Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Military intervention in Libya: A few thoughts and some links


Britain, France, and the United States are bombing targets in Libya.  This military intervention follows a United Nations Security Council resolution which gives allowance to protect Libyan civilians using military force. From what I have read, it seems that bombing targets and installations from the air is pushing the limits of the resolution that was passed.

The Arab League was in favor of the UN's move to institute a no-fly zone over Libya, but the Arab League has expressed concern over how the UN resolution and the no-fly zone has, seemingly without hesitation, became a military bombing campaign. 

I don't have any analysis to provide at this point as this isn't my area of expertise and I've been disconnected for several days while traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and adjusting to the 10-time difference. What I will provide is a series of links which have helped my understanding of the issues around non-intervention/intervention opinions based on historical, moral, and/or strategic rationale. Here are some of the articles I found useful, with a short description for those of you who may pick and choose amongst this list.

Richard Falk - Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment
Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and emeritus professor of international law at Princeton University, has a post which helpfully breaks down the non-interventionist and interventionist perspectives into three categories: realists, moral interventionists, moral and legal anti-interventionists.

Asli U. Bâli and Ziad Abu-Rish, Al Jazeera - The Drawbacks of Intervention in Libya
The title says it all and this is a brilliant article. These aren't pacifists calling for anti-intervention but are pragmatists (who happen to be experts in international law) looking at the history of Western (colonial) intervention while looking strategically at the proposed military intervention and are asking, "will this work?" They seem to think it won't work as effectively as other methods could.

Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy - What does the UNs decision mean for Libya? For the rest of the world?
Stephen Walt, foreign policy expert and co-author of the seminal The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy, cautions that this action might not quickly cripple Qaddafi, he might hang on despite military intervention, as many other regimes have survived when faced with armed international pressure. He calls the air strikes and no-fly zone "the politico-military equivalent of a hail mary pass." That's a great line.

Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation - Obama's Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya
The last paragraph of this article is sharp. It appears there is a civil war in Libya and there are not genocidal massacres taking place. So what gives France, U.S., and Britain (with the loose support of the United Arab Emirates) the right to intervene in an internal matter?

Abdel al-Bari Atwan, The Guardian - Relief will fade as we see the real impact of intervention in Libya
The intervening countries drafted a UN resolution because they are so concerned with the loss of civilian life? So why were 40 people killed in a drone attack in Pakistan, and why were Western leaders sitting on their hands while the Bahrain and Yemeni regimes are murdering pro-democracy protesters. Also, what are the long term effects of this action? Will Libya turn into another failed state as a result of this chosen form of intervention?

3 comments:

Prasad said...

Strike against Libyan forces is very bad

Samuel Nichols said...

There was a comment posted by 'Anonymous' which came to me as an email notification. When I logged-in to respond, the comment was no longer here. The comment was extremely well-written and shared important insight on Libya. It's possible Anonymous deleted the comment, but I would guess the comment was deleted to some system error. Anonymous if you're out there, please repost. I have a copy of your note in my email if you'd like me to repost. If I don't hear from you saying you deleted it on purpose, I will repost the comment in a couple days.

Samuel Nichols said...

I hope I am not overstepping my boundaries by re-posting this comment. It came to me as an email notification, but it never made it to the comments section of the page. I am guessing this was a blogspot system error.

Here is the comment that was posted by 'Anonymous':

I am married to a Libyan man, and we both currently reside in the U.S. My husband was in Libya visiting his family for the first time in three years when the violence erupted; he managed to escape on the day that Libyans were banned from leaving the country via the airport.

I am pursuing a master's degree in Middle East Studies at Columbia University, and my thesis is focused on Libya. I'd like to give you our perspective.

For weeks now, the Libyan people have been calling for Western intervention, and the Arab League recently voted unanimously for a
no-fly zone, something unheard of in the Arab world. (Of course now, the Arab League is saying that the use of force has been too extreme, but what were they
expecting? Attacking military command centers and hardware is what a no-fly zone involves.) Qadhafi says that 65 civilians have been killed, but we know that he has been taking bodies from the hospital and digging up fresh graves--stockpiling bodies from his heinous crimes for just this type of masquerade. He and his sons and supporters have been lying and spreading absurd propaganda around that leaves us all aghast. Even though my husband is used to this, he is
still amazed by how much this devil can spin the truth.

Literally, upwards of 10,000 people have been murdered by Qadhafi's minions. There are reports also that upwards of 10,000people have been seriously injured or kidnapped/tortured. Many of the disappeared have not reappeared and are probably dead. The city of Tripoli, where my husband's family is and also many of my former students, has
been living in fear since the uprising began. The first protests were met with
live bullets. People have been rounded up at night and disappeared if they are
known to have spoken to the media or the outside world about the conflict. We cannot speak openly with my husband's family as everything is wiretapped. To show any form of opposition now is sheer suicide.


The Libyans will not let things return to what they were before. This is their only chance to get rid of Qadhafi. His support on the ground is made up of paid thugs and those who have benefited from the regime and would lose everything if it falls. He has brought in these supporters from Sirte and Sabha, home of his own tribe. As you can imagine, his supporters have reaped the financial windfalls of his regime and have lauded their power over Libyans.


Libyans see UN intervention as support for the pro-democracy opposition. They could not have succeeded without it, and as long as there are no "troops on the
ground," then all military action is desirable. If Qadhafi were taken out, no one would
be up in arms, expect for that they might want to kill him themselves...

I was strongly against the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which were unjustified, illegal, and immoral. This may be the first military action by the
U.S. that, whatever the reasons the U.S. is participating in it, is actually in support of human lives and rights. There is a strong coalition--given who could
be brought on board. (It wasn't likely to garner support from other totalitarian regimes in the region.)

Anyway, I hope this information helps shed some light on why Libyans support this military action. My husband was at the White House yesterday demonstrating as a way to thank, I suppose you could say, the UN for finally intervening, and to encourage the international coalition ro respect the wishes
of the interim government and the Libyan people by not putting troops on the ground. The Libyans will pull this off, I'm sure of it. They are strong, well-educated, and full of righteous anger and a desire to oust this madman and build a new, more enlightened country.

Take care.