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Libya : Oh Happy Days

May 4, 2011

The hasty ill-thought-out nature of the Western commitment to Libya is clearer by the day. And why Australia chose to get caught up in it… well, that does not stand analysis.

Here’s a question for the advocates of humanitarian intervention: will you please assure us that there is no ally of Al Qa’ida in the rebel forces, or of the Muslim Brotherhood. May this be a repeat of American backing for the Islamic warriors of Afghanistan battling the Soviets? Are we helping Islamists? If the advisors to President Sarkozy or David Cameron can’t offer reassurance then the flippant nature of this Western lark is exposed.

As Max Hastings, contributing editor to the Financial Times observed last month, the UK, France and a reluctant US “…have supported the weaker faction in a civil war without knowing who the rebels are or whether their cause is sustainable.”

It seems the rebels are a rabble, partly tribal, and they are outgunned. The Western bombing delays their defeat. It is postponing the final Gaddafi victory and ensuring it will be accompanied by acts of vengeance. Intervention has rendered the conflict more poisonous.

By declaring it a battle for regime change, the Americans and the Europeans have now made a negotiated settlement unlikely. And how do you achieve regime change without putting forces on the ground? Will the West commit ground forces? Yippee! An amphibious landing and another Western army on Arab soil! Oh happy days! But without it, as Hastings argued, the Allies are providing enough support to prevent the rebels’ defeat but not enough to stop the bloodshed or achieve Western objectives.

Humanitarian intervention sounds attractive. More attractive is recognition there is a limit on what the West can manage in the Middle East, this maelstrom of animosities that Western capitals plainly do not understand.

  1. Ray permalink
    May 6, 2011 3:02 pm

    Hi Bob- on 2/5/11 u said,(re BIN LADEN)”full marks to this effort”/(ditto)”to the team”/”to the president”.On 3/5/11,”deserved to be taken out”.Seems therefore,u see a case for “intervention”/direct action by the West when needed.SO,(4/5/11)-it appears but a “convenient” argument u use,when u seek to be assured that within the ranks of down-trodden Libyans fighting Gaddafi,that there isn’t,”ONE Al Quaida/Muslim Brotherhood sympathiser!! ***THAT kind of argument would guarantee eternal paralysis on the part of the West.The possibility that we may not “like” EVERY opponent of tyranny,is NOT an excuse for ANY action,ever?!As u would know Bob,”all that is necessary for evil to triumph,is for good men to do nothing”!!

  2. May 7, 2011 7:25 pm

    Mr Carr I’m not sure you’re aware of the situation as you might be. The NATO intervention is simply to prevent Gaddafi’s air force from bombing rebel sectors thus giving them a chance. There will be some equivalent of the MB in Libya but it will be weak. They aren’t as popular as they used to be. Still they may be powerful enough, and possibly organised enough to take over. That is a risk.

    Still, I think the costs of doing nothing to aid what is obviously a popular struggle against tyranny outweigh the risks that a Jihadist regime will instil itself in Libya. The MB have a much better chance in Egypt and secular forces there are working hard to ensure that they do not win government (and hence the chance to write the new constitution) at the ballots.

    Naturally they may lose to the MB but that risk does not mean that the Egyptian people shouldn’t attempt to achieve a liberal order does it? I appreciate the geopolitical reasons for caution but sometimes what is morally right is also expedient. In my opinion, this is such an occasion.

    Could be wrong of course.

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