Libya: Slouching Towards…Something

The intervention continues, as the coalition rains death from above and the rebels reverse their previously awful strategic position.

Why is it that the west was ok with Gaddafi’s rule for decades, but it is only when the situation becomes a quagmire on the ground that they choose to intervene? We have a coalition that was set-up in the most embarrassingly haphazard fashion, that committed to action without assigned leadership. The west tried to get the Arab League, a union of dictators, onboard only for that organisation to balk at the first sign of bombs.

NATO forward observers are on the ground, soon to be joined by more I am sure. Tom Ricks over at Best Defence, bizarrely defends the lack of a coherent strategy as a good thing, utterly incredible, considering his firsthand knowledge of the mess that Iraq became in the summer of 2003 due to the lack of a plan.

The west has no plan. Its military resources appear to be directed by the rebels on the ground, rebels who are still unknown, whose long term goals are still a mystery to us, who by their own admission have terrorists within their ranks. Is the west really contemplating arming these people?

Has anyone given any thought to what happens if the rebels win? That this advance does not run out of steam (only possible of course, through increased air attacks). What happens if this armed militia gets into Tripoli and either kills or captures Gaddafi’s government?

Will this unstable, previously defeated, bunch be able to govern Libya? Will they stand together? Do we know what the conflicting ideologies within them are? Can we trust them to not start shooting each other?

Can we trust them to not go on a mission of vengeance? To start knocking on Gaddafi supporting doors with guns or nooses in their hands? Are we ok with that? Are we going to intervene on behalf of civilians that the rebels choose to target? Will we go back to what we were doing before, just ignoring it? Iraq is, for all of the pro-NFZers denials, an example we have to look to here. In the aftermath of Saddam’s fall, Iraq suffered a vacuum, a vacuum that was soon filled by armed men roaming the streets, sectarian reprisals and bloodshed everywhere. And that was with hundreds of thousands of western troops actually there. Libya, as western leaders continue to insist, will not have that. I continue to believe that is either a lie, or a very damning misassumption. Libya will not become anything resembling a functioning state without further assistance, and it will not become anything other than Somali-esque without that assistance taking the form of “boots on the ground”. And if the rebels do begin targeting pro-Gaddafi civilians, the west will have to make the choice anew whether to intervene. Only this time, the situation will actually be their fault.

A UN peacekeeping/nation building mission is, I sincerely believe, an inevitably in Libya, because the leaders of the west, Obama because he is increasingly spineless in the face of pressure, Cameron because he wants to look like the big man on the international stage, Sarkozy because he wants some redemption for France’s North African past, simply couldn’t recognise that their geopolitical interests are non-existent in Libya. The result is civilian death, a group of armed men who we know next to nothing about on the rise, the needless risking of western lives, the further polarisations of Arabs, and growing sense of hypocrisy surrounding the west, who intervene in Libya and ignore the deaths of civilians in other Middle-Eastern countries.

Syria and Bahrain continue to target their own civilians. The west continues to pretend that it isn’t really happening. The hypocrisy is sickening and also from those who are so quick to jump to the defence of Obama, the same people who criticised Bush for rushing into Iraq.

War must be bound with a political objective, otherwise it is just war for wars sake. The political objective of this war is not clear. The various nations are offering different solutions from the deposing of Gaddafi to simply getting a longer term ceasefire in place. Until that political objective is clear and agreed by all the members of NATO, this intervention will become a mission without an end goal, one that the west will more than likely abandon when no substantial results are gained within a few weeks or months.

And finally, another question no one wants to address: What will the west do if one of their soldiers dies? You think they’ll stick around then? Not likely.

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1 Response to Libya: Slouching Towards…Something

  1. Pingback: But what if they win? | Wings Over Iraq

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