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Liberating Libya

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The wave of civilian revolts across the Arab world have toppled some totalitarian governments. Others have dug their heels in. In Bahrain, the protests have been put down with help from Saudi Arabia. In Libya there is now a state of civil war, prompting an UN resolution calling for protection of civilians, Cnsequent to this, France, UK and USA embarked on military action. After the second night of strikes by the US and UK in Libya, USA Today reports:

President Obama, whose administration was cautious about using force in the conflict, said the military would place strict limits on American involvement.

“We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal — specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya,” the president said.

Anyone have a remaining stock of irony? Mine is all used up.

Al-Jazeera reported:

The comments came as Tripoli”s official media said the air strikes were targeting civilian objectives and that there were “civilians casualties as a result of this aggression”.

However, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, denied that any civilians had been killed in the bombardment, which saw some 110 cruise missiles being shot from American naval vessels in the Mediterranean sea.

Gaddafi “was attacking Benghazi and we are there to stop that … we are ending his ability to attack us from the ground, so he will not continue to execute his own people,” Mullen said.

“It was a significant point when the Arab League voted against this guy. This is a colleague [of theirs], and we”ve had a significant number of coalition countries who”ve come together to provide capability.”

But Arab League chief Amr Moussa on Sunday condemned what he called the “bombardment of civilians” and called for an emergency meeting of the group of 22 states to discuss Libya.

He requested a report into the bombardment, which he said had “led to the deaths and injuries of many Libyan civilians”.

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” Egypt”s state news agency quoted Moussa as saying.

Reuters reported more international misgivings:

China, which holds the rotating chair of the U.N. Security Council, last week held back from blocking the resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as military action to enforce that zone. It cited the calls of Arab countries for prompt U.N. action.

But Beijing immediately began voicing “serious reservations” about that resolution. The People’s Daily commentary again urged other nations to do more to seek a peaceful solution to the clash between Gaddafi and rebel forces.

“People have good reason to express misgivings about the consequences that this military action may precipitate,” it said.

Russia, which also abstained on the resolution, called on Britain, France and the United States at the weekend to stop the air strikes, describing them as “non-selective use of force” against non-military targets.

From Israel, Ha’aretz poses some uncomfortable questions:

This military move seems to constitute a new, intriguing development: The “enlightened” nations are fighting for the rights of the oppressed. Using their superior military power to promote democratic goals, they are expressing the values of international responsibility that globalization was always supposed to nurture. The mobilization of Arab states like Egypt and Qatar for military action against Gadhafi, and the agreement of other Arab states to block Libya’s air space, reinforces the credibility of the allied forces’ attack on Libya.

For the first time since the first Gulf War, Arab states have agreed to support violent Western intervention in the “Arab world.” Such support, however, is founded on a complicated array of calculations. Egypt has supported the action in Libya to signal to its own citizens that it backs human rights struggles. Saudi Arabia is endorsing the attack in Libya out of a desire to enhance the legitimacy of its military intervention in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, the Arab League has agreed to the action taken in Libya, and went so far as to demand that Libyan air space be closed, as a kind of symbolic statement; the League knows it lacks the power to solve any crisis in the Middle East.

Based on past experience, such air attacks are not powerful enough to topple political regimes. And beyond this practical issue, the military intervention in Libya raises a number of complex questions. For example, how will the military action impact the civil rebellion against Gadhafi? And how will any new leader who is elected or appointed win recognition for the revolution as an independent, sovereign force?

Movements of rebellion in the Arab world have emerged as spontaneous civil protests that rely largely on modes of communication, not firearms. The contrast has been consistent and clear: the regimes have used guns, while civilians have protested peacefully. The military action in Libya undermines this division of labor. True, rebels in Libya have been firing rifles, but they have not been trying to perpetrate a military coup.

Why is it that in Yemen, where dozens of civilians have been killed, and the army continues to clash with civilians, there has been no Western intervention? Will Tomahawk missiles be fired on Syria if the regime continues to order armed forces to disperse protesters through violent means?

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

March 21, 2011 at 6:29 am

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