So we thought we had the go-ahead from the Arab League. We had support from the UN and our allies. So we rounded up the Arabs usual imperialist suspects for an “intervention” (not a conflict) in Libya. Problem: all of those night fired Tomahawk missiles reminded too many Arabs of the Iraq war and survey of damage by daylight suggested to them civilians must have died in the massive attack:
“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”
–AMR MOUSSA, head of the Arab League, doubling back on the group’s original support for the no-fly zone in Libya. Moussa says the current military action has gone beyond the wishes of the League. (via Jerusalem Post)
The historical record clearly establishes that an external regime change intervention based on mixed motives – even when accompanied with claims of humanitarianism – usually privileges the strategic and economic interests of interveners and results in disastrous consequences for the people on the ground. Indeed, the discord currently evidenced among Western powers concerning intervention in Libya is precisely based in their doubts as to whether their strategic interests are adequately served by such a course.
The incongruence between the interests of external interveners and those on the ground in Libya is already apparent. Beyond their eleventh hour timing, serious mobilisations for intervention on the part of Western powers were issued only after most Western nationals had been safely evacuated from Libya.
The fact that outside powers were unwilling to act while their nationals were on Libyan soil demonstrates their understanding that treating the regime with coercion may lead to civilian deaths either directly as a result of an intervention or indirectly through reprisals against civilians identified as opponents.
Furthermore, the evacuation channels made available to Western nationals – airlifts across the Mediterranean – were not and are not being offered to Libyan civilians nor African migrant workers trapped in Libya. If the humanitarian welfare of civilians in Libya were paramount, they, too, would have been offered this secure escape route. Instead, once Western nationals were safely out of harm’s way, coercive measures were adopted without any effort to protect or evacuate the civilians that were left behind in Tripoli and beyond. [aljazeera]
In the end Colonel Gadaffi issued a fierce rejection of the allied intervention. He railed that he will keep them bogged down fighting in his country. The fear of the West may have been realized. An intervention that has backfired. Another area of the world from which it will not be easy to extricate ourselves. Did we think it could be otherwise? Is history not a good teacher?
Sarah Palin, from my front porch I have visions of the end of the power of the West. Looks like we just can’t please any of the people anywhere any of the time. No longer can we round up the usual posse of suspects. We are supporting the old order. The situation on the ground is shifting and we have not fully adapted. And in the end, we have put our civilian populations at risk for more terror attacks as Gadaffi has promised.