The situation in Libya has changed dramatically with the international community’s agreement through the U.N. Security Council to back concerted military action against Ghaddafi.
In my view, this development has a number of far-reaching consequences.
(1) It commits the world community to supporting freedom movements in other countries where military dictatorships and despots rule over a suppressed population. The meaning of this action will not be lost on the dictators in Myanmar, Africa and even North Korea. It canno0t be lost on Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain or even and perhaps most importantly on Iran.
It also makes less likely the Chinese Communist Party’s staging of a second Tiennanmien-Square style suppression of its democracy movement without risking at least international censure and perhaps other concerted actions such as freezing of assets or, in the worst possible case, almost unimaginable, an international military action against China in defense of Chinese civilians. In fact this initial hurdle being past, the way is open for the International community to get behind any other country’s popular protest.
(2) It puts the prestige of the international community on the line as far as winning this battle is concerned. The anti-Ghaddafi fight now becomes the international community’s fight. The major world nations must now do whatever it takes as soon as possible to stop Ghaddafi’s forces or face tremendous loss of face and criticism before the world.
(3) It breathes new life into the stalled freedom movement and lends the prestige of the international community to it at precisely the time when other Arab states have been demonstrating their willingness also to mobilize and use violence against the freedom protesters.
(4) It raises the specter of Ghaddafi and other Arab-state leaders finding themselves before the International Criminal Court at the Hague if they massacre their own citizens. It also puts other despots on notice, as well as the Chinese Communist Party, that their leaders too could find themselves in front of the ICC.
Thus the desperate situation of the people of Libya has proved the catalyst for the International community overcoming its unwillingness to act as a concerted force in support of the freedom movements of the world. The precedent has now been set for international intervention in a country’s internal affairs in defense of a people threatened by their own government.
If I had a bottle of champagne, I’d be popping the cork right now. We have passed a milestone in world history.
We are watching the fall of a foundational notion of nation states: that a nation state has the right to see to its own internal affairs even if that involves murdering its own population as China, Myanmar, North Korea, Iran, and many African states have done.
That doctrine has now been breached and the international community has come down on the side of protecting a defenceless population from its government. In my view, this will give the needed confidence for freedom’s ferment to spread from nation to nation.
UN backs action against Gaddafi
BBC News, 17 March 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12781009
The UN Security Council has backed a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” short of an invasion “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas”.
In New York, the 15-member body voted 10-0 in favour, with five abstentions.
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have recently retaken several towns seized by rebels in an uprising.
Rebel forces reacted with joy in their Benghazi stronghold but a government spokesman condemned UN “aggression”.
Loyalist forces are bearing down on Benghazi, home to a million people.
Following the vote US President Barack Obama called the French and British leaders to discuss the next move. They said Libya must comply immediately with the resolution.
It took quite some diplomatic arm twisting for Britain and its allies to get such a controversial resolution through the Security Council in such a short time.
Fired up by the prospect of Benghazi falling to Col Gaddafi’s forces, they warned of a pending humanitarian catastrophe. They also played the Arab card, calculating that Russia and China wouldn’t veto a request for a no-fly zone that came from the region. The gamble paid off when it came to avoiding a veto.
But not only China and Russia abstained: Germany and Brazil warned that military intervention could harm civilians more than help them. India decried the adoption of “far-reaching measures” on the basis of little “credible” information. Behind such statements lies the fear of escalation and a long-drawn-out war. The resolution may have passed but the doubts and questions that divided the council will almost certainly continue to reverberate.
It is not thought that the US would be involved in the first strikes, but the British and French are likely to get logistical backup from Arab allies. There were reports military action could come soon.
The UK, France and Lebanon proposed Security Council Resolution 1973, with US support.
Russia and China – which often oppose the use of force against a sovereign country as they believe it sets a dangerous precedent – abstained rather than using their power of veto as permanent members.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, introducing the resolution, said: “In Libya, for a number of weeks the people’s will has been shot down… by Colonel Gaddafi who is attacking his own people.
“We cannot let these warmongers do this, we cannot abandon civilians.”
He added: “We should not arrive too late.”
The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said: “This resolution should send a strong message to Colonel Gaddafi and his regime that the violence must stop, the killing must stop and the people of Libya must be protected and have the opportunity to express themselves freely.”
British ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said: “The international community has come together in deploring the actions of the Gaddafi regime and demanding that the regime end this violence against the Libyan people.” He said the UK was “ready to shoulder our responsibility”.
But Germany, which abstained, will not be contributing to the military effort. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said his government sees “considerable dangers and risks” in military action against Col Gaddafi.
There was a joyful response to the vote among rebels in Benghazi. Locals cheered, fired guns in the air and let off fireworks to celebrate the imminent no-fly zone.
- Imposes “ban on all flights in Libyan airspace” except for aid planes
- Authorises member states to “take all necessary measures” to “protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”
- Excludes occupation force
- Toughens arms embargo by calling on all member states to “inspect in their territory vessels and aircraft bound to or from Libya”
- Widens asset freeze to include Libyan Investment Authority, Central Bank of Libya and Libyan National Oil Company among others
- In quotes: UN Libya vote reaction
But Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said the vote amounted to “a call for Libyans to kill each other”, according to Agence France-Presse news agency.
“This resolution shows an aggressive attitude on the part of the international community, which threatens the unity of Libya and its stability,” he is reported to have said.
Earlier on Thursday, addressing the people of Benghazi, Col Gaddafi said his troops were coming “tonight” and there would be “no mercy”.
He told rebels to go home, adding that “whoever lays down his weapons” would be pardoned.
Rebel leaders replied by saying their forces would stand firm and not be deterred by Col Gaddafi’s threats.
Shortly before the UN vote on Thursday, anti-aircraft fire and explosions were heard in Benghazi.
The Libyan military earlier warned that any foreign operations against Libya would expose all maritime and air navigation in the Mediterranean Sea to danger, state TV reported.
“All civilian and military activities will be the target of a Libyan counter-attack. The Mediterranean Sea will be in serious danger not only in the short term but also in the long term,” a screen caption said.
In other developments:
UN Resolution 1973 – Votes
10 For – France, UK, Lebanon, US, South Africa, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Colombia, Portugal, Nigeria, Gabon
5 Abstentions – China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany
- Forces loyal to Col Gaddafi reportedly launched their first air attacks on Benghazi, targeting the airport at Benina
- Col Gaddafi’s forces attacked the rebel-held town of Ajdabiya, a key objective before launching a ground assault on Benghazi, but rebels deployed tanks, artillery and a helicopter to repel the assault
- Libyan state television reported that the city of Misrata was almost entirely under government control, but rebels and residents in the city denied this
- Official Libyan news agency Jana reported that government forces would cease military operations from midnight on Sunday to give rebels the opportunity to hand over their weapons and “benefit from the decision on general amnesty”
Following the toppling of the long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, Libyan protesters started to demand that Col Gaddafi step down after 42 years of autocratic rule.
They quickly seized much of eastern Libya.