Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UNSCR 1973 and Libya

UNSC Resolution 1973 authorizing member states "to take all necessary measures [...] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" has been in effect for eleven days now. US and NATO have struck many targets, including much of Gaddafi's air defense systems and armor on the ground where the opportunity offered itself with reduced risk of collateral damage.

Since this has begun, commentators and media have been going wild with opinion pieces and theories. Questions abound about whether this is a revolution or a civil war, whether to refer to the opposition as "rebels", or what this same opposition might do if Gaddafi were removed. There is also no shortage of questions about whether Western powers have some kind agenda and what that might be. The one question most of those people - or at least those against intervention - are carefully avoiding is what might have become of Benghazi and its population, not to mention opposition elsewhere in the country, had no one intervened.

Indeed, strikes began just hours away from the moment Gaddafi's regime intended to steamroll over Benghazi. This is not a matter of speculation. This is a fact supported by developments on the ground previous to the intervention and by Gaddafi's declaration of his intentions to the world. Everything points to the high probability that we would have witnessed another Srebrenica massacre, or that proportions might even have reached those of Hama in 1982.

Apparently, that's not a problem for the naysayers though. They offer many great reasons to support their positions. First among those is that the West has some kind of secret agenda behind all this. They're not doing it to be nice, we're told. They want oil, or some kind of geostrategic advantage. They are evil imperialists!  Well I stand appropriately shocked at this amazing revelation. Someone shoulda sent it to WikiLeaks.  How fortunate that we have these white knights to preserve our virgin world from political agendas. Perhaps if we'd let Gaddafi's armor roll on and wipe Benghazi off the map our purity might have been preserved from political agendas. Oh well, it's too late now I guess!

Rest assured, these heroes of international justice who would have had us look the other way while unspeakable atrocities occurred do not have any agendas of their own. They're just nice people like that, and they are many. Frankly, I don't recall hearing such vocal protest when it came to chasing fake WMDs or any number of other wars which looked far more imperialist to me. When it came to saving civilians from massacre though, everyone's scruples suddenly made an appearance!

So let me get this straight... when there are fake WMDs to search for and there is no UN mandate, it's ok to go, but when large amounts of civilians are in danger we should be very careful about intervening. Is that correct?

The second great reason for not intervening I have been hearing a lot is that no fly zones have been tried before and they took a long time to achieve any results. Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all among the examples. These people would have us believe that situations are the same in each conflict, and that they could not possibly produce different results elsewhere. Among the proponents of such simplistic reasoning are people I normally admire. Dear Michael: it helps when the population is on your side.

Thirdly, we are told that a better course of action would have been to negotiate. I'm no negotiation expert but I'm not usually inclined to negotiate with someone while they're shooting at me. Not that this third point should be taken seriously at all. No one in their right minds or with any knowledge of Gaddafi seriously believes a negotiated settlement was possible before military intervention. If anything, military intervention is going to enable negotiations. Why would he have negotiated before? Give me one good reason, when in his mindset, he had a more 'suitable' alternative the whole time.

Some are also arguing that foreign intervention somehow killed the Arab Spring. While I see what they mean, I can't help wondering what message would have been sent to Arab peoples had we just watched Gaddafi forcefully crush his people's demands for freedom and let him carry on like nothing happened. This just highlights the fact that all these people objecting have proposed no serious alternative to intervention. They don't even appear particularly concerned with what might occur if their advice were to be followed while military force was advancing on Benghazi.

The bottom line is that a massacre was about to take place before our eyes, and the world chose not to let it happen. If you're disappointed, go get your fix by plucking the wings off a living fly or something. The rest of us don't like massacres.

And seriously, the notion that preventing a wide-scale massacre was wrong because nations intervening have an agenda is like saying you don't want some guy to pull someone out of a truck's way because he might steal their handbag. Screw the handbag. Get your priorities straight.

The other very important aspect of this is that the Libyans asked for the help they are receiving. It is their right, it is their nation. You are not in any position to judge in their place.

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