A fractured coalition

The US and its allies are under a lot of pressure just days after their military intervention in Libya. US President Barack Obama is finding it difficult to defend his country’s involvement in yet another war, even if it is his first. “Unless he [Gaddafi] is willing to step down, then there are still going to be potential threats towards the Libyan people and we will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people,” said Obama. “But we will not be in the lead.” The US’s reluctance is for obvious reasons. One, the US is not well liked in the Muslim world, especially after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Attacking another Muslim country is bound to increase the anti-American sentiment in all Muslim countries. Two, the US is already overstretched – financially and militarily – in Afghanistan and Iraq. The American public is not in favour of another war given war weariness and the global recession’s impact on the US economy. As if the US does not have enough problems convincing its public, now there are fractures in the coalition as well. China, Russia, Germany, India and many other countries have opposed the military strikes in Libya. The Arab League, too, is now opposing the bombing. A political row over Russian Prime Minister Putin’s remarks critical of the intervention has broken out with his own President Medvedev. It must be said that these critics should have thought of the end result when they abstained from the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Libya.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, on the other hand, seems to have played his cards well. “This assault…is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history,” said Gaddafi about the western strikes. Maybe there was a method in his madness when he delivered a blood-curdling speech against the Libyan rebels just before the UNSC resolution. Gaddafi’s forces have been quite successful in stopping the rebel forces from advancing from Benghazi westwards. Foreign forces have launched strikes near Misrata, a rebel-held city, while Gaddafi’s forces are attacking the border city of Zintan.

Qatar’s air force has arrived in the coalition forces’ base in Crete but any Arab country that joins the international forces may not be able to escape the wrath of the Arab people. For all intents and purposes, it seems that the foreign intervention may enable Gaddafi to restore his battered reputation as an Arab nationalist and anti-imperialist. The fissures in the coalition may come back to haunt the west. It would be better if the west stops these attacks and lets the Libyan people decide their own future.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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