Op-Ed: The problem with attacking Libya
Frank Kaufmann «View Bio
The attack on Libya by The United States, France, Britain, Italy, members of the Arab League, and others with UN approval is anachronistic and represents a global failure of imagination and anticipation.
It is legitimate that Western and world powers were caught off guard by the Tunisia uprising (sparked by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December, 2010) both the fact of it and its startling success. Likewise UN and world powers can be forgiven a second time when Egyptian protests, starting just 10 days after the 14 January 2011 ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, likewise amazed and startled the world community. But the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should be the last time that world leaders may be permitted to claim 'surprise,' and lack of preparation and anticipation for popular uprisings in Arab countries led by tyrants and despots.
That the clock has run out on Arab tyrannies, oligarchies, and otherwise repressive, authoritarian, so-called governments is by now clear. The protest-driven resignation of 30-year despot Hosni Mubarak makes this evident. The spirit of protest, and the courage of protesters unbending in the face of injury, brutality, and death has been established to the extent that from this point forward all despotic regimes will be challenged sooner or later. It should further be obvious at this point that only overwhelming, brutal force, including civilian massacres will be able to hold such forces of rebellion temporarily at bay.
What ungodly formula then has come to obtain when political analysis results in UN approved, US led, Europe supported, military strikes on a sovereign nation? Is the best world governments have to offer in this remarkable period of civilian courage, that they sit and await the crossing of some non-defined line of government self-protection as a tripwire, after which world powers bomb the nation in question and its leaders' residence?
By this reckoning, exactly what should be the body count that signifies that it is now time to bomb a country? Are roof snipers ok, but not airplanes? Exactly how many roof snipers are permitted?
Each and every leader who faces or will face uprisings and protests from their people are long known to Western and world leaders, as are the decades-long, horrid, repressive conditions of their citizens.
These conditions continued under the noses of Western leaders who feted these same despots with all the finery Europe, the US, and other world powers had to offer. It is alright to arrest and torture innocents citizens year after year? But airplanes may not be used? Is this the rule?
Der Speigel wrote of Mubarak in the article, 'The West loses its favorite tyrant' saying:
'[T]he West stood by the leader almost to the end, despite the fact that the despot had turned his country into a police state and plundered its economy,' said Florian Gathmann, Ulrike Putz, and Severin Weiland. -- In particular, 'The Mubaraks had a high opinion of Germany. In 2004, the University of Stuttgart awarded 'honorary citizenship' of the university to the president's wife, Suzanne Mubarak, for her social commitment and her dedication to the rights of children and women.' -- He was fêted in the West as a master statesman.
Similarly The Washington Post carried the news that,
'In July 2009 Qaddafi attended the G8 summit in his role as president of the African Union, the latest step in a global reemergence of the North African country after years of isolation for its links to terrorism, including the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. But Libya settled outstanding claims for billions of dollars and gave up its efforts to build weapons of mass destruction in 2003. Now it even has a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Last year, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice became the most senior U.S. official to visit Libya in more than half a century.'
The news site Gather notes that
Britain stands to lose 'about £1.5bn of trade in total, of which the largest part is imports of Libyan crude oil and gas into the United Kingdom' said Lord Trefgarne, chairman of the Libyan British Business Council and a minister in the Thatcher government.
France relies heavily on Libyan crude as it imported 16 percent in 2010. In point of fact, although African country is about 2 percent of the world's oil production, it supplies the European Union with 10 percent of its oil addiction. And since 'the French company Total lost its bid for Majnoon [oil field in Iraq], which it helped develop,' Qadaffi's oil is becoming even more precious.
The sudden and instantaneous military coalition and perfectly orchestrated air strikes on Libya reek of the vilest, and most ugly realities of international politics. All the powers that now attack Libya have been aware for decades of the depraved conditions of citizens there, and in these countries now facing uprisings, and have done nothing effective to alter these inhuman realities. Leaders of the very powers that now instantly attack Libya have had deep and close ties not only to Qadaffi, but to the likes of Mubarak, Tunisia's Ben Ali who earned degrees from the Special Inter-service School in Saint-Cyr, France, the Artillery School in Châlons-sur-Marne, France, the Senior Intelligence School (Maryland, USA) and the School for Anti-Aircraft Field Artillery (Texas, USA), and even deeper relations with Saudi, Jordanian and other leaders in the region.
Every year these Arab nations spend millions of dollars to Washington lobbyists (former congressmen and women) who represent their causes and concerns to US lawmakers. See the nations, their DC lobbyists by name and firm, the costs of these contracts, and what these Arab nations spend here.
But the purpose of this article is not to lay bare the patent, and glaring hypocrisy that obtains in the highest annals of international relations, nor the vast extent of reckoning unrelated to humanitarian concerns that trigger the type of coordinated military activity we've seen in the past two days.
The purpose of this article rather is to recommend a more genuine and authentic concern for the heroes of these uprisings by preparing properly for these increasingly likely eventualities. It is the responsibility of the world community to anticipate and orchestrate, rather than air strikes on sovereign nations, conditions whereby these tyrants (and their families if need be) can exit quickly, safely, and gracefully (whether these villains deserve it or not). The point is to save lives, to hasten the success of genuine uprisings seeking rights and freedoms, to support transitions to promising emerging regimes, and to do all this quickly and creatively and in ways properly tailored to each distinct and unique national situation. This is a time for practical, visionary, and genuinely humane forms of international cooperation. It is NOT a time for medieval militarism and cloak and dagger alliances.
The problem protesters face is the persistence and recalcitrance of repressive leaders. True and creative international leadership should design by whatever means necessary the best and fastest ways for these leaders to give up power. This requires the guaranty of dignity, deserved or not. Safe passage is not for the sake of the tyrant, but for the protection of the heroes risking their lives to seek freedom and human rights.