Another imperialist intervention?

With the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Libya authorising all UN members “to take all necessary measures [notwithstanding the previous arms embargo] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”, the stage was all set for a foreign intervention. A no-fly zone was also announced in the UNSC resolution. In view of this, the Libyan government took a pragmatic decision and declared an immediate ceasefire. Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa announced that the government wanted to protect civilians and it was ready to open “all dialogue channels with everyone interested in the territorial unity of Libya”. The UNSC’s resolution is another stark reminder of how imperialist powers can manipulate the world system to their advantage. Muammar Gaddafi’s blood-curdling rhetoric on crushing the rebel movement in Benghazi did not help either. He said, “…we are determined. We will track them down, and search for them, alley by alley, road by road, the Libyan people all of them together will be crawling out.” These were ominous words and may have even provoked some members of the UNSC to vote for (or abstain from voting against) the resolution the way they did. It also gave the west a chance to call for direct military intervention.

It is unfortunate that the opposition to Gaddafi’s long 43-year rule did not remain within the bounds of peaceful protest, either from the rebels’ or the government’s side. Descent into civil war was inevitable as a result. The Libyan armed forces pulled no punches and Gaddafi’s hostile speeches made the chances of a mediated settlement impossible. Having said that, a foreign military intervention, even if it follows the UNSC resolution and does not lead to any foreign forces on Libyan soil or foreign occupation, is the wrong way to settle this issue. History is replete with examples of covert operations to get around the restriction on foreign ground forces. On top of that, pre-emptive strikes against Gaddafi’s forces were never ruled out by the UNSC resolution. The US led the pack while Britain and France are all too ready to assist it. Long-range bomber aircraft can be launched while a fleet of US naval ships is already present in the Mediterranean. The outcome of such an attack cannot be predicted but it may lead to a wider war. If the Libyan government is unable to stave off the destruction of its air force and military, a regional conflagration could be imminent. The internal struggle of the Libyan people and their rebellion against Gaddafi’s rule has been turned into a potentially international conflict. This is highly dangerous.

It is hoped that the Gaddafi regime sticks to the ceasefire and negotiates with the rebel forces instead of attacking them head-on. If this does not work out, the world would see a new, potentially devastating conflict. The Arab League may have been hankering for Gaddafi’s overthrow and thus paved the way for the UNSC through its own resolution asking for a no-fly zone, but if a full-fledged military intervention takes place, the Arab world would not remain unaffected. We have seen the disastrous results of foreign intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Kosovo and other countries. It is therefore best advised that the west should not repeat the same mistakes. In principle, too, such an intervention is uncalled for. The Libyan opposition might not be averse to an imperialist intervention but the responsible states of the world should not lend support to such an aggressive posture.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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