Tag Archives: Muammar al-Gaddafi

Libya After Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Execution

30 Oct

 

The death of the despised despot who ruled Libya for forty-two years naturally produced celebrations throughout the country. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s end was bloody and vindictive, but we should remember that his rants against his own people—and his violent repression of what was initially a peaceful uprising—invited a harsh popular response. Recalling W.H. Auden’s famous line, “Those to whom evil is done/do evil in return,” it is almost inevitable in the absence of strong moral and political discipline, which was not present, that when a leader refers to his opponents as “rats” and pledges to hunt them down house by house, the stage is set for the unacceptable kind of retribution that played out recently in Sirte where NATO air strikes leveled the city and anti-Qaddafi forces executed at least 53 Qaddafi loyalists. It is an ominous warning sign for the future that this massacre at Sirte along with the execution and burial of Qaddafi should have exhibited such vengeful and undisciplined behavior, raising renewed doubts about the character and approach of Transitional National Council leadership, although there still exist possibilities for redeeming this loss of confidence.

 

These unfortunate happenings make overall accountability for war crimes an early test of whether the TNC will yet prove capable of managing the formation of a political and morally acceptable governmental structure. Will the TNC undertake investigations of the alleged wrongdoings of its own forces in a manner that corresponds with international standards, or will such inquiry be avoided because such an international confidence-raising process would clearly internal factionalism in which any finger-pointing will seem like an encouragement of ethnic and tribal conflict? Will the TNC cooperate with the International Criminal Court to ensure that those charged with war crimes in the service of the Qaddafi regime will receive a fair trial? At the same time there is reason to view with a cynical eye the demands of self-righteous NGOs in the West that seem to expect from Libya what the liberal democratic regimes of the West refuse to do. It should be appreciated in this regard that the United States

goes to extraordinary lengths to exempt its soldiers and leaders from potential criminal accountability while it pushes hard to have its enemies subject to the harsh severity of international criminal law. Double standards pervade. As with so much that involves North Africa after the glories of the Arab Awakening, all roads to the future seem destined to have many twists and turns, as well as treacherous potholes.

 

 

The leadership vacuum in Libya is not likely to be filled anytime

soon. We don’t know whether tribal or regional loyalties will emerge as primary political identities now that the great unifier—hostility to

the Qaddafi regime—can no longer suppress antagonistic goals and ambitions. The TNC lent international credibility to the anti-Qaddafi forces, but much of the fighting in the last stages of the struggle was under the control of semiautonomous militia commanders that seemed a law unto themselves. We will soon learn whether the TNC can sufficiently represent the collective will of Libyans during the interim process that is needed before establishing an elected government able to draft a new constitution. Its first attempt to establish a new unity was premised on a call to implement political Islam. The Chairman of the TNC, Mustafa Adbel-Jalil, made the following strong assertion along these lines at the victory celebration in Benghazi: “We are an Islamic country. We take the Islamic religion

as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.”

 

Some pessimists have contended that Libya’s future is prefigured by

the chaotic violence that befell Somalia after the overthrow of

dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, a tragic set of national circumstances that have persisted ever since. But on a more hopeful note, it is worth observing that the fall of Qaddafi—unlike that of Hosni Mubarak, whose overthrow has not yet altered

the power structure in Egypt—gives the victorious Libyan opposition a

seemingly clean slate that could be more receptive to genuine democratic nation-building if such a political will emerges. Libyans have given themselves this opportunity that rarely comes along in history to achieve a real revolutionary transformation of their political, economic and cultural life. Thus, it could turn out paradoxically to be helpful, rather than an impediment, to observe that Qaddafi left no institutional infrastructure behind upon which to construct a modern state. What has happened in Libya, unlike Egypt, is for better or worse a total regime change.

 

Libya starts out on this new path with some additional major advantages, most obviously oil and a relatively

small population. An important test in the months ahead will be the

extent to which the new leadership restores normalcy to the economy without mortgaging the national wealth to foreign predators, corporate, financial, and governmental. Of course, in the background is the sense that NATO was integral to the overthrow of Qaddafi and may expect more than a thank-you note. Already there are media murmurs about great business opportunities for the West in the new Libya, including the challenge of rebuilding what NATO destroyed, which seems like a disturbing vindication of Naomi Klein’s groundbreaking book, The Shock Docrtrine, a devastating critique of the contemporary logic of the neoliberal world economy.

 

Considering Libyan experience from an international perspective raises several additional concerns. The public appraisal of NATO’s intervention will be mainly shaped by whether Libya emerges as a stable, democratic, and equitable nation. This will not be knowable for years, but aspects of the intervention already make Libya a troubling precedent no matter what the future of the country. The UN Security Council, which authorized the use of force by way of an application of the recently affirmed principle known as “responsibility to protect” or R2P. The five abstaining states were either duped or complacent,

and likely both. The authorizing Security Council Resolution 1973 was broadly framed by reference to establishing a no-fly zone by all necessary means, with the justification for force at the time associated with protecting the population of Benghazi from an imminent massacre. Yet this restricted mandate was disregarded almost from the outset. NATO forces were obviously far less committed to their assigned protective role than to making sure that the balance of forces in the struggle for the future of Libya would be tipped in the direction of the insurrection. If this intention had been clear at the outset, it is almost certain that Russia and China would have vetoed the UN resolution. During the debate these two states expressed their grave misgivings and suspicions about encroaching on Libya’s sovereignty, and were joined in the expression of such doubts by India, Brazil and Germany who also came to abstaining when it came to voting in the Security Council. If NATO’s broader intention was manifest Chinese and Russian vetoes were a virtual certainty.

 

Of course, there was a dilemma present. If NATO had disclosed its goals there would have been no UNSC authorization, and the Benghazi massacre would have appeared to be a humanitarian catastrophe invited by UN inaction. If NATO had circumscribed its intervention in the manner agreed upon, then a lengthy civil war might have followed, and also brought about a humanitarian disaster for the people of Libya. The perils of intervention have to be balanced against the perils of noninternvention in each instance, but if some tasks of global governance entrusted to the United Nations are to evolve in a constitutionally responsible way, then the minimum to expect is an honest disclosure of intent by member states pushing for intervention, a vigilant monitoring by the authorizing UN organ of any use of force, and a scrupulous regard by implementing actors for the limits imposed on a mandate to use force.

 

From these perspectives, it is extremely disturbing that a restricted UN mandate was totally ignored, and that the Security Council did not even bother reconsider the original mandate or censure NATO for unilaterally expanding the scope and nature of its military role. By ignoring the UN’s limits, NATO may have diminished the prospects for future legitimate uses of the R2P principle, and whether this is good or bad is difficult to say in the abstract.

 

There are several dimensions of this concern. To begin with, the UN Charter was drafted to minimize the legitimate role of force in world politics, making war a last resort, and then only in strict circumstances of self-defense. To this is added the secondary undertaking of the Charter, which is to assure that the UN itself is bound by Article 2(7) to refrain from intervening in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of states unless under exceptional conditions it is decided as necessary to maintain international peace and security. The NATO intervention seems impossible to reconcile with either of these two core principles of the UN Charter, which is the constitutional framework that is supposed to guide the behavior of the UN. It is true that these principles have been eroded by practice since their enactment in 1945. Human rights has become such a strong dimension of world order as to take precedence over sovereign rights in certain situations of extreme abuse, which helps explain the rise of the R2P norm over the last decade, especially in the aftermath of the controversial NATO Kosovo War of 1999. Despite these developments the Charter still provides the operative guidelines for uses of force. In this regard, it might have been legally and morally acceptable, given the circumstance prevailing in Libya when the authorizing resolution was adopted on March 17, 2011, to mount a narrowly conceived protective mission—although it is worth noting that even at the moment of approval, there was widespread skepticism at the UN, either because some members distrusted the pro-interventionist reassurances of the United States and its European partners or anticipated that pressures on the ground would likely produce mission creep as the locus of the violence shifted beyond Benghazi.

 

The Libya experience raises deeper questions about reliance on the R2P norm as a basis of principled UN action on behalf of a vulnerable people endangered by abusive behavior of their own government. Some doubts already existed about the selectivity of the Libyan application of the norm, especially given the UN’s failure to lift a finger on behalf of the beleaguered civilian population of Gaza, which has suffered under a long and punitive Israeli blockade, with the UN even supporting the Israeli position when the blockade was being challenged by civil society activists seeking to deliver humanitarian assistance directly to the people of Gaza. But aside from this glaring example of double standards, there is also the widespread sense that in Libya, R2P was quickly, and without serious debate, transformed into an opportunity to destroy and oust, with an as yet undetermined array of harmful consequences.

 

If such protective undertakings are to achieve credibility in the

future, they must become detached from geopolitics and operationalized according to a robust regime of law that treats equals equally. Perhaps the most practical mechanism for reaching these presently unattainable goals would be the establishment of a UN Emergency Force that could only be activated by a two-thirds vote in either the Security Council or General Assembly, and not ever be subject to veto. Such a force would need to be funded independently of national governments, possibly by imposing a tax on international air flights or currency transactions. However sensible, such an arrangement will not be easy to bring into being, precisely because its existence would threaten current geopolitical prerogatives that depend on self-interested motivations of leading states. And even this recommended UNEF framework could be manipulated. But at least if it existed there would be a greater prospect that authorizing guidelines for humanitarian uses of force under UN auspices would be respected, that compliance would be supervised, and that more consistent practice would replace the current brand of humanitarian diplomacy that is deformed by the prevalence of double standards.

 

Against such a background, we can only wish that the Libyans will defy pessimistic expectations, and manage to establish a viable and independent democratic state that is respectful of human rights and energetic in its efforts at reconstruction, without becoming overly

hospitable to foreign investors and companies. After such a

devastating air campaign of some 20,000 sorties, the NATO countries should have the decency to stand aside and respect the Libyans’ inalienable right of self-determination. It is a sad commentary on the global setting that to set forth these hopes for the future of Libya and its long suffering population seems like an utopian indulgence!

 

Preliminary Libyan Scorecard: Acting Beyond the UN Mandate

6 Sep


            In Western circles of influential opinion, the outcome of the NATO intervention in Libya has already been pronounced ‘a victory’ from several points of view: as a military success that achieved its main goals set at acceptable costs, as a moral success that averted a humanitarian catastrophe, and as political success the creation of an opportunity for freedoom and constitutionalism on behalf of a long oppressed people. This is one of those rare results in an international conflict situation that seems to please both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives because it was a show of force that reaffirmed Western primacy based on military power. Liberals because force was used with UN backing in accordance with international law and in furtherance of human rights and liberal values.

 

Qaddafi and his loyalists are apparently a spent force, and the future of Libya now becomes a work in progress without any clear understanding of who will call the shots from now on. Will it be the Libyan victors in the war now battling among themselves for the control of the country? Will it be their NATO minders hiding behind the scenes? Will it be the NATO representatives doing the bidding of the oil companies and the various corporate and financial interests that make no secret of seeking a robust profit-making stake in Libya’s future? Or will it be some combination of these influences, more or less harmoniously collaborating? And most relevant of all, will this process be seen as having the claimed liberating impact on the lives and destinies of the Libyan people? It is far too early to pronounce on such momentous issues, although sitting on the sidelines one can only hope and pray for the best for a country substantially destroyed by external forces. Even before the dust of the original conflict settles it is not too soon to raise some skeptical questions about the unconditional enthusiasm in mainstream Western circles for what has been done and what it portends for the future of UN peacekeeping.

 

            What has transpired since March when the UN Security Council gave its go ahead for the use of force to protect civilians in Libya should never have become an occasion for cheering despite the military and political outcome of the intervention. This unfortunate triumphal spirit was clearly voiced by the normally critically sensitive Roger Cohen. Writing in the New York Times Cohen insists that the Libyan intervention should be viewed as a historically momentous discharge of the global moral responsibility that somehow rests on the shoulders of post-colonial pro-active leaders in the West:  “..the idea that the West must at times be prepared to fight for its values against barbarism is the best hope for a 21sr century less cruel than the 20th .” This rather extraordinary claim cannot be tested by reference to Libya alone, although even narrowly conceived the grounds for such confidence in Western uses of force in the global south seems stunningly ahistorical. But if the net is enlarged, as it must be, to encompass the spectrum of recent interventions under Western auspices that include Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan the self-absorbed gaze of Cohen seems like a dangerously misguided form of advocacy relating to the use of force in international relations. Looking at this broader experience of Western intervention makes one squirm uncomfortably in reaction to the grandiose claim that the willingness of leading Western countries to police the world is humanity’s ‘best hope’ for the future. Cohen is not timid about insisting that the Libya operation up to this point provides a positive model for the future : “The intervention has been done right—with the legality of strong backing, full support of America’s European allies, and quiet arming of the rebels.” A contrast with Iraq is drawn, presumably, in contrast, an intervention ‘done wrong.’

 

            There is a heavy dose of implicit paternalism, condescension, and passé consciousness, not to mention wishful thinking, present if the West is to be identified as the best hope for the future just because it managed to pull off this Libyan intervention, that is, even assuming that the post-Qaddafi experience in the country is not too disillusioning in this one set of circumstances. What about putting the failed interventions into the balance, and then deciding whether it is helpful or not to encourage the West, which means mainly the United States, to take on this protective role for the rest of the world? I seem to remember not that long ago such self-empowering phrases as ‘white man’s burden’ and ‘civilizing mission’ being used by colonial apologists with a straight face. The West has quite a record of barbarism of its own, both within its geographic confines and in its encounters with others.  It seems arbitrary and contentious to situate barbarism geographically, and it certainly seems strange to think that the long exploited and abused non-West generates a new breed of barbarians at the gates.

 

            And let us not be to quick to heap praise on this Libyan model? It is certainly premature to conclude that it has been a success before acquiring a better sense of whether the winners can avoid a new cycle of strife and bloodshed, and stick together in a Libya without the benefit of Qaddafi as the common enemy. Or if they do, can they embark upon a development path that benefits the Libyan people and not primarily the oil companies and foreign construction firms. Any credible assessment of the Libyan intervention must at least wait and see if the new leaders are able to avoid the authoritarian temptation to secure their power and privilege within the inflamed political atmosphere of the country. The majority of the Libyan people undoubtedly have strong expectations that their human rights will now be upheld and that an equitable economic order will soon be established that benefits the population as a whole, and not the tiny elite that sits on the top of the national pyramid. These are expectations that have yet to be satisfied anywhere in the region. The challenge is immense, and perhaps is beyond even the imagination and aspirations of the new leaders, posing a challenge that exceeds their capabilities and will.

 

            Yet such worries are not just about the uncertain future of Libya. Even if, against the odds, Libya turns out to be the success story already proclaimed, there are still many reasons to be concerned about the Libyan intervention serving as a precedent for the future. These concerns relating to international law, to the proper role for the UN, and to the shaping of a just world order have been largely ignored in the public discussion of the Libyan intervention. In effect, once NATO helped the rebels enough to get rid of the Qaddafi regime, it has been treated as irrelevant to complain about aspects of the undertaking and such issues have been completely ignored by the media. In the rest of this blog I will try to explain why the Libyan intervention is far from providing future diplomats with an ideal model. I believe we should learn from the Libyan experience, and reject it as a precedent.

 

            As the World Court made clear in the Nicaragua decision of 1986, modern international law does not allow states to have recourse to force except when acting in self-defense against a substantial prior armed attack across its borders, and then only until the Security Council acts. The United Nations, normally the Security Council, but residually the General Assembly, has the authority to mandate the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter on behalf of peace and security, including on the basis of UN evolving practice, for humanitarian ends under extreme circumstances of the sort that arguably existed in Libya during the latter stages of Qaddafi’s rule. This humanitarian extension of UN authority has been challenged as opening a loophole of indefinite dimensions that can be used to carry out a post-colonial imperialist agenda. Even granting that humanitarian ends should now be understood to have been legally incorporated into prevailing ideas of ‘international peace and security,’ a crucial further question exists as to whether the force used by NATO remained within the confines of what was authorized by the Security Council.

 

            The Security Council debate on authorization indicated some deep concerns on the part of important members at the time, including China, Russia, Brazil, India, and Germany, that formed the background of SC Resolution 1973, which in March 2011 set forth the guidelines for the intervention.This extensive resolution articulated the mission being authorized as that of protecting threatened Libyan civilians against violent atrocities that were allegedly being massively threatened by the Qaddafi government, with special reference at the time to an alleged imminent massacre of civilians trapped in the then besieged city of Benghazi. The debate emphasized the application of the norm of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) endorsed by the Security Council a few years ago that sought to allay fears about interventions by the West in the non-West by refraining from relying on the distrusted language of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and substituting a blander way of describing the undertaking as less of a challenge directed at the territorial supremacy of sovereign states and more in the nature of a protective undertaking reflecting human solidarity. The R2P norm relies on a rationale of protecting vulnerable peoples from rulers that violated basic human rights in a severe and systematic fashion.

 

            But once underway, the NATO operation unilaterally expanded and qualitatively shifted the mission as authorized, and almost immediately acted to help the rebels win the war and to make non-negotiable the dismantling of the Qaddafi regime. NATO made these moves without even attempting to explain that it was somehow still acting primarily to protect Libyan civilians. This was not just another instance of ‘mission creep’ as had occurred previously in UN peacekeeping operations (for instance, the Gulf War of 1991), but rather mission creep on steroids! It would have been possible during the Security Council debate to explain in a forthright manner what obviously must have been the real intentions all along of NATO. It would have been possible and respectful of the integrity of UN discourse to have made the attempt to convince the members of the Security Council that the only way the Libyan people could be protected was to help the rebels win the civil war and to be sure that Qaddafi was taken out of the picture. Presumably such forthrightness was avoided by the pro-interventionist states because it would almost certainly have turned several of the already reluctant abstaining five countries into negative votes, including in all likelihood, those of China and Russia that are permanent members whose votes have a veto effect, which in this case would have prevented the Security Council from reaching a decision. So the pro-interventionists admittedly faced a genuine dilemma: either dissemble as to the ends being pursued and obtain the legitimacy of limited advance authorization from the UN or reveal the real goals of the operation and be blocked by a veto from acting under UN auspices. If so blocked, then the further issue arises as to whether to intervene in the absence of a UN mandate.

 

A similar dilemma faced the intervening governments prior to the 1999 NATO’s Kosovo War. It was resolved by ignoring the legalities altogether, with NATO acting without any UNSC authorization. It was also a controversial precedent, and some blamed the Kosovo reliance on ‘a coalition of the willing’ or on a military alliance as providing a sufficient authorization, for the later claim of de facto authority to carry out the Iraq invasion without gaining prior UN approval. In both Kosovo and Iraq circumventing the UN’s legally prescribed role of deciding when to authorize non-defensive force on behalf of international peace and security was criticized, but the unlawfulness of the action led to no clear repudiation of either intervention after the fact, and rather highlighted the weakness of the UN. In both cases the UN after the fact acted to ratify the results of uses of force that clearly violated the UN Charter’s unconditional prohibition imposed on all uses of non-defensive force by member states. The rogue recourse to force was especially disturbing in Iraq as the attack legally amounted to a war of aggression, a crime against the peace in the language of the Nuremberg Judgment rendered in 1945 against surviving Nazi leaders after World War II.

 

            With regard to Libya, the culprits are not just the states that participated in this runaway operation, but the members of the Security Council  that abstained from supporting Resolution 1973 and the Secretary General of the United Nations have a special duty to make sure that the limits of authorization were being respected throughout the undertaking. It would seem to be a matter of constitutional responsibility for all members of the Security Council to ensure respect for the Charter’s core effort to prevent wars and seek peaceful resolution of conflicts. When exceptions are made to this generalized Charter prohibition on the use or threat of force it should always be strictly formulated, and then continuously monitored and interpreted, and if limits are exceeded, then the supervisory authority and responsibility of the Security Council should kick in as a matter of course, and in a spirit of upholding the autonomy and legitimacy of the United Nations. The Secretary General also has secondary responsibility to take appropriate steps to call the attention of the membership to such blatant departures from an authorizing resolution as an essential aspect of his role as custodian of the integrity of UN procedures and as the UN’s de facto ombudsman in relation to ensuring fidelity to the Charter. This allocation of responsibility seems more important when it is realized that the actions of the Security Council are not subject to judicial review. This controversial doctrine of judicial self-restraint within the UN System was ironically decided by the World Court in the 1992 Lockerbie case involving sanctions imposed on Libya in apparent violation of relevant treaty law. The majority of the judges concluded that whatever the Security Council decided needed to be treated as authoritative even if it went against international law, that the Security Council always had the last word in shaping UN policy even when it was acting unwisely or irresponsibly.

 

            Against this background, the abstaining states were also derelict at the outset by allowing a resolution of the Security Council involving the use of force to go forward considered that it contained such ambiguous and vague language as to raise a red flag as to the scope of the proposed authorization. Although Security Council Resolution 1973 did seem reasonably to anticipate mainly the establishment of a No Fly Zone and ancillary steps to make sure it would be effective, the proposed language of the resolution should have signaled the possibility that action beyond what was being mandated was contemplated by the NATO countries and would likely be undertaken. The notorious phrase ‘all necessary measures’ was present in the resolution, which was justified at the time as providing the enforcers with a desirable margin of flexibility in making sure that the No Fly Zone would render the needed protection to Libyan civilian.  Almost immediately once NATO launched its operations it became obvious that an entirely new and controversial mission was underway than what was acknowledged during the debate that preceded the adoption of 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court has often invalidated Congressional action as ‘void for vagueness,’ and this is something in the UN setting that Security Council members should have been prepared to do on their own in their role as final guardians of constitutional integrity in relation to war making under UN auspices. Given the Charter emphasis on war prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes, it should be standard practice that exceptional mandates to use force would be interpreted strictly to limit the departure from Charter goals and norms, but the UN record even before Libya has been disappointing, with geopolitics giving states a virtually unlimited discretion that international law purports to withhold.

 

            There is a further related issue internal to best practices within the United Nations itself. The Security Council acts in the area of peace and security on behalf of the entire international community and with representational authority for the whole membership of the Organization. The 177 countries not members of the Security Council should have confidence that this body will respect Charter guidelines and that there will be a close correspondence between what was authorized and what was done especially when force is authorized and sovereign rights are encroached upon. This correspondence was not present in the Libyan intervention, and this abuse of authority seems to have barely noticed in any official way, although acknowledged and even lamented in the corridors and delegates lounge of UN Headquarters in New York City.

 

This interpretative issue is not just a playground for international law specialists interested in jousting about technical matters of little real world relevance. Here the life and death of the peoples inhabiting the planet are directly at stake, as well as their political independence, the territorial integrity, and economic autonomy of their country. If the governments will not act to uphold agreed and fundamental limits on state violence, especially directed at vulnerable countries and peoples, then as citizens of the world, ‘we the peoples of the United Nations,’ as proclaimed by the Preamble to the Charter need to raise our voices. We have the residual responsibility to act on behalf of international law and morality when the UN falters or when states act beyond the law. Of course, this imperative does not imply a whitewash for tyrannical rule.

Libya without Qaddafi: Decoding an Uncertain Future

26 Aug

 

            There is so much spin surrounding the Transitional National Council victory in Libya that it is difficult to interpret the outcome, and perhaps premature to do so at this point considering that the fighting continues and the African Union has withheld diplomatic recognition on principled grounds.  Almost everything about the future of Libya has been left unresolved, beyond the victory of the rebel forces as massively assisted by NATO air strikes as well as a variety of forms of covert assistance given to the anti-regime Libyans on the battlefield. Of course, in the foreground is the overthrow of a hated and abusive dictator who seemed more the outgrowth of the surrealist imagination than a normal political leader who managed to rule his country for more than 42 years, and raised the material standards of the Libyan people beyond that of other societies in the region.  

 

It does seem that the great majority of the Libyan people shared with others in the region a thirst for political freedom. The initial uprising seems definitely inspired by the Arab Spring.  But unlike the other populist challenges to authoritarian Arab states, in Libya the anti-regime forces abandoned nonviolent tactics at early stage and became an armed uprising. This raised some doubts and widespread fears about the onset of a civil war in  the country, but it also brought forth a variety of explanations about the murderous behavior of the regime that left its opponents no alternative.

 

Now with Qaddafi gone as leader, if not yet captured or killed, a new central concern emerges. What will the morning after bring to Libya? At the moment it is a matter of wildly divergent speculation as the unknowns are so predominant. There are a few observations that clarify the main alternatives. More favorably than in Egypt or Tunisia, this populist uprising possesses a revolutionary potential. It has seems poised to dismantle the old order altogether and start the work of building new structures of governance from the ground up. The fact that the TNC resisted many calls for reaching an accommodation or compromise with the Qaddafi regime gives the new leadership what appears to be a clean slate with which to enact a reform agenda that will be shaped to benefit the people of the country rather than foreign patrons. This opportunity contrasts with the messy morning after in Egypt and Tunisia where the remnants of the old order remain in place. In Cairo numerous demonstrators were sent to jail, and reportedly tortured, after new demonstrations were held in Tahrir Square led by those fearful that their political aspirations were being destroyed by the same old bureaucracy that had provided Mubarak with his oppressive structures of authority that made the country safe for neoliberal exploitation and unsafe for constitutional democracy.  Let’s hope that the TNC can sustain Libyan unity and commit itself to the building of a democratic constitutional order and an equitable economy step by step. It will not be easy as Libya has no constitutional experience with citizen participation, an independent judiciary, or the rule of law. Beyond this, political parties, non-state controlled media, and civil society were absent from Libya during the Qaddafi era.

 

And then there is the big possible problem of NATO’s undefined post-Qaddafi role. The air war inflicted widespread damage throughout the country, and already NATO entrepreneurial interests are staking their claims, and TNC spokespersons have indicated that those who lent their cause support will be rewarded in appreciation. Fortunately, NATO does not purport to be an occupying force, but the United States and the principal European countries that took part in the war are pulling strings to release billions of dollars of assets of the Libyan state that were frozen in compliance with Security Council Resolution 1973 and various national directives, and may well be playing a major advising role behind the scenes. Will this dynamic of enabling the new leadership to achieve a finance recovery and reconstruction in Libya come as part of a package containing undisclosed political conditions and economic expectations?  There are signs that oil companies and their government sponsors are scrambling to get an inside track in the current fluid situation. It does not require paranoia about imperialist geopolitics to take note of the fact that the two major military interventions in the Arab world within the last decade were both situated in significant oil producing countries whose leadership rejected integration into a world order in which global energy policy was under the firm control of the market interests of international capital. And, oh yes, the other likely target of major Western military action is Iran, and it too ‘happens’ to be a major oil producer. Let us recall that the UN failed to respond in oil-free Rwanda in 1994 when a small expansion of a peacekeeping presence already in the country might have saved hundred of thousands from an unfolding genocidal onslaught. In the realm of world politics, it may be worth observing, coincidences rarely happen.

 

There are also significant unresolved issues associated with the precedent set by the UN in authorizing a limited protective intervention that when acted upon ignored the guidelines set forth by the drafters of the Security Council resolution. The actual scope and ill-disguised purpose of the intervention shortly after it became an operational reality in Libya was to tip the balance in a civil war and achieve regime change. Such goals were never acknowledged by the pro-intervening governments in the course of the extensive and sharp Security Council debate, and had they been, it is almost certain that two permanent members, China and Russia, given their reluctance to approve of any use of force in the Libyan situation, would have blocked UN action by casting a veto. The UN is confronted by a dilemma. Either it refuses to succumb to geopolitical pressures as was the case when it withheld approval from the United States plan to attack Iraq in 2003, and steps aside while a so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ is hastily formed to carry out an attack, or they grant some kind of limited authority that is cynically overridden by the far more expansive goals of the intervening governments as has been the case in Libya. Either way respect for the authority of the UN is eroded, and the historical agency of geopolitics is confirmed.

 

In the Libyan case, the evaluation of the UN role is likely to depend on what happens in the country during the weeks and months ahead. If a humane and orderly transition takes place in the country, and national resources are used to benefit the people of Libya and not foreign economic interests, the intervention will be effectively marketed as a victory for humane governance and a demonstration that the international community can engage in humanitarian intervention in an effective and principled manner. If the country descends into chaos as the Libyan victors fight among themselves for the political and economic spoils or take revenge on those associated with the Qaddafi regime, the intervention will be retrospectively discredited. This will happen also if the country becomes one more neoliberal fiefdom in which the majority of the population struggles to subsist while tiny elites sitting in Tripoli and Benghazi collaborate with foreign financial and corporate interests while skimming billions off the top for themselves.

 

This assessment of the intervention as a precedent is based on considering only its consequences. As such, it does not take into account the importance of maintaining as a matter of principle, the integrity of UN authorizations of military force both in relation to the UN Charter and with respect to confining the military undertaking to the strict limits of what was authorized. I will consider in a companion essay this issue of sustaining constitutionalism and the rule of law when the Security Council authorizes military action.

 

The International Criminal Court Plays Politics? the Qaddafi Arrest Warrants

29 Jun

   

The International Criminal Court has formally agreed that warrants should be issued for the arrest of Col. Muammar Qaddafi, as well as his son, Seif al-Islam, who has been acting as Prime Minister along with Libya’s intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. These three Libyan leaders are charged with crimes against humanity involving the murder, injuring, and imprisoning of Libyan civilians between Feburary 10-18, 2011, the first days of the uprising and prior to NATO’s military involvement. The ICC judge speaking on behalf of a three-judge panel authorized the issuance of the arrest warrants, Sanji Monogeng of Botswana, on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecutor that ‘reasonable grounds’ existed to support the charges contained in the outstanding indictments against these three individuals. Judge Monogeng clarified the ruling by explaining that issuing an arrest warrant was meant to convey the conclusion that sufficient evidence of criminality existed to proceed with the prosecution, but it is not intended to imply guilt, which must be determined by the outcome of a trial. The ICC assessment is likely to withstand scrutiny so far as the substance of the accusations directed at the Qaddafi leadership are concerned. Qaddafi clearly responded with extreme violence, reinforced by genocidal rhetoric, to the popular challenges directed against the Libyan government, which certainly seems to qualify as crimes against humanity. But I am led to question why such an effort to arrest and indict was pushed so hard at this time.

 

The timing of the indictment, and now the arrest warrants, arouses strong suspicions, and not just of bad judgment! It is relevant to recall that in the course of NATO’s Kosovo War in 1999 against Serbia, the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, was indicted by another European-based international tribunal–the special ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. Are we now to expect that whenever NATO has recourse to war the political leader heading its opposition will be charged with international crimes while the fighting ensues? How convenient! Lawfare in the service of warfare!

Rather than a matter of convenience, the motivation seems more sinister. Criticism is deflected from NATO’s own lawlessness. In both of these instances, NATO had itself has resorting to war unlawfully, engaging in what was designated at Nuremberg as a ‘crime against peace,’ and held by that tribunal to be the greatest of war crimes embracing within itself both crimes against humanity and gross violations of the laws of war (war crimes). In the Kosovo War NATO acted without a mandate from the UN, thereby violating the UN Charter’s core principle prohibiting non-defensive uses of force unless authorized by the Security Council. In Libya there was such an initial authorization to protect civilians by establishing a no fly zone (Security Council Resoultion 1973, 17 May 2011), but the NATO mission as executed almost immediately grossly exceeded the original mandate, and did little to hide its unmandated goal of regime change in Tripoli by way of ending Qaddafi’s role as ruler and thereby achieving victory for opposition forces in a civil war. It is certainly worthy of comment that in both of these wars initiated by NATO the leader of a country attacked was targeted for criminal prosecution before hostilities has ended. Even the Allies in World War II waited until after the end of combat before trying to impose their version of ‘victors justice’ on surviving defeated German and Japanese leaders.

A somewhat similar manipulation of criminal accountability occurred in Iraq a few years ago.  There the American led aggressive war waged against Iraq in 2003 was quickly followed by a carefully planned and orchestrated criminal prosecution, stage managed behind the scenes by the US occupation commanders), followed by the execution of Saddam Hussein (and his close associates).  The Iraqi trial was politically circumscribed so as to exclude any evidence bearing on the close and discrediting strategic relationship maintained between the United States and Iraq during the period of Saddam Hussein’s most serious instances of criminality (genocidal operations against Kurdish villages), as well as by disallowing any inquiry into American criminality associated with the attack on Iraq and subsequent allegations of criminal wrongdoing in response to Iraqi resistance to military occupation.  This American potential criminality was never discussed, much less investigated in a responsible manner.

What converts these separate instances into a pattern is the Eurocentric (or West-centric) selectivity evident in most recent efforts to enforce international criminal law. It should be noted that this selectivity is made more objectionable by the impunity accorded to European, American, and Israeli leaders. Double standards so pervasively evident in this behavior undermine the authority of law, especially in relation to a subject-matter as vital as war and peace. Unless equals are treated equally most of the time, what is called ‘law’ is more accurately treated as ‘geopolitics.’

                                                                  

The geopolitical nature of this approval of arrest warrants just issued by the ICC is unintentionally confirmed when it is acknowledged by NATO officials that it will not be possible to arrest Qaddafi unless in the unlikely event that he is captured by the Rebels. Governmental representatives in Washington admitting this, have declared that the warrants will nevertheless be useful in forthcoming UN debates about Libyan policy, presumably to push aside any objections based on the failure by NATO to limit military operations to the no fly zone initially authorized by the Security Council. It should be remembered that the initial authorization in SC Resolution 1973 was itself weakened by five abstentions, including China and Russia, and further, by South Africa that voted with the majority, while expressing strong objections to the subsequent undertaking.  One wonders whether China and Russia would not have used their veto had they anticipated how far beyond what was insisted on limited humanitarian purposes by the proponents of the use of force would the actual operation become. In effect, to overcome any impression of unlawfulness on NATO’s part it is useful to demonize the adversary, and an opportune way to reach this goal is to put forward premature accusations of severe criminality.

Of course, as has been pointed out more than once, there was an embedded hypocrisy in the central argument put forward by the states seeking a UN green light to intervene in Libya, which was based on the responsibility to protect norm that supposedly confers a duty on the international community to protect civilian populations that are being subjected to severely abusive behavior. Too obvious contradictions were present. Why not Syria in the current regional setting? And even more starkly, why not Gaza back in 2008-09 when it was being mercilessly attacked by Israel? The answers to such questions are ‘blowin’ in the wind.’

There are further more technical reasons in the present setting to challenge the timing of the arrest warrants. They seem legally and politically dubious. Legally dubious because the most serious criminality associated with the behavior of the Qaddafi regime during the conflict occurred after the ICC cutoff date of 18 February (e.g. the siege of Misrata). Why other than ulterior motivations was there this rush to prosecute? Politically dubious because there is now a new obstacle to diplomacy in a situation where the alternative seems likely to be a prolonged civil war. Negotiating space for an accommodation is definitely reduced by this implication of Qaddafi’s criminality that creates incentives for the Tripoli leadership to fight on as long as possible.

Perhaps, cynics would argue that law always reflects power, and of course they are correct to a certain extent. Progress in human affairs arises from a struggle against such pretensions. And the locus and nature of power is changing in the world: the West is losing its capacity to shape history and high technology warfare, upon which the West depends to enforce its will on the non-West, is losing its capacity to produce political victories (e.g. anti-colonial wars, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan). This politicized use of the ICC in the course of the Libyan War offers an opportunity for those dedicated to global justice, especially in the Arab world, to insist that international law should no longer serve as a plaything for those who intervene with hard power in their region from the comfort zone of NATO headquarters.

Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment

20 Mar

Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment

Long ago Qaddafi forfeited the domestic legitimacy of his rule, creating the moral and political conditions for an appropriate revolutionary challenge. Recently he has confirmed this assessment by referring to the disaffected portion of his own citizenry as ‘rats and dogs’ or ‘cockroaches,’ employing the bloodthirsty and vengeful language of a demented tyrant. Such a tragically criminal imposition of political abuse on the Libyan experience is a painful reality that exists beyond any reasonable doubt, but does it validate a UN authorized military intervention carried out by a revived partnership of those old colonial partners, France and Britain, and their post-colonial American imperial overseer?

From a personal perspective, my hopes are with the Libyan rebels, despite their reliance on violence and the opaqueness  of their political identity.  As many credible exile Libyan voices attest, it would seem highly likely that a rebel victory would benefit the people of Libya and would be a step in the right direction for the region, especially the Arab world, but does this entail supporting Western-led military intervention even if it is backed by the United Nations? I believe not.

Let us begin with some unknowns and uncertainties. There is no coherent political identity that can be confidently ascribed to the various anti-Qaddafi

forces, loosely referred to as ‘rebels.’ Just who are they, whom do they represent, and what are their political aspirations? It is worth observing that unlike the other regional events of 2011 the Libyan rising did not last long as a popular movement of a spontaneous character, or unfold as a specific reaction to some horrific incident as in Tunisia. It seemed, although there is some ambiguity in the media reports, that the Libyan oppositional movement was armed and reliant on military force almost from the start, and that its political character seems more in the nature of a traditional insurrection against the established order than a popular revolution in the manner of Tahrir Square inspired by democratic values. This violent political reaction to Qaddafi’s regime seems fully justified as an expression of Libyan self-determination, and as suggested deserves encouragement from world public opinion, including support from such soft power instruments as boycott, divestment, and maybe sanctions. By and large, the international community did not resort to interventionary threats and actions in Libya until the domestic tide turned in favor of Tripoli, which means that the intervention was called upon to overcome the apparent growing likelihood that Qaddafi would reestablish order in his favor, and therefore this international intrusion on the conflict represents a coercive effort to restructure a country’s governing process from without.

The main pretext given for the intervention was the vulnerability of Libyan civilians to the wrath of the Qaddafi regime. But there was little evidence that such wrath extends beyond the regime’s expected defense of the established order, although admittedly being here undertaken in a brutal manner, which itself is not unusual in such situation where a government and its leadership is fighting for their survival. How is this Libyan response different in character than the tactics relied upon by the regimes in Yemen and Bahrain, and in the face of far less of a threat to the status quo, and even that taking the form of political resistance, not military action. In Libya the opposition forces relied on heavy weapons, while elsewhere in the region the people were in the streets in massive numbers, and mostly with no weapons, although in a few instances, with very primitive ones (stones, simple guns) that mainly were used in retaliation for regime violence.

It may have been the case that the immediate Libyan governmental response was predictably brutal and militarist, and that the rebel opposition felt that it had no choice. But it should have been clear from the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that military intervention against a hated and brutal regime is not the end of the story, and before the ending is reached violence cascades to heights far beyond what would have likely resulted had there been no intervention. In the process heavy casualties are inflicted and massive displacements occur causing immense suffering for the entrapped and innocent population. In effect, overall historical trends vindicate trust in the dynamics of self-determination despite the fact that short-term disillusioning disasters may and do occur from time to time. These trends similarly underscore the inherently problematic character of intervention, even given the purest of motivations, which rarely, if ever, exists in world politics on the side of intervening parties.

But it can be asked, what about Rwanda, Bosnia (especially, the massacre at Srebrenica)? Are not these instances where humanitarian intervention should have been undertaken and was not? And didn’t the NATO War in Kosovo demonstrate that humanitarian intervention does sometimes spare a vulnerable population from the ordeal of genocidal ethnic cleansing? With respect to Rwanda and Bosnia, the threat of genocidal behavior was clearly established, and could likely have been prevented by a relatively small-scale intervention, and should have been undertaken despite the uncertainties. The facts surrounding the alleged genocidal threat in Kosovo remain contested, but there was a plausible basis for taking it seriously given what had happened a few years earlier in Bosnia. But just as the Libyan rebels raise some suspicion by seeking Euro-American military intervention, so did the KLA in Kosovo engage in terrorist provocations that led to violent Serb responses, allegedly setting the stage in 1999 for NATO’s ‘coalition of the willing.’ NATO went ahead in Kosovo without the benefit of a Security Council mandate, as here, for military action ‘by all necessary means.’ But with respect to Libya there is no firm evidence of a genocidal intention on Qaddafi’s, no humanitarian catastrophe in the making, and not even clear indications of the extent of civilian casualties resulting from the fighting. We should be asking why did Russia signal its intention to veto such authorization in relation to Kosovo, but not with respect to Libya. Perhaps, the Russian sense of identification with Serb interests goes a long way to explain its opportunistic pattern of standing in the way on the earlier occasion when interventionary forces gathered a head of steam in the late 1990s, while standing aside in 2011 in deference to the Euro-American juggernaut.

One of the mysteries surrounding UN support for the Libyan intervention is why China and Russia expressed their opposition by abstaining rather than using their veto, why South Africa voted with the majority, and why Germany, India, and Brazil were content to abstain, yet seeming to express reservations sufficient to produce ‘no’ votes, which would have deprived the interventionist side of the nine affirmative votes that they needed to obtain authorization. Often the veto is used promiscuously, as recently by the United States, to shield Israel from condemnation for their settlement policy, but here the veto was not used when it could have served positive purposes, preventing a non-defensive and destructive military action that seems imprudent and almost certain in the future to be regarded as an unfortunate precedent.

The internal American debate on the use of force was more complex than usual, and cut across party lines. Three positions are worth distinguishing: realists, moral interventionists, moral and legal anti-interventionists. The realists, who usually carry the day when controversial military issues arise in foreign policy debates, on this occasion warned against the intervention, saying it was too uncertain in its effects and costs, that the U.S. was already overstretched in its overseas commitments, and that there were few American strategic interests involved. The moral interventionists, who were in control during the Bush II years, triumphantly reemerged in the company of hawkish Democrats such as Hilary Clinton and Joseph Biden, prevailing in the shaping of policy partly thanks to the push from London and Paris, the acquiescence of the Arab neighbors, and the loss of will on the part of Moscow and Beijing. It is hard to find a war that Republicans will not endorse, especially if the enemy can be personalized as anti-American and demonized as Qaddafi has been, and it always helps to have some oil in the ground! The anti-interventionists, who are generally reluctant about reliance on force in foreign policy except for self-defense, and additionally have doubts about the effectiveness of hard power tactics, especially under Western auspices. These opponents of intervention against Qaddafi were outmaneuvered, especially at the United Nations and in the sensationalist media that confused the Qaddafi horror show for no brainer/slam dunk reasoning on the question of intervention, treating it almost exclusively as a question of ‘how,’ rather than ‘whether,’ and once again failing to fulfill their role in a democratic society by giving no attention to the full spectrum of viewpoints, including the anti-intervention position.

Finally, there arises the question of the UN authorization itself by way of Security Council Resolution 1373. The way international law is generally understood, there is no doubt that the Security Council vote, however questionable on moral and political grounds and in relation to the Charter text and values, resolves the legal issue within the UN system. An earlier World Court decision, ironically involving Libya, concluded that even when the UN Security Council contravenes relevant norms of international law, its decisions are binding and authoritative. Here, the Security Council has reached a decision supportive of military intervention that is legal, but in my judgment not legitimate, being neither politically prudent nor morally acceptable. The states that abstained acted irresponsibly, or put differently, did not uphold either the spirit or letter of the Charter. The Charter in Article 2(7) establishes a prohibition on UN authority to intervene in matters ‘essentially within the domestic jurisdiction’ of member states unless there is a genuine issue of international peace and security present.  Here there was not the basis for an exception to non-intervention as even the claim was supposedly motivated solely to protect the civilian population of eastern Libya, and hence was squarely within the domestic jurisdiction of Libya.

Besides, the claim to intervene as stated was patently misleading and disingenuous as the obvious goals, as became manifest from the scale and nature of military action as soon as the operation commenced. The actual goals of the intervention were minimally to protect the armed rebels from being defeated, and possibly destroyed, and maximally, to achieve a regime change resulting in a new governing leadership for Libya that was friendly to the West, including buying fully into its liberal economic geopolitical policy compass. The missile attacks in the vicinity of Tripoli, especially the early missile hits on the Qaddafi compound are unmistakable signatures of this wider intention. As the Gulf War in 1991 demonstrated, once the Security Council authorizes military action of an unspecified character, it gives up any further responsibility for or effort to maintain operational control and accountability.

Using a slightly altered language, the UN Charter embedded a social contract with its membership that privileged the politics of self-determination and was heavily weighted against the politics of intervention. Neither position is absolute, but what seems to have happened with respect to Libya is that intervention was privileged and self-determination cast aside. It is an instance of normatively dubious practice trumping the legal/moral ethos of containing geopolitical discretion in relation to obligatory rules governing the use of force and the duty of non-intervention.  We do not know yet what will happen in Libya, but we already know enough to oppose such a precedent that exhibits so many unfortunate characteristics.  It is time to restore the global social contract between territorial sovereign states and the organized international community, which not only corresponds with the outlawry of aggressive war but also reflects the movement of history in support of the soft power struggles of the non-Western peoples of the world.

If ordinary citizens were allowed to have foreign policy doctrines mine would be this: without high levels of confidence in a proposed course of military action, the UN should never agree to allow states to engage in violent action that kills people. And if this cautionary principle is ignored, governments should expect that their behavior would be widely viewed in the public as a species of international criminality, and the UN is likely to be regarded as more of a creature of politics than law and morality. For these reasons it would have been my preference to have had the abstainers in the Security Council voting against Resolution 1973. It is likely that the coalition of the willing would have gone forward in any event, but at least without the apparent UN seal of approval.


A SHORT POSTSCRIPT TO “WILL WE EVER LEARN? CONTRA INTERVENTION”

8 Mar

A SHORT POSTSCRIPT TO “WILL WE EVER LEARN? CONTRA INTERVENTION”

Since my blog was posted several responses and developments lead me to think further about the essential issues, but not to change course.

It has been suggested that, perhaps, a no fly zone would enable the rebel forces to deal more effectively with the foreign militias being relied upon by the Qaddafi regime to do much of its dirty work. It is difficult to know how a particular version of the no fly zone would impact on the battlefield. We are

speculating on the basis of radical uncertainty, and in such circumstances, it is almost always better to refrain from coercive action than to engage in it. Furthermore, there is a wide spectra of no fly zone scenarios depending on the governments who are taking such an initiative, its degree of dependence on correlated air strikes, and the options available to the rebels and Qaddafi to either take advantage of its effect or to circumvent them. For instance, it is politically more palatable to have a no fly zone established and administered under the auspices of the Arab League or as has been proposed, a joint Egypt/Turkey undertaking than to have it done by NATO or a United States-led ‘coalition of the willing.’ The UN as sponsor is out of the question given Russian opposition, and Chinese reluctance. At the same time, given the logistical and technological demands, it is more likely that the effectiveness of a no fly zone would be greater under NATO/U.S control. A failed no fly zone would embolden Libya, and likely improve his prospects to prevail in the internal struggle.

Furthermore, the tactics and character of the rebel movement seems dramatically different than the uprisings elsewhere in the region, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia. In Libya, the movement lacks the inspiring quality of nonviolence, human solidarity, and social/political demands for justice. It was violent from the outset, tribalist in spirit, recipient of weaponry from external actors, preoccupied with control over the oil-producing areas, indistinct in political outlook (a rebel segment flying the pre-Qaddafi flag of the Libyan monarchy), and uncertainly linked to private sector international oil interests. This looks more like a struggle for control of the state or possibly an effort to establish a secessionist second state if a stalemate emerges. Under this mix of circumstances one must be suspicious about the focus on Libya and the call for full consideration of military options. It would seem to be the case that if feasibility hurdles could be overcome, the political climate in the United States and Britain would support a large-scale intervention, possibly with Arab regional acquiescence. See illuminating analysis by Michel Chossudovsky, “Insurrection and Military Intervention: The US-NATO Attempted Coup d’Etat in Libya?” www.globalresearch.ca March 8, 2011.

With these considerations in mind, I think the case for nonintervention remains overwhelmingly persuasive from moral, legal, and political perspectives. Perhaps, the most compelling rationale for reaching such a conclusion was well stated by Roger Cohen: “But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world. Arabs have no need of U.S. or European soldiers as they seek the freedom that America and the European Union were content to deny them.” (NY Times, March 7, 2011) It is not often that I have the opportunity to quote approvingly from the New York Times when the subject-matter involves the Middle East, and so I want to make the most of it.

Perhaps, there is another way to exhibit the shabbiness of the argument being made on behalf of a protective no fly zone. Why no comparable proposal on behalf of the civilian population of Gaza trapped behind a merciless blockade for more than three years?

Aside from issues of nonintervention, always important, there is here the paramount relevance of support for dynamics of self-determination. This does not assure the triumph of justice in conflict situations. Qaddafi may win or the rebels may prevail, and prove as distastefully oppressive as the Qaddafi regime. On balance, what means most in the 21st century is to allow the peoples of the world make their own history. Western military paternalism and economic exploitation have been deservedly discredited.

As suggested, there is no way to seal the borders of territorial states. Neither pure noninterventionism nor insulated self-determination are ever possible given the porousness of borders and the interventionary incentives of a range of outsiders. There are various low profile ‘interventions’ taking place. Weapons are being supplied, perhaps, special forces are covertly present as advisors or even fighters. In this respect, the most that can be done is to oppose gross forms of overt governmental intervention, as well as limit assistance to governments, including the Tripoli regime, that violate the fundamental human rights of their own people. In this respect, sanctions are appropriate if authorized by the UN so long as not coupled with intervention, and take responsible account of competing moral, legal, and political claims.

Keep in mind that Libya has over 3.5% of the world’s oil reserves, which is twice the amount present in the United States. Without being an economic determinist, oil certainly helps explain the preferential treatment being given to insurrection in Libya!

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