We should remember the no-fly zone did not stop the Srebrenica massacre in 1995
THE UN Security Council has passed a resolution authorizing the world community to act to defend civilians in Libya. After dithering for weeks over what to do in Libya, the powers that be now appear ready to intervene, especially since the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi seems to be violating his own declared unilateral truce.
The West was divided for weeks over how to address the situation in Libya, which differed from the other Arab revolts when it moved from a political uprising to an armed insurrection. Unlike the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan uprising metamorphosed from spontaneous and peaceful to an armed uprising akin to civil war.
Since the Libyan uprising began, the Security Council powers have been of two minds. The US, in particular, was and remains reluctant to get bogged down in yet another aggression against and prolonged occupation of a Muslim country. Hence, in line with the resolution, Washington has ruled out using US ground forces. As for Russia and China, they were reluctant to permit the international community to get embroiled in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation, especially one with which they have lucrative economic and commercial dealings.
Meantime, the thrill of empowerment by anti-Qaddafi forces was poised to bravely withstand the superior firepower of the pro-Qaddafi forces. There were early hopes that Qaddafi would be forced from power as a result of the insurrection that had seen towns and cities across the country fall to rebel forces. But pro-Qaddafi forces succeeded in pushing rebel fighters back to their enclaves, causing a re-evaluation of prospects for the regime’s survival.
The rebels are short of arms and ammunition and their chances of victory depended on whether the West was willing to intervene militarily, which until a few days ago was a most unlikely scenario.
The Security Council resolution was passed over fears that sooner or later Qaddafi would overwhelm the rebels. The resolution, which includes a no-fly zone aimed at preventing pro-Qaddafi forces from bombing rebel-held towns, is meant to protect the insurgents as much as to bring Qaddafi down.
Still, the rebels have good reason to worry. The no-fly zone did not stop the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. However, after the sorry tale of the European response to the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, it is only right to expect that the EU would this time be able to find a response to the crisis that has hit the southern side of the Mediterranean.
The EU and the US have now both come to the joint conclusion that Qaddafi must relinquish power immediately, for his regime has lost all legitimacy.
Much must now also depend on the Libyan armed opposition groups’ talks about a joint program. The insurgents are battling to control a state waging a full-fledged war against it. Whether they have the capacity and the political will to unite to the challenge is open to question. They cannot simply form a government on the basis of their dislike of Qaddafi. They must reach consensus on a common political platform.
Even minimal intervention carries enormous risks with it, but the risks of inaction as far as the Libyan population is concerned are even greater. Everyone knows what Qaddafi is capable of, and he has already warned that he is willing to put the country to the sword.