Libya : Oh Happy Days
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.