial ground operation, some casualties and an extended post-conflict peacekeeping presence….Know your purpose and how the proposed military action will achieve it….In Libya, if the objective is humanitarian, then we would work with both sides and not get engaged in the matter of who wins. Just deliver relief supplies, treat the injured and let the Libyans settle it. But if we want to get rid of Gaddafi, a no-fly zone is unlikely to be sufficient – it is a slick way to slide down the slope to deeper intervention….Determine the political endgame before intervening….In Libya, we don’t know who the rebels really are or how a legitimate government would be formed if Gaddafi were pushed out….Get U.S. public support, obtain diplomatic and legal authority, and get allies engaged….Avoid U.S. and civilian casualties….A no-fly zone in Libya may seem straightforward at first, but if Gaddafi continues to advance, the time will come for airstrikes, extended bombing and ground troops – a stretch for an already overcommitted force. A few unfortunate incidents can quash public support….Once you decide to do it, get it over with….Given these rules, what is the wisest course of action in Libya? To me, it seems we have no clear basis for action. Whatever resources we dedicate for a no-fly zone would probably be too little, too late. We would once again be committing our military to force regime change in a Muslim land, even though we can’t quite bring ourselves to say it. So let’s recognize that the basic requirements for successful intervention simply don’t exist, at least not yet: We don’t have a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and Libya’s politics hardly foreshadow a clear outcome. We should have learned these lessons from our long history of intervention. We don’t need Libya to offer us a refresher course in past mistakes.”
“Pack Journalism Promotes War on Libya,” by Stephen Lendman, IntelDaily, 11 March 2011: “America’s major media never met an imperial war it didn’t love and promote, never mind how lawless, mindless, destructive and counterproductive….It’s a familiar Western scheme, justified as ‘humanitarian intervention,’ what America, above all, doesn’t give a damn about and never did, seeking only imperial dominance, no matter how much death and destruction it takes to get it. ‘Operation Libya’ had antecedents, notably in Yugoslavia and Iraq, two previous countries Western powers destroyed and now exploit….”
“Worldview: Why we mustn’t initiate a Libya no-fly zone—Instead, U.S. officials should help coordinate an Arab and African response to this crisis,” by Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist, 10 March 2011: “Despite the emotional pleas by Benghazi rebels on CNN, much of the talk about no-fly zones ignores the harsh realities of the Libyan conflict. The ongoing Arab revolts have been genuine grassroots protests driven by local grievances, and not orchestrated by the West or other outside powers….”
“REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL: NATO, war, lies and business,” by Fidel Castro, Granma, 10 March 2011: “The empire is now attempting to turn events around to what Gaddafi has done or not done, because it needs to militarily intervene in Libya and deliver a blow to the revolutionary wave unleashed in the Arab world. Through now not a word was said, silence was maintained and business was conducted. Whether a latent Libyan rebellion was promoted by yankee intelligence agencies or by the errors of Gaddafi himself, it is important that the peoples do not let themselves be deceived, given that, very soon, world opinion will have enough elements to know what to believe. In my opinion, and as I have expressed since the outset, the plans of the bellicose NATO had to be condemned….”
“Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya: Calls for a no-fly zone over Libya ignore the perils of intervention. Long-term solutions aren’t as simple as the click of a mouse,” by John Hilary, The Guardian, 10 March 2011: “The internet is credited with giving key tools to activists in the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, but social media may now be used to empower those very western governments responsible for maintaining north Africa’s worst dictatorships. As Libya’s uprising unfolds, e-activist organisation Avaaz has convinced 800,000 people to sign up for a no-fly zone in Libya. Little do most of these generally well-meaning activists know, they are strengthening the hands of those western governments desperate to reassert their interests in north Africa….Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence. No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement….”
“A Ceasefire and Negotiations the Right Way to Resolve the Libya Crisis,” International Crisis Group, 10 March 2011: “Both immediate humanitarian and longer term political considerations require an end to the violence through a cease-fire and negotiations between the two sides. Crisis Group accordingly calls for the formation of a contact group or committee consisting of internationally respected statesmen drawn from Libya’s North African neighbours and other African states. Its mandate would be to broker an immediate ceasefire and initiate direct talks between the two sides to secure a transition to a post-Qaddafi regime that has legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people. Such talks might not succeed. More forceful measures — sanctioned by the UN Security Council and in close coordination with the Arab League and African Union — might become necessary to prevent massive loss of life. But before that conclusion is reached, diplomatic options must first be exhausted. They have not even begun.”
“The Chorus for War,” by Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, 10 March 2011: “What we are watching in Libya is an outbreak of civilian protests that has broken into armed revolt. That’s very different. And do we really believe now that the United States can or should intervene militarily every time there is an armed insurrection against an existing government? That strikes me as crazy and deeply unwise, regardless of how odious the Libyan regime might be….”
“Intervention In Libya — Options For the Obama Administration,” Speakers: Matthew C. Waxman, Adjunct Senior Fellow For Law And Foreign Policy, Council On Foreign Relations; Micah Zenko, Fellow For Conflict Prevention, Council On Foreign Relations; Presider: Deborah Jerome, Deputy Editor, Cfr.Org, Council On Foreign
09 March 2011 Council on Foreign Relations:
“ZENKO: I would just point out that according to, you know, one, information and — you know, any reporting from conflict zones is always difficult to come by. It’s late. It’s incomplete. Both sides have very strong reasons to portray their side to the international community in the best light. So this is with all those qualifications.
“But, you know, all of the sort of international reporting in the Human Rights Watch and UNHCR and other U.N. entities on the ground suggest that Libya is facing a civil war. It is an ongoing civil war between paramilitary groups and uniformed military forces representing the government, as well as some former military and paramilitary forces, un-uniformed, representing the rebel groups.
“In the course of the fights between both sides, the Libyan air force has used some of its fighter aircraft and helicopters in attack operations against mass rebel groups. There’s been almost no reports — only a handful of reports — of these being used demonstrably against civilians. And in fact, there’s more instances of a reporting of bombs being dropped in the middle of the — in the middle of the desert, repeated sorties over the desert where bombs are dropped, far away from where anybody is located.
“So if you look at the actual violence that’s happening on the ground, it’s with snipers, AK-47s, artillery, long-range artillery, tanks and so forth; people just harassing, setting up checkpoints and mobile checkpoints to try to take down the rebel movement and try to harass and intimidate and coerce noncombatant civilians.
“In that — in that instance, a no-fly zone has absolutely no impact on the primary tactic that’s being used to harass and intimidate people on the ground. So imposing a no-fly zone over Libya might make us feel good, might give us some sort of gratitude without the commitment of actually — of actually doing anything to impact the situation on the ground. But it is not relevant to the fight that is going on now in the civil war.”
“Why the US must not intervene in Libya: Americans are hardwired to expect their military to fix foreign crises, but we should resist the calls of DC’s armchair generals,” by Stephen Kinzer, The Guardian, 09 March 2011: “The urge to intervene around the world may truly have become hardwired into the American psyche. How else to explain the seriousness with which some in Washington are suggesting that the United States take sides in the unfolding civil war in Libya? The US is fighting two wars in Muslim countries. Since the results have included thousands of dead Americans, a near-bankrupt treasury and a surge in anti-Americanism in the world’s most volatile region, launching a third war might seem unwise. Intervening in Libya would require the US to take sides in a highly obscure conflict. Any group the US helps bring to power would be heavily tainted, and Americans would have to defend it in an explosive environment….”
“How a Libyan no-fly zone could backfire,” Source: Stratfor.com , Author: George Friedman, 09 March 2011: “Even with a no-fly zone, Gadhafi would still be difficult for the rebels to defeat, and Gadhafi might still defeat the rebels. The attractiveness of the no-fly zone in Iraq was that it provided the political illusion that steps were being taken, without creating substantial risks, or for that matter, actually doing substantial damage to Saddam Hussein’s control over Iraq. The no-fly zone remained in place for about 12 years without forcing change in Saddam’s policies, let alone regime change. The same is likely to be true in Libya. The no-fly zone is a low-risk action with little ability to change the military reality that creates an impression of decisive action. It does, as we argue, have a substantial downside, in that it entails costs and risks — including a high likelihood of at least some civilian casualties — without clear benefit or meaningful impact. The magnitude of the potential civilian toll is unknown, but its likelihood, oddly, is not in the hands of those imposing the no-fly zone, but in the hands of Gadhafi. Add to this human error and other failures inherent in war, and the outcome becomes unclear. A more significant action would be intervention on the ground, an invasion of Libya designed to destroy Gadhafi’s military and force regime change. This would require a substantial force — and it should be remembered from Iraq that it would require a substantial occupation force to stabilize and build a new regime to govern Libya.”
“‘No-fly zone’ is a euphemism for war. We’d be mad to try it: Cameron’s urge to dust himself in military glory may be strong, but he should not interfere in the Libyan rebels’ cause,” by Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, 09 March 2011: “Happy days are back for the sofa strategists and beltway bombardiers. After the miseries of Iraq and Afghanistan, a Libyan no-fly zone is just the tonic they need. If you zero in from carrier A, you can take out the Tripoli air defences while carrier B zaps the mercenary bases and carrier C zooms with special forces to secure the oilfields. You might tell the Americans to go easy on Leptis Magna after what they did to Babylon. Otherwise, let rip. You can sense the potency surging through Downing Street’s veins. This is how wars begin, and beginning wars is politically sexy….”
“It’s Their War, Not Ours,” by Patrick J. Buchanan, Antiwar.com, 08 March 2011: “Don’t start down a road the end of which you cannot see or do not know. There is no vital U.S. interest in whether Gadhafi wins or is deposed. We ought to stay out. This is their war, not ours. Churchill once said: Take away this pudding, it has no theme. What is the theme, where is the consistency in U.S. policy? We backed the dictators Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, who were as autocratic as Gadhafi, whom we demand be deposed. We support the dictator in Yemen, the absolute monarch in Saudi Arabia, the king in Bahrain, the sultan in Oman, and the emir in Kuwait, but back pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran, though there have been more elections in Iran than in all those other nations put together. America has taken a terrible beating for what shehas done and tried and failed to do in that region for a decade. Let the ‘world community’ take the lead on this one. Tell them, this time, the Yanks are not coming.”
“On Libya, too many questions,” by George F. Will, Washington Post, 08 March 2011: “But is that a vital U.S. national interest? If it is, when did it become so? A month ago, no one thought it was. How much of Gaddafi’s violence is coming from the air? Even if his aircraft are swept from his skies, would that be decisive? What lesson should be learned from the fact that Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War – the massacre by Serbs of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica – occurred beneath a no-fly zone?… But how is imposing a no-fly zone – the use of military force to further military and political objectives – not military intervention?… If collateral damage from such destruction included civilian deaths – remember those nine Afghan boys recently killed by mistake when they were gathering firewood – are we prepared for the televised pictures?… If a pilot is downed and captured, are we ready for the hostage drama? If we decide to give war supplies to the anti-Gaddafi fighters, how do we get them there?… Presumably we would coordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Gaddafi forces. Who are they?…What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics?… Could intervention avoid ‘mission creep’? If grounding Gaddafi’s aircraft is a humanitarian imperative, why isn’t protecting his enemies from ground attacks?… How often has intervention by nation A in nation B’s civil war enlarged the welfare of nation A? Before we intervene in Libya, do we ask the United Nations for permission? If it is refused, do we proceed anyway? If so, why ask? If we are refused permission and recede from intervention, have we not made U.S. foreign policy hostage to a hostile institution? Would not U.S. intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect U.S. military assistance? Would it be wise for U.S. military force to be engaged simultaneously in three Muslim nations?”
“The Old Gang’s All Here: Libya and the Return of Humanitarian Imperialism,” by Jean Bricmont, CounterPunch, 08 March 2011: “The whole gang is back: The parties of the European Left (grouping the ‘moderate’ European communist parties), the ‘Green’ José Bové, now allied with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who has never seen a US-NATO war he didn’t like, various Trotkyist groups and of course Bernard-Henry Lévy and Bernard Kouchner, all calling for some sort of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Libya or accusing the Latin American left, whose positions are far more sensible, of acting as ‘useful idiots’ for the ‘Libyan tyrant.’ Twelve years later, it is Kosovo all over again. Hundred of thousands of Iraqis dead, NATO stranded in an impossible position in Afghanistan, and they have learned nothing! The Kosovo war was made to stop a nonexistent genocide, the Afghan war to protect women (go and check their situation now), and the Iraq war to protect the Kurds. When will they understand that all wars claim to have humanitarian justifications? Even Hitler was ‘protecting minorities’ in Czechoslovakia and Poland….The negative role of the International Criminal Court is again apparent, here, as was that of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in the case of Kosovo. One of the reasons why there was relatively little bloodshed in Tunisia and Egypt is that there was a possible exit for Ben Ali and Mubarak. But ‘international justice’ wants to make sure that no such exit is possible for Qaddafi, and probably for people close to him, hence inciting them to fight to the bitter end….”
Early evidence that even the threat of a “no fly zone” has dramatically escalated violence in advance: “I think they are bombing heavily because they want to win time before a no-fly zone is imposed,” the rebel shouted over the phone (source).
“The U.S. Should Keep Out of Libya,” by Richard Haas, Wall Street Journal, 08 March 2011: “There are political reasons to question the wisdom of the U.S. becoming a protagonist in Libya’s civil war. It is one thing to acknowledge Moammar Gadhafi as a ruthless despot, which he has demonstrated himself to be. But doing so does not establish the democratic bona fides of those who oppose him. And even if some of those opposing him are genuine democrats, there is no reason to assume that helping to remove the regime would result in the ascendancy of such people….”
“Libya and the folly of intervention: After turning a blind eye to Gaddafi’s violent rule, the West has no legitimacy to enforce a no-fly zone,” by Sami Hermez, Al Jazeera English, 07 March 2011: “Calls for international intervention to end the conflict in Libya have come from across the political spectrum and have even included Libyan voices, such as the country’s delegation to the United Nations. These calls, especially on the part of Libyans, are surely motivated by a belief that the international community, with all its power, must have some tools at its disposal to put real pressure on Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi to cease the bloodshed and step down as the country’s leader. However, some calls for international engagement with the Libyan conflict have also been motivated by a disingenuous desire to reassert US leadership in the world. To the extent that these intentions are the guiding light, the international community’s interventionist policy, including the recently passed UN Security Council Resolution 1970 imposing sanctions on Libya, is dangerous, misguided and irresponsible….Under the guise of protecting human rights, the international community, with the United States at its helm, seems eager to redeem its image by capitalising on the revolutionary spirit now sweeping the Arab world, and to position itself as the savior of Libya in the hopes of securing the allegiance of any future government.”
“Will We Ever Learn? Kicking the Intervention Habit,” by Richard Falk, 07 March 2011: “With respect to Libya, we need to take account of the fact that the Qaddafi government, however distasteful on humanitarian grounds, remains the lawful diplomatic representative of a sovereign state, and any international use of force even by the UN, much less a state or group of states, would constitute an unlawful intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, prohibited by Article 2(7) of the UN Charter unless expressly authorized by the Security Council as essential for the sake of international peace and security. Beyond this, there is no assurance that an intervention, if undertaken, would lessen the suffering of the Libyan people or bring to power a regime more respectful of human rights and dedicated to democratic participation. The record of military intervention during the last several decades is one of almost unbroken failure if either the human costs or political outcomes are taken into proper account. Such interventionary experience in the Islamic world during the last fifty years makes it impossible to sustain the burden of persuasion that would be needed to justify an anti-regime intervention in Libya in some ethically and legally persuasive way…. Mahmoud Mamdani has taught us to distinguish ‘good Muslims’ from ‘bad Muslims,’ now we are being instructed to distinguish ‘good autocrats’ from ‘bad autocrats.’ By this definition, only the pro-regime elements in Libya and Iran qualify as bad autocrats, and their structures of must at least be shaken if they cannot be broken. What distinguishes these regimes? It does not seem to be that their degree of oppressiveness is more pervasive and severe than is the case for the others. Other considerations give more insight: access and pricing of oil, arms sales, security of Israel, relationship to the neoliberal world economy.”
“Another NATO Intervention? Libya: Is This Kosovo All Over Again?” by Diana Johnstone, CounterPunch, 07 March 2011: “let’s look at some of the disturbing similarities….A demonized leader….The ‘we must do something’ chorus….The specter of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’ is evoked to justify war….Leftist idiocy….Refugees….Osama bin Laden….Refusal of negotiations….”
“Libya, the United States, and Iran: Just Who Is ‘Meddling’?” by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, Race for iran, 06 March 2011: “With its no doubt emotionally gratifying but feckless rhetoric demanding Qaddafi’s departure, the Obama Administration has ensured that it can play no constructive role in a process of political transition in Libya. Can anyone with a clear head, an appreciable measure of historical memory, and decent intentions honestly think it would be a good idea for the United States to invade Libya—under the rubric of humanitarian intervention and with the stated aim of restoring the Libyan people’s ‘freedom’? Can no one in Washington remember Somalia, let alone Iraq? All of this is playing out as the Obama Administration seems increasingly inclined to support the Bahraini ruling family in resisting the most important demands of the opposition there for real political reform…”
“The revival of imperialist ideology,” Lenin’s Tomb, 01 March 2011: “Ironic, in the middle of a revolutionary upsurge in the Middle East, that an unholy alliance of security experts, politicos, EU personnel, ambassadors, and house babblers is once more bruiting the shop-soiled commodity of ‘shumanitarian intervention’. Forget the recent embarrassment over the loss of Tunisia, and Egypt, and the sweats over uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen. It’s all about Libya. And having spent the last few years arming Qadhafi, selling him to international audiences as a former madman who has seen the light, the US and EU are now simulating mortal affront over the use to which Qadhafi is putting those weapons. Having waited and watched, and made initially very equivocal statements, they’ve determined that Qadhafi’s regime is finished just in time to avoid any faux pas, such as Joe Biden or Tony Blair bigging up the man’s courage or denying his dictatorial proclivities. More, they’re ready to fight on the side of the Libyan revolution. Neocons are once more clamouring for the breach. Anne Marie Slaughter, the ‘Wilsonian’ former head of State Department policy planning, is also tweeting for the intervention. David Cameron is raising alarm over the prospect of chemical weapons being used as justification for imposing a ‘no fly zone’….Now, the ideology of ‘humanitarian intervention’ is among other things a form of racist paternalism. It maintains, through its affirmations and exclusions, that people in the Third World cannot deliver themselves from dictatorship without the assistance of imperialist Euro-American states. Even if they do, the ideology in its present permutation maintains, they won’t be able to maintain a decent society by themselves….”
“What Should The U.S. Do About Libya? Most Americans Say Nothing,” by Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway, 23 February 2011: “Fortunately, the American people seem to be far more cautious about this idea of adventurism to save the world than some of the punditocracy: Americans are wary of the current chaotic political situation in several Arab countries including Libya but strongly believe the United States should stay out of the picture.”
“On International Intervention and the Dire Situation in Libya,” by Aslı Ü. Bâli and Ziad Abu-Rish, Jaddaliya, 23 February 2011: “We thus return to our original do-no-harm principle. We neither advocate abandoning the Libyan people to the violence of the regime nor protecting al-Qaddafi from accountability. But as calls for international intervention grow, we must worry about the risk of counter-productive results for Libyans on the ground of some of the options being considered. A combined strategy of humanitarian assistance, severing existing military ties with the regime, and generating exit options for al-Qaddafi and his family may well be the best course for accomplishing the goal of supporting Libya’s civilian population….”
“Tiptoeing to War with Libya,” by Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative, 22 February 2011: “Aside from making Western interventionists feel better about themselves, the only use the symbolic measures proposed by Lynch have is to set a pretext for large-scale military invention, which Lynch insists he does not want. (‘I don’t call for a direct military intervention.’) Imposing no-fly zone is not symbolic, of course: it’s ‘direct military intervention’ pure and simple, an act of war. If a single NATO jet goes down, pressure to invade North Africa will be nigh irresistible. Interventionists of all stripes are fully aware of this. Maybe naive good intentions outstrip common sense where some interventionists are concerned, but watch out: the Libyan slaughter is creating an opening for those who would have liked to stage-manage the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions to impose some ‘control’ on unrest in the region. A Libyan intervention will be the first step toward putting an end to all this messy indigenous rebellion, so the task of proper, American-led ‘democratization’ can resume.”
“Resist Temptation to Intervene in Libya,” by Ted Galen Carpenter, The National Interest, 22 February 2011: “Washington’s geostrategic plate is already overflowing just handling the existing messy interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing U.S. policy makers need to do is have this country meddle in Libya. They should resist the siren calls for no-fly zones or other initial steps on what could be a very slippery slope.”
“The international community has failed us,” Mr. [Ahmed] Omar [“a rebel commander”] said by phone. (source)
“People are fed up. They are waiting impatiently for an international move,” said Saadoun al-Misrati, a rebel spokesman in the city of Misrata, the last rebel-held city in western Libya, which came under heavy shelling Wednesday. “What Gadhafi is doing, he is exploiting delays by international community. People are very angry that no action is being taken against Gadhafi’s weaponry.” (AP)
Gheriani, the rebel spokesman, said by telephone from Benghazi that the opposition was hoping for a positive U.N. Security Council vote but “if not, we’ll rely on ourselves and do what we can.” (AP)
“We think that in the coming hours we will see real genocide in Ajdabiya,” he said. “The international community has to act within the next 10 hours”— Dabbashi said Gadhafi’s forces would unleash “ethnic cleansing” on villages in mountain region of the western part of the country. “I think something will be in the resolution to allow air strikes,” he said. Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s ex-deputy envoy to the UN—who apparently works in the field of international relations without any sensible understanding of the meaning of words such as “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing,” or he does and throws them about carelessly to produce an emotional effect (source).
“The world is sleeping,” he [a rebel fighter interviewed by AP] said. “They (the West) drunk of Gadhafi’s oil and now they won’t stand against him. They didn’t give us a no-fly zone” (source).
“We feel so, so, isolated here. We are pleading with the international community to help us in this very difficult time.” (source)
“Libyan rebels urge west to assassinate Gaddafi as his forces near Benghazi: Appeal to be made as G8 foreign ministers consider whether to back French and British calls for a no-fly zone over Libya,” by Chris McGreal in Benghazi, The Guardian, 14 March 2011: “Libya’s revolutionary leadership is pressing western powers to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi and launch military strikes against his forces to protect rebel-held cities from the threat of bloody assault. Mustafa Gheriani, spokesman for the revolutionary national council in its stronghold of Benghazi, said the appeal was to be made by a delegation meeting the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in Paris on Monday, as G8 foreign ministers gathered there to consider whether to back French and British calls for a no-fly zone over Libya…. ‘We are telling the west we want a no-fly zone, we want tactical strikes against those tanks and rockets that are being used against us and we want a strike against Gaddafi’s compound,’ said Gheriani. ‘This is the message from our delegation in Europe.’….[and then came the blackmail:] ‘The west is missing the point. The revolution was started because people were feeling despair from poverty, from oppression. Their last hope was freedom. If the west takes too long – where people say it’s too little, too late – then people become a target for extremists who say the west doesn’t care about them. Most people in this country are moderates and extremists have not been able to penetrate them. But if they get to the point of disillusionment with the west there will be no going back’.”
“Gaddafi tries to crush rising, West threatens attack | Green Left Weekly”: “There have been contradictory statements by various members of the Benghazi-based ITNC on the question of foreign military intervention. Some, such as its chairperson Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil (the former justice minister in the Gaddafi regime who defected to the rebels on February 21) have repeatedly called for the imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya. On the other hand, vice-chairperson Abdul Hafez Ghoga, a Benghazi-based human rights lawyer and community organiser, has made statements opposing Western military intervention. But in some statements, he said that a United Nations-imposed ‘no-fly zone’ would be acceptable. The founding statement of the ITNC said: ‘Finally, even though the balance of power is uneven between the defenceless protestors and the tyrant regime’s mercenaries and private battalions, we will relay on the will of our people for a free and dignified existence. Furthermore, we request from the international community to fulfill its obligations to protect the Libyan people from any further genocide and crimes against humanity without any direct military intervention on Libyan soil.’ At this stage, the rebel leaders getting the most publicity are those who once were in the Gaddafi regime….there is no discernable leftist voice in this revolution….”
“This was a rare decision of the Arab League,” rebel spokesman Abdul Basit al-Muzayrik told Al-Jazeera. “We call on the international community to quickly make a firm decision against these crimes.” (source)
“The Libyans are being cleansed by Gaddafi’s air force,” said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel national council. “We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one. We also want a sea embargo and we urgently need some arms and we also need humanitarian assistance and medicines to be sent to the cities besieged by Gaddafi troops.” (source)
“Where is the West? How are they helping? What are they doing,” shouted one fighter. (source)
“People are losing faith in the international community,” said Essam Gheriani, a spokesman for the rebel movement in Libya….”They are not pleased with all the procrastination,” Gheriani said. “What are they waiting for?”….“The United States has a lot it can do to support the Libyans,” Ali said. “I wonder why they are taking it slow?” (source)
“Specter of Rebel Rout Helps Shift U.S. Policy on Libya,” by Mark Landler and Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, 16 March 2011: “The administration, which remains deeply reluctant to be drawn into an armed conflict in yet another Muslim country, is nevertheless backing a resolution in the Security Council that would give countries a broad range of options for aiding the Libyan rebels, including military steps that go well beyond a no-flight zone. Administration officials — who have been debating a no-flight zone for weeks — concluded that such a step now would be ‘too little, too late’ for rebels who have been pushed back to Benghazi. That suggests more aggressive measures, which some military analysts have called a no-drive zone, to prevent Colonel Qaddafi from moving tanks and artillery into Benghazi.”
Hillary Clinton praises the Arab League (see the article above)—“The turning point was really the Arab League statement on Saturday,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday to reporters traveling with her in Cairo. “That was an extraordinary statement in which the Arab League asked for Security Council action against one of its own members.” Note that the Arab League is a collection of dictators who simply want to remove a competing dictator many AL members have hoped to remove for a very long time, using this as an opportune excuse. Saudi Arabia has had no qualms about sending troops into Bahrain to directly crush peaceful and unarmed protesters there—whatever motivated the Arab League, “human rights” was not a concern.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was “high time” for the international community to “pull together” and respond to the appeal by the Arab League. “Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya. It is now a matter of days, if not hours,” he wrote today. “The worst would be that the appeal of the League of the Arab States and the Security Council decisions be overruled by the force of arms.” (source)
Interesting that if a “no fly zone” is backed by the United Nations Security Council, and is “an international legality” in the poorly chosen words of Lebanon’s UN ambassador, motivated by “humanitarian” concerns—that Israel should not be considered as a participant in any air strikes against Libya. The only article which even mentions this issue in passing is World Politics Review’s “Global Insider: Arab Air Forces and the Libya No-Fly Zone.”
More from the murky depths of the mind of Lebanon’s UN ambassador: “Supporters introduce no-fly resolution at UN,” Associated Press, 16 March 2011: Nawaf Salam, Lebanon’s UN ambassador, who introduced the resolution, seems to be even more conceptually impaired than his Libyan colleague when he states that a NFZ “in no way could qualify as a foreign intervention.” Is he mad? Who introduced the resolution? Where was it introduced? Against whom is it to be enforced, and by what means? Why is it that support for actions against Libya have to be mounted on the premise that the public consists of ignorant morons?
“The UN’s duty to Libyans: The United Nations’ statement on Libya was completely inadequate. Gaddafi needs a tough resolution ringing in his ears,” by Carne Ross, The Guardian, 23 February 2011: “People are being killed in Libya. Every member of the UN has declared its commitment to protect civilians, including in circumstances where they are being attacked by their own government. In 2005, every member state signed onto the so-called ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (which you can see here), which states, among other things, that all countries must prevent mass killing. The UN Security Council itself endorsed this principle in its own resolutions, including on Darfur and in its resolutions on protection of civilians (including this one). What is happening in Libya is the true test of such declarations, and it is for every UN member, including the UK and US, in their positions as permanent members of the council, to declare loud and clear – and now – that this principle must be respected, and if it is not, that consequences will follow.”
“We must not wait for a massacre,” Sen. John Kerry, Al Jazeera, 14 March 2011: “Leaders around the world are vigorously debating the advisability of establishing a no-fly zone to stop the violence unfolding in Libya. Some cite Bosnia, where NATO took too long to protect civilian populations in the mid-1990s, as a reason to act. Others remember Rwanda, where President Bill Clinton later expressed regret for not acting to save innocent lives. But the stakes in Libya today are more appropriately underscored by the tragedy in southern Iraq in the waning days of the Persian Gulf War 20 years ago.
As coalition forces were routing the Iraqi army in February 1991, President George Bush encouraged the Iraqi people to ‘take matters into their hands to force Saddam Hussein the dictator to step aside’. When Iraqi Shia, Kurds, and Marsh Arabs rebelled against Hussein, they believed that American forces would protect them against their brutal dictator’s superior firepower….Perhaps the mere threat of a no-fly zone will keep Gaddafi’s pilots from using their helicopters and fighter jets to kill their own people. If it does not, we should make clear that we will lead the free world to avoid the senseless slaughter of any more Libyan citizens by a madman bent on maintaining power. The US and the world community should also make clear – as we did in Bosnia and Kosovo – that we are taking a united stand against a thug who is killing Muslims.” John Kerry, protector of Muslims? The last westerner to intervene in Libya who took that line was this one.
“David Cameron signalled that he wants Britain to be involved in military action in Libya. In what is probably his most bellicose statement on the crisis so far, the prime minister said Britain needs to ‘continue to win the argument for a strong response in the international community’. He said that setting up a no-fly zone was ‘perfectly practical and deliverable’ and that action would have to take place soon. ‘Time could be relatively short,’ he said. To those who say it is nothing to do with us, I would simply respond: Do we want a situation where a failed pariah state festers on Europe’s southern border, potentially threatening our security, pushing people across the Mediterranean and creating a more dangerous and uncertain world for Britain and for all our allies as well as for the people of Libya? Several Tory MPs praised Cameron for taking a lead on this issue internationally when he made a statement in the Commons. But Cameron faced criticism from some Labour MPs who tried – and failed – to get him to condemn the use of Saudi troops to put down protests in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.” (source)
“The Case for a No-Fly Zone,” by Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, 09 March 2011: “I was a strong opponent of the Iraq war, but this feels different….So let’s remember the risks of inaction — and not psych ourselves out. For crying out loud.”
“Former Czech president Havel backs military intervention in Libya,” Monsters and Critics, 07 March 2011: “If the fighting continues in Libya, the west should arm anti- government protestors, close the air space over Libya or conduct airborne attacks on Gaddafi and his forces, Havel said. The international community had intervened too late in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and that mistake should not be repeated, the former dissident and playwright argued.”
“The Libyan conundrum: Don’t let him linger—Should the Arabs and the West do anything to remove Muammar Qaddafi?” The Economist, 03 March 2011: “….But if the Libyan regime starts killing people in their thousands—and especially if it uses helicopter gunships or aircraft—diplomatic reluctance should melt away. Too often the world has dithered open-mouthed as evil men have slaughtered Darfuris or Rwandans with impunity. Outsiders, led by the UN, must help Libya’s emerging transitional councils with humanitarian aid. The UN Security Council may yet have to be persuaded to restore peace by invoking the ample power of Chapter VII. And if that proves unattainable, the widest possible coalition of the willing, ideally including Libya’s Arab neighbours, must protect Libyan civilians by arming the opposition and defending them from aerial attack.”
“(1) Working closely with U.S. allies, NATO, and the United Nations to create a coalition that will impose as quickly as possible a no-fly zone for all Libyan military aircraft over the full extent of northern Libyan airspace, and implement such measures as may be required to render the Libyan air force inoperable throughout the country.
(2) Joining France in recognizing the provisional government of Libya based in Benghazi as the sole legitimate government of Libya.
(3) Entering into immediate dialogue with the provisional government to determine how the U.S. and the international community may provide this legitimate government with both humanitarian and military assistance.
(4) Assist in the jamming of military communications by the Gaddafi forces.
(5) Issue a clear warning to all military officers and mercenaries supporting the Gaddafi regime that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of international law if they participate in crimes against humanity; and offer protection to any senior officers now loyal to Colonel Gaddafi who choose to defect.” [Signatories include: Akbar Ahmed
(American University), Patrick M. Cronin (Center for a New American Security), Francis Fukuyama (Institute for International Studies, Stanford University)]
“The Libyans cannot be left to a terrible fate – David Cameron must act: If the West does not intervene, then we will be sanctioning Gaddafi’s slaughter, writes Mary Riddell,” by Mary Riddell, Telegraph, 28 February 2011: “…Whether or not Libya becomes a bloodbath, the outside world can no longer leave its citizens to their fate. John Maynard Keynes once mourned the fact that recession meant pretending ‘that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution,’ he concluded, ‘must be our gods for a little longer.’ Human meltdown brooks no such delay. The age of false gods is over as the Arab world throws off the feudalism in which the West colluded and storms the road to freedom. It falls to Cameron, the reluctant internationalist, to ease Libya’s safe entry into a post-autocratic world by all means at his disposal. No British prime minister may face a greater test.”
“We must stand ready to intervene in Libya: Britain and its allies must explore how armed humanitarian intervention could take place in Libya, says Sir Richard Dalton, former British ambassador to Libya,” by Sir Richard Dalton, Telegraph, 27 February 2011: “….Amid the uncertainties, Britain and its partners must explore actively and seriously how international armed humanitarian intervention could be undertaken urgently.”
“Stopping Qaddafi,” New York Times Editorial, 24 February 2011: “…If the killing goes on, other steps may be quickly needed, including offering temporary sanctuary for refugees and imposing the kind of no-fly zone that the United States, Britain and France used to protect Kurds in Iraq from the savagery of Saddam Hussein. After Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda, the United States and its allies vowed that they would work harder to stop mass atrocities. One thing is not in doubt: The longer the world temporizes, the more people die.”
“Liberating Libya: The U.S. and Europe should help Libyans overthrow the Gadhafi regime,” Wall Street Journal Editorial, 23 February 2011: “It’s time for the West to drop its studied neutrality and help Libyans topple one of the world’s most loathsome regimes. Paul Wolfowitz has some useful suggestions nearby, starting with humanitarian aid and support from Western capitals to keep communications open inside the country. Mr. Dabbashi, Libya’s rebelling minister to the U.N., recommends a ‘no fly zone’ to prevent Gadhafi from importing mercenaries. We’d go further and tell the Libyan armed forces that the West will bomb their airfields if they continue to slaughter their people. Arming the demonstrators also cannot be ruled out. The Libyan government is already blaming the protests on foreign help, and the protesters are facing a life or death struggle. The worst policy would be to encourage the demonstrators without giving them the tools to prevail.”
“It’s Too Late for Dithering,” by Paul Wolfowitz, The Enterprise Blog, 22 February 2011: “….When there are so many things that could be done to help the unbelievably brave Libyan people—without any risk to American lives—it is shameful to be sitting on our hands. If that is not reason enough to act, then we should be thinking about the terrible reputation the United States is acquiring, by its inaction, among the Libyan people and throughout the region. It will stay with us for a long time.”
“Moammar Gaddafi must pay for atrocities,” Washington Post Editorial, 21 February 2011: “…the Gaddafi regime be held accountable for its crimes. The first way to do that is a public call for regime change. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that it was ‘time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed’ in Libya; European leaders made similar statements. But the regime’s actions demand much more forceful action, including an immediate downgrading of relations and the raising of Libya’s case before the U.N. Security Council. The United States and the European Union should make clear that if the regime survives through violence, it will be subject to far-reaching sanctions, including on its oil industry….”
“Obama Should Tell Qaddafi to Go,” by Tom Hayden, 21 February 2011: “Rarely, if ever, do I advocate U.S. intervention in the affairs of other nations. But President Obama should be supported if he calls for Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi to step down and asks the United Nations to intervene, if necessary.”
“Daily Kos: Libya needs a no-fly zone NOW”: “The case for action is clear. The USA must enforce an immediate no-fly zone over Libya.”