It seems that Libya’s situation reversed in one night. At first, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly claimed on 27th that the United States was against “regime change” in Libya. He said that although U.S. President Barak Obama clearly requested the stepping down of Libya’s leader Gadhafi, regime change has never been a part of the military action.
Apart from that, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced a joint statement on 28th that they would support a political solution to the Libyan crisis, and they called for a political dialogue with the Libyan opposition faction, in order to facilitate political transition. Specifically, the joint statement called for Gadhafi’s immediate stepping down, and the end of support for Gadhafi; the Libyan opposition faction should organize a political dialogue on a national scale at once, in order to initiate the progression of political transition, and realize the constitutional reform and the organization of liberal canonical election.
At the same time, the Libyan ministry of foreign affairs announced the cease fire at Misurata against “terroristic organizations.” The Tripoli Post cited from Libya and Arabic countries on the 27th that Gadhafi has proposed terms of cease fire, which amount to him handing over his power to his son Saif. Gadhafi is now working on persuading Western countries to accept his plan.
Given this situation, we can infer that Libyan authorities have reached an internal agreement or at least an intention of cease fire with Western countries. The two parties have found the best resolution to the crisis: the stepping down of Gadhafi and the transfer of power to his son Saif — events that would end the military action toward Libya.
Under this circumstance, a French-U.K. joint statement proposed support for a political solution to the Libyan crisis, and United States directly expressed that it would not aim at overthrowing Gadhafi.
These positions potentially mean that to realize Libya’s “political transition,” the opponents need to develop a dialogue with Libyan authorities, and both need to yield one step to ensure that the Gadhafi family be free from political settlement after the political transition and continue to play an important role in the new government; meanwhile, Gadhafi should exit the stage immediately and hand over power to his son Saif, an act which will push forward the democratic progression in Libya and finally realize a publicly transparent election.
Before this, Western countries were bombing in Libya for 10 days, and that achieved a significant result, meaning that the Libyan army suffered serious losses. For example, its air defense system was almost destroyed. However, it is obvious that to completely destroy Gadhafi and his tribal support cannot be achieved overnight. As Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said, the West had at stake being involved in another full-scale war. As for this possibility, the most worried one is none other than the United States. Obama clearly claimed that the United States would not get excessively involved in the Libya situation and no land forces would be sent to Libya. If this is the case, his European allies are bound to fight alone.
The second disadvantage to the West is that the opponents dare not accept their military support publicly. Being a troublemaker is the last thing the opponents want since they desire to be legalized. Because of this, Western military intervention will be caught in an awkward dilemma. The result of two forces in a stalemate will inevitably lead to a long-term civil war. For the West, which wants to achieve its interest in Libya through a blitzkrieg strategy, getting involved in a long-term war is not a smart move.
The third demerit is that the rising of the East is challenging the original international order. The West is undergoing an overall weakening of strength, as seen in the financial crisis. Emerging great powers like China, Russia and India all stood in strong opposition to the Western military intervention and called for a political and diplomatic way to resolve the Libyan crisis. If the West insists on doing things in their own way, they will be isolated and lose support in the United Nations; thus, Libya will possibly develop into a new focus of West-East confrontation. Under the backdrop of global economic turmoil, confronting with the East is not a wise choice for the West, at least for now.
As for Gadhafi’s power, under an air raid lasting 10 days, Libyan military effective strength suffered a huge hit. The contrast between the government’s army and the opponents’ army has become unfavorable for the government, and the opponents have started to carry out organized counterattacks.
Even though the West cannot publicly form a coalition with the opponents and fight against the government, the army embargo, no-fly zone and other sanction measures are enough to weaken the government’s strength, which will not last long.
The government feared most that their opponents, in an absolutely superior position under the West’s secret support, would initiate a general attack on the government army, after which they would start political settlement against the government.
The United States actively joined the air raids and sanction measures against Libya but strove to maintain a detached attitude because it was supposed to be a mediator in international disputes. As the only current superpower in the world, it cannot overlook such responsibilities because it has been stuck in two wars and yet it cannot totally disregard the humanitarian catastrophe in Libya. In return, because the United States has been trapped in the aftermath of two wars, if it gets involved in another war, this will not only damage its “just” image, but will also expose its weaknesses to “enemies” and endanger its national security.
The deeper background is that the United States is hoping to start a new mode of global governance and intervention, because global order is undergoing new adjustments and integration. Libya is undoubtedly a perfect testing field.