This is topic on Libya is a controversial one which has elicited passionate responses. But I think that the question asked in the title is a potent question which is on everyone’s lips. The reason why I have decided to post on this topic is because I am finding that this has become a very decisive issue between people who are ardently for or pro the imposition of a no fly zone. So I’m going to try my best to address some of the points on both sides of the debate as best I can. Though I know many people might disagree with my opinion I hope that this post might make you question or think harder about this subject. Because regardless what people say, this decision is not a clear cut one and is a hard one to address.
I know this post is long and I apologies. But please if you can read it all before you judge my position on the intervention.
First thing I want to point out on the get go is that this situation we find ourselves in is nothing like the situation we found ourselves in with Iraq. The reason why I say this is because of a lot of different aspects.
Firstly, this No fly Zone has the international approval of the UN and the Arab league *though…it is debatable how worthy their opinions are on the matter, since most of the people on the panel are themselves oppressive dictators/leaders*. The Iraq war on the other hand did not have the same kind of legitimating backing.
Secondly, unlike with Iraq, the west was not gunning for Gaddafi’s removal a-prior to this revolution. With Saddam there was a clear sign from the get go that George Bush and Even Tony Blair to an extent, where looking to find an excuse to get rid of him. This issue of Saddam being removed George Bush believed should have been resolved during the gulf crises. So hence why when the devastating events of 9/11 occurred the administration thought that it was a good enough time as any to settle old scores and tie up this loose end once and for all. Obviously there were other factors as well which came to influence their decision to go to war, but that is whole separate issue in itself.
But with Libya the situation was markedly different. Ever since the Iraq war Gaddafi had played nice and renounced all links to ‘terrorism’. This is because he feared if he didn’t he would be the next one they would decide to topple Saddam style. So with Saddam, the situation started off with him being BFFs with the west and then he went rogue. While with Gaddafi, the tables are more or less turned, he started off a rogue bandit and was then ‘rehabilated’ as a friend an ally. But let me get one thing clear here, though Britain was quick to slide into a chummy type relationship with Gaddafi, the USA on the other hand still viewed him warily and was generally more cautious. So hence the lack of similar loved-up pictures of American leaders with Gaddafi as we have seen currently being aired with regards to Tony Blair.
Thirdly, the situation of the importance of oil isn’t really as pivotal as it was with Iraq. If you look at the people who are Libya’s main dealers the USA falls way down the list. The picture below best describes who gains what from relations with Libya:
So the issue of whether or not the west is going in for SIMPLY oil isn’t really as pivotal as the people most benifiting are not the ones intervening as was with case with Iraq. Another point to note is that some people have argued that one of the desires of the west isn’t controlling their access to the oil per say, but just making sure the price of oil does not rise on the world market due to the conflict in Libya. This issue has actually been resolved by Saudi Arabia who have during this conflict stepped in and ‘gracefuly’ upped the oil it pumps out to balance and quell the rise of oil prices. So on that aspect of things, there isn’t a real urgency for the USA to go in guns blazing. Though of course we cannot deny that the sooner this conflict is resolved, the better it is for everyone as it is debatable how long Saudi Arabia can keep up this charade of stabilizing prices. So while oil is an important aspect to this intervention, it is not actually really vital to countries like the USA. It’s more important to countries like the UK & France…who funnily enough have seemed to take a keen interest in this conflict..
But overall, these factors have combined to reflect the USA’s posture on the conflict. Contrary to what people like to believe, the USA was actually not the country that was mainly thrusting for this intervention. It was instead Britain and France that where the main backers of intervention. Obama himself was actually heavily reluctant to get involved in this conflict in the first place. It was why even a day before the UN resolution was to be debated, government official’s in Britain and France where jittery and hesitant over whether or not the USA would actually support their stance. It was actually the people around Obama who greatly influenced or pushed him to back this No fly zone. One of these people was Hillary Clinton who was actually frustrated with Obama personally over his lack of leadership over this issue.
The way Obama saw it was that he didn’t need another war against a Muslim country on his hands. Add that with the current budgetary problems caused by the recession and you find yourselves in a very tricky and therefore reluctant position. The USA has of course currently been the main enforcer of the No fly zone, but it has also been quick to try and absolve its responsibility of this conflict. It want’s Nato to take full charge instead and ideally would like to pull out of the conflict at soon as possible, citing that it hoped this conflict would be resolved in a matter of days.
Another point to address is the confusion surrounding the detail of what the No Fly Zone entails. The No Fly Zone resolution explicitly forbids ANY foreign troops on the ground. It is basically a resolution which only allows artillery attacks to ground Gaddafi’s planes whilst enforcing a humanitarian protection zone over parts of rebel held Libya against attacks from Gaddafi forces. So no military ground personal will be used in the conflict as was used in Iraq. The no Fly zone is simply making sure that Gaddafi’s forces are no longer air bombing towns whilst hampering his force from attacking rebel held areas. This means bombing their military bases and grounding their flying capabilities. So it is largely a defense situation where it is used as a tactic to try and level the ground for the rebel forces.
But there is of course an inherent interest for the west to bomb military defense targets and weaponry. As in the end, when Gaddafi is hopefully toppled, a new leadership will come into power which will have to rebuild their military and therefore buy new defense systems and weaponry. And guess who’s going to be the main supplier? Yep the west, so it’s win-win.
This is true of course that whatever is bombed will one day be rebuilt and as the main weapon suppliers are the West, they are kind of securing some future revenue for their arms trade. But at the same time, let’s not forget that war itself is very expensive. For example, for each Tomahawk missle fired it costs the USA 1.4 million dollars. Not only that, but it costs the government 13,000 dollars an hour to fly a fighter plane. Now that is a lot of money considering how many missiles have been fired and how many fighter planes have been active in enforcing the no fly zone. So for those arguing that this conflict is simply about monetary gains, the evidence shows that the monetary gains aren’t really extensively that much.
Another point to bring up would be the point brought up by Ken Livingstone during the question time debate. It was the idea that this conflict should be instead left to countries like Turkey and Egypt who are much more legitimate players. I completely agree with that notion. I feel this ‘western supremacy’ argument where the west is only ever perceived as the people to enforce military actions is laughable. But, I do think only the west in this case could have enforced the no fly zone, why? Because firstly Egypt was and still is against intervening military in the conflict. This is because it is currently embroiled in its own problems as Mubarak has only just recently been ousted. This means domestically Egypt has enough on its plate and cannot spare enough time or effort to embark on a war. While with Turkey, I do think it could play a more vital role in the intervention on a whole. But we are all kidding ourselves if we think that Turkey could unilaterally carry this No Fly Zone off on its own. Whether we like it or not, the USA has built up a much superior military force in and around the region and has the much needed technology to enforce this currently. It is one of the reason why Britain and France needed to drag the USA into backing this and leading the No fly Zone as even Britain and France aren’t nearly as well equipped as the USA when it comes to military and GPS on Libya.
So overall, should this No fly zone be enforced? I personally think yes. I think that this is a hard question for people like us who are sat in the safety of our houses to ponder. But for those people who are sat in Libya, the answer is starkly easier to answer. They want this enforcement of a No Fly Zone because whether we like it or not, they did very much need it at the time of its enforcement. The rebel forces had been pushed to Benghazi and people on the ground were loosing real hope and starting to think that maybe it would be business as usual with Gaddafi in permanent power. I have Libyan friends who have been vocal about wanting this no fly zone enacted because they have family and friends back home who they are very worried about. Libyan people who a week or so ago, where contemplating what form Gaddafi’s revenge would take shape in…and how harsh and devastating it would be. There were also many brave rebels who had fought honorably on the battle lines who were contemplating the very real fact that they would soon be fighting, risking and possibly losing their lives in a lost battle.
But of course nothing in life is simple. The concerns voiced on the anti-intervention side are of course valid. I do not deny that the West is hypocritical in its enforcement of these interventionist policies. I understand the very real problem we have in the world were if it wasn’t for some sort of interest, the west generally wouldn’t give much of a toss about a conflict. This is highlighted in the fact that there are a plethora of conflicts in for example Africa, which have been raging on for years prior to these revolutions in the Middle East where nothing has been done. These conflicts have also become so common in some parts of the world that they at times are barely even deemed newsworthy.
But what then is the answer? Are we not saying if the USA or west wants to be truly fair they should intervene in places like Africa where none of its interests lie? But then are we still not asking the USA to intervene? Is the question we should be asking, not whether or not you should or should not intervene, but when.
When you have seen the devastating events of the Rwandan genocide and read up the facts, you are left thinking, where was the west? You are not left thankful of the west’s lack of intervention, but critical. This highlights how intervention whether we like it or not is an important aspect of foreign policy. The question that burns us most is the hypocrisy of it all. But let’s not let this blatant hypocrisy and criticism blind us to whether or not the west should act in all situations.
I do believe that this conflict is to be won by Libyans and Libyans alone. But I do see no issue with the No Fly Zone helping to level the playing field of the conflict to a more equitable level as it will save a lot of people’s lives. Let us not kids ourselves, If Gaddafi had entered Benghazi and regained control of it, there would have been a massacre and I bet you we would be sat here saying instead, why the hell did no one intervene or care?
I also realize that the reason behind the intervention is not simply one devoid of any interest for the west. This is because the sooner the conflict is resolved the better. After all oil prices would no longer be privy to fluctuation and also Libya is at the doorstep of Europe, so an influx of war immigrants would be stemmed. But just because the Libyans are sat on a reservoir of oil and are situated in the geopolitical place they are in, doesn’t make their lives any less worthy to save. If they did not sit on oil, would the questions asked be similar to those asked during the Rwandan conflict?
I think our role of course should be to criticize the people who hold power, and work slowly towards making sure this integrated nexus of interest and intervention is broken. The hypocrisy of the west denouncing Gaddafi yet courting the Saudi & Bahrani Monarchy enrages me. These are wrongs that need to be righted. And we should vocally make sure that out governments are aware of their wholly unacceptable double standards. We cannot simply agree with their dated concept of ‘look at us we are doing this cause we care’ propaganda that they like to spew. We should not buy into their lies and their efforts to package this conflict in their favor. But at the same time, we cannot denounce all of the actions they do.
We just need to make the west more accountable to their hypocritical actions and make sure that this privileging of oppressive regimes over others is one day shattered.
So overall, we should work towards a point where the Middle East should be able to police itself and deal with intervention in its region by its own forces. Rather than having the USA intervene because of its military prowess and superiority. But till then, we have to deal with the shabby cards that we are dealt, while making sure we do not loose sight of the motives of the people dealing the cards. They should be held accountable for getting us into this situation and should be monitored closely to make sure they do not once again overstep their mandate as they have done in the past.
Till Next Time,