The Libyan uprising and the International Community
Here is the second in a series of reflections by Mohamad Zakaria, a student of Palestinian origin who was born and raised in Lebanon. Mohamad has a background in environmental science, international relations, peace and conflict studies, and is currently a Master student in the Lund University Master Program in Public Health. He has also previously worked at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies. In these articles, he offers his views on current events in the Middle East. Read on!
by Mohamad Zakaria
Recently, the Security Council (SC) has decided to escalate its efforts and has imposed a “no-fly zone” over Libya ordering the Ghathafi regime to announce and comply with an immediate cease fire. Moreover, SC has warned Ghathfi forces not to re-enter the Libyan city of Benghazi. The reason is there have been strong reasons to believe that Gathafi forces were to commit atrocities in this city had they managed to get back the control of. On 19 March 2011, French, UK, and USA launched a military operation using air force and sea warship missiles to bomb Ghathafi military targets.
The Rwanda genocide experience has taught the humanity not to allow and accept another Rwanda to be committed again and make all efforts available to prevent such atrocities from happening. The grave mistake that happened in Rwanda by not protecting the civilians there from the atrocities that happened to them then must not be an excuse to let a Rwandan-like genocide happen again in other parts of the world, including in Libya and Yemen. Let’s agree that all human lives are precious, equally valuable, and that it is our human responsibility to protect human lives when we can.
Protecting civilians and stopping the Ghathafi forces from re-entering Benghazi are welcome moves by the current military coalition and the SC resolution. However, destroying all the Libya military capabilities in Tripoli is NOT. This military technology power that is being destroyed now by the coalition forces will be needed by the potential new government to be established by Libya revolts to protect Libya sovereignty afterwards. A no-fly zone does not mean bombing every part of Libya. This kind of aggression is not included in the SC resolution either. Don’t they have the intelligent information and military capabilities to locate and eliminate Ghatafi and his senior aides instead of destroying the Libyan army? It does not seem that it is the real coalition military intervention’s goal or it is in their interest to eliminate the Ghathafi regime. Do they want to divide Libya into two Libyan governments that will have long-term conflicts and thus civil war in order to see who will serve more the interests of the international powerful states in the long run? It is obvious these coalition forces main interests are to protect Libya’s natural resources (mainly oil facilities) and secondly to prevent the flow of emigration of African national to Europe through Libya as Gathafi warned he will facilitate if the international community will continue to pressure him. So, it is more of warning action to Ghathafi than it is serious efforts to eliminate his regime.
The French Government has taken the lead in the efforts to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and in the ongoing military operation. This same French Government supported Zein Alabidin Ben Ali, the ousted President of Tunisia, when the revolt had started in Tunisia in January 2011 and also offered him their security personnel to protect his personal safety and his regime against revolts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rating support in France has been low and his decisions have not been popular personal as well as professional. He was criticised because of his government stand during the Tunisia and Egypt revolts and the other ongoing revolts in the Arab world. By leading this coalition forces against Ghathafi regime, he hopes this might give him some legitimacy and popularity that he needs for his presidential re-election campaign next year.
The USA and most of the EU governments supported the ousted former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, and his regime when the revolt had started in Egypt. Only many days later, the EU and the USA governments started claiming they allegedly supported the people of Egypt choice and only when it was already obvious that Mubarak’s regime was doomed to fail. With this military coalition against the Ghathafi regime the USA government wants to show that it supports democracy movements and respects the choice of people in choosing their leaders. The history of the USA politics in the Arab world only proves the contrary though. The USA government wants to show that they are back in actively participating in international efforts through coordinating and complying with other international community members to find the legal and ethical ground for SC resolutions for creating peace and protecting civilians. It wants to get away from the George W. Bush era when the USA government was working on its own in its illegitimate decision to invade Iraq in 2003 without any backing of the SC. President Obama will also use this during his presidential campaign in 2012 to show that the USA reputation overseas is restored and that he is able to work better for the strategic interests of the USA through diplomacy and cooperation rather than through lonely actions.
The Arab revolts came as surprise to the world and have made the international powerful states very nervous due to the uncertain outcomes of these revolts including the uncertainty about which leaders might become in charge of decision-making in these countries. To avoid the same thing happening in Libya the international community, after a month long of contemplation and hesitation, has decided to intervene. Is this intervention aims to establish a ground for facilitating a democratically elected government in Libya? I doubt it. There is also fear that this military campaign may abort any potential revolts in other countries of the Arab world since the dictators in these countries will crash any demonstration calling for democracy brutally from the start or even detain those suspected that may lead the revolts of change before the revolts happen.
Revolts are not planned by foreign powers but on the contrary these revolts have been very unwelcome events for them. The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt were purely popular movements that were necessary and long over-due. However, after the successful outcome of these revolts, the international powers are trying now their best to minimise the revolts impacts on positive change. But revolts leaders are conscious and will succeed to serve their national interests while having the flexibility and diplomacy to deal/cooperate with the international powers. That is how it should be.
One of the hidden goals of these international strikes might be also to abort any further uprisings in the Arab world before they start because citizens in the potential countries where revolts may be under preparation will start looking at revolts as tools in the hands of international regimes, as actors for instability, and as traitors working for international regimes. In this way, the international coalition will make people to avoid actively participating in any calls for revolts. International powers are not for revolts; they are for keeping the current regimes that are serving their interests fully without headaches of how to deal with the revolts’ leaders.
Let’s hope things will be fine for the people of Libya and for all those who want to have a positive change for their countries.