Events are taking place! Things are occurring! And in Libya, all manner of myth and reality is being born. I’ve heard some interesting opinions, ideas, and flat-out myths during the weekend. Nobody is really sure what all this Western involvement means for North Africa. Then the world comes to find out that the Arab League, who voted unanimously for help from the U.N., suddenly changed their minds? Sacrebleu! Ya Allah! Ay Dios Mio! But before the world’s collective brains explode in a mixture of confusion and finger pointing, let’s all take a collective breath. In “¦ and “¦ out, very good. Now let’s break it down.
First, we’ll start as closely to the beginning as humanly possible. The U.N. voted for the No-Fly Zone which is explained in detail (by yours truly) here. Only a couple hours after the voting took place, jets were noted taking off on their way to do reconnaissance in the North African nation. They arrived as the siege of Benghazi was gearing up. It seems that Gaddafi’s forces had surrounded the city and had begun shelling the neighborhood areas. Not long afterward, a picture of an aircraft being downed made its way across the Internet as the no-fly zone stopped being abstract, and started getting real. Since then, there have been reports of air strikes on prime pro-Gaddafi targets and a pulling back of Gaddafi troops from the immediate Benghazi area.
Currently, it’s difficult to get a very clear picture on what, exactly, has been going on around the country. Gaddafi has blasted his usual condemnation of the U.N. allied forces and noted they’ve been responsible for killing a number of civilians. This may have an ounce of truth to it if only because air strikes often incur these types of casualties. However, it should be equally noted that these are people Gaddafi outright said he would show “no mercy” to anyway. So it’s hard to imagine any real sincerity in his concerned rhetoric. The photos the State News channel has shown of funerals for civilians has also seen slightly staged, with mourners looking both disengaged and nonchalant while standing on graves.
Most recently, the Gaddafi army has called a ceasefire (not actually monumental as they’ve called them before and broken them within hours) and pulled back a bit from a number of opposition-controlled towns. The U.N. and the allied forces unanimously rejected this notion and have continued their bombardment of Gaddafi strongholds. Reports of heavy gunfire in Tripoli are still rolling in.
Similarly, there are also reports of explosions to some of Gaddafi’s bunkers and palaces in the capital. There seems to be some intense battles taking place in parts of the city and it’s extremely difficult to tell who is participating in them and what their outcome will be. Gaddafi, in a televised comment, tried to hit all the right buttons by using terms like “Christian crusades,” “war against Islam,” and “we will die as martyrs.” So right now, the situation remains at an impasse. A lot of news stations are trying to call the outcome based on differing and hard-to-confirm reports. Personally, I find this to be both annoying and slightly dangerous. To declare something a “stalemate” or an “imperialism” on the second day of action or to decide that it’s “too much” is, at it’s best, presumptuous and at its worst, undermining what is happening to the Libyan civilians.
But what about the Arab League? Isn’t the news all abuzz about how they’ve denounced it? Those finicky leaders, turning around and changing their minds just like that. Well, surprise! It’s not that black and white. What the Arab League has said is this:
What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians. From the start, we requested only that a no-fly zone be set up to protect Libyan civilians and avert any other developments or additional measures. We are currently consulting about a meeting.
This is hardly incredible criticism. In a way, it is quite factual. What is happening does differ from what the Arab League had asked of the U.N. However, this does not mean that what is taking place now will be considered an act of war, nor will it be considered a breach of trust. It seems that the main concern of the Arab League is the death of civilians by Western forces, something that the Arab world has learned to be particularly aware of.
However, it’s not as if this intervention is coming only at the hands of the West. The leaders of the resolution were very, very clear during its conception that Arab involvement was a must to keep it from becoming something that could be inferred to as a “crusade.” The UAE has contributed their own jets, with Qatar, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia also set to lend support. So it would be a mistake to consider this to be an only a Western intervention. Furthermore, the interim government currently set up in Benghazi has also approved the action. Although it should be obvious and appropriate that civilian deaths will be condemned across the board by all aspects of society.
Of course not everything about intervention is positive. The potential risks of meddling inside the region have been made apparent to the West over and over again as we face Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and numerous other issues that were all, to a substantial degree, created due to our involvement. That is why it’s imperative that we watch closely and monitor the situation. Will they leave if the scales are tipped? Will they try to seek some kind of oil involvement? Establish a leader? Approve a leader? Do they support the opposition or are we supporting the best interests of civilians? Could the country fracture creating even more diplomatic nightmares? All of these things need to be carefully considered so that we have a clear picture as to what is going on. Furthermore, although I would hardly argue that the West had completely benevolent reasons for involving themselves, it is possible that the world can make sure they do not overstep their bounds.
Really the only thing that remains clear is that there is no perfect solution in any of this. If the U.S., Europe, and Middle East failed to act on behalf of Libyan civilians, there would be mass condemnation for letting a slaughter occur under our noses. If they do act, their interests in the region need to be called into questioned and monitored intensely. The world has turned against Gaddafi and he has nowhere left to run. No doubt, time is running out and his fate is sealed. But instead of obsessing on this man, the world ought to refocus on the possible future and what can be done after fighting ceases. The goals of the U.N. were clear and precise, and as long as we hold all parties to their agreements, this Libyan Revolution can end sooner rather than later. And so far, wanting to see an end to the bloodshed is about the only thing world leaders can agree on.