Libya: Probably best abandoned (RIA Novosti, Russia)

By Dmitry Kosyrev:

During the first days of the civil war in Libya, most of what you read in the Russian media was conspiracy theories. Nefarious forces in the United States were accused of plotting to crush Libya behind the smokescreen of widespread Arab revolts. Now it appears that the United States and the rest of the world have settled on a hands-off approach to Libya.

Endless meetings

On Monday, the UN Security Council began discussing the British-French- Lebanese draft resolution sanctioning a no-fly zone over Libya. The discussion is expected to last the entire week. A careful reading of the documents shows that the resolution may be little more than a warning: “A no-fly zone will be imposed if…” It may also contain a forceful warning against the use of mercenaries. Follow the news from the UN – maybe something will happen by the end of the week.

On Tuesday, permanent representatives from 28 NATO countries discussed the events in Libya at a meeting of the NATO Council. It was a routine meeting, but there was surely a briefing on NATO contingency plans for an intervention in Libya. However, the consensus in NATO is against intervening in Libya without a UN mandate.

United States against intervention

During the past week, there was a major push in the U.S. media to convince the American public that an intervention in Libya is unnecessary. American public opinion has already turned against the war in Afghanistan, with two thirds now opposed. Gen. Wesley Clark, who commanded NATO forces in Yugoslavia. wrote an interesting article about Libya entitled “Libya doesn’t meet the test for U.S. military action.”

Clark goes through all American wars and interventions since Vietnam (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Lebanon and Grenada) and arrives at the following formula to guide U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts: “Understand the national interests at stake, and decide if the result is worth the cost.” In his opinion, U.S. interests in Libya do not warrant intervention. Let the Europeans worry about Libya’s oil and gas. As for casualties, Clark sees it as a humanitarian issue. There were more casualties in Darfur and Rwanda, but the United States did not intervene in either conflict.

President Obama’s actions (or rather inaction) suggest that he agrees with Gen. Clark.

A problem for the Arab world

The United States is expected by many to lead any military interventions in the world. But Libya is primarily a problem for the Middle East. Most Arabs are opposed to Muammar Gaddafi and the insane ideas he has pursued over the course of several decades. And it was the Arab League that appealed to the UN Security Council via Lebanon to sanction a no-fly zone over Libya. Even Iran is against him.

Libya is surrounded by two countries with strong militaries, Algeria and Egypt. They could easily send peacekeeping forces to Libya. This would be the ideal solution for the Arab world and the world in general. This would allow the rebels in the east of Libya to consolidate power, form an alternative government, and sign a political agreement with the west, which is still controlled by Gaddafi. It would be best if Gaddafi resigned first, but this is not essential.

Arab nations are not inherently timid and peaceful. Saudi Arabia has just sent forces into neighboring Bahrain to help the Sunni monarchy hold onto power in the face of an uprising by the country’s Shiite majority. Saudi Arabia took action because its interests were at stake. The House of Saud could not allow a pro-Iranian Shiite nation on its borders.

So interventions are not unheard of in the Arab world. Libya is just not worth the effort.

Humanitarian intervention

In his piece in the Washington Post, Gen. Clark touches on civilian casualties, one of the main issues at stake. Reports of Gaddafi’s use of tanks and combat aircraft against allegedly unarmed protesters in the early stages of the revolt caused universal outrage.

But that was then. Most likely, the issue of Gaddafi’s use of force against his own people (the main accusation against Gaddafi) will quietly fade from the discussion. Attacks on civilians are difficult to confirm, especially in the midst of a civil war. And after the facts are gathered, they still must be processed by the proper legal channels.

There are sad precedents of the world ignoring attacks on civilians, for instance, Georgia’s attack on Tskhinvali on August 8, 2008. This was a clear, well-documented act of what should be classified as genocide.

South Ossetia’s efforts to find justice under international law have come to naught. A similar thing happened with Serbia after the NATO bombing in 1999. The Hague dealt with the war crimes committed before 1999, but not during the bombing. The Serbs eventually gave up the fight against injustice.

When all is said and done, it appears the Libyans have been left to solve their problems on their own.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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