Eight years to the day after the US invaded Iraq, a Coalition of the US, UK, France, Italy, Canada and Qatar has effectively gone to war with Libya with a semblance of support from the UN Security Council.
So despite the UN resolution explicity excluded ground forces, this group struck Gadaffi's regime on the ground with Tomahawk Missiles.
Libyan TV reported that 48 people were killed and 150 were injured. Gadaffi says that these countries have declared war against Libya.
While the US in particular seems keen to make this appear as though it is an international force, and Obama seems to be very cautious about being seen to lead this group the difficulty is that they are now effectively attacking another country.
Gadaffi is difficult, to say the least, and seems to be eccentric. His public statements seem nothing short of bizarre. The so-called “war against terror” seems to have driven the West to see him as an important part of that campaign. Since 2004 the US has lifted all sanctions against Libya.There are as yet unproven rumors that he helped fund Sarkozy’s last election campaign.
He is authoritarian and there is definitely completely justified opposition to his regime. It seems sensible to assume that these people have been badly treated by Gadaffi especially as we see aeroplanes flying over and dropping bombs on Libya’s own citizens and we remember that the regime was prepared to gun down its own citizens. So it’s true too that Libya has been “at war’ with itself . But I wonder where this will go ?
Libya has the highest standard of living in Africa. It sits between Egypt and Tunisia.Its ancient capital Tripoli was designed by the Romans and is Gadaffi's stronghold.
Libya is a large country, seven times the size of the UK, but with a population of only 6.4 million. The population is very concentrated in cities, and the second city Benghazi is where the opposition has been strongest. Colonel Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than four decades.
I have a distinct sense of uneasiness about this.The Western powers are now in there along with Qatar, and seem to have already gone beyond their mandate from the UN. Eight years seems a very short time to have already forgotten the lessons of Iraq.
I remain cynical about why the West only seems to intervene when the country has oil. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has treated his citizenry brutally and appallingly for years but there was no intervention.Bahrain and Yemen have had uprisings in the past months , and Egypt and Tunisia before that. The US and others have equivocated as the Middle East has seen popular uprisings in many countries.We have seen extreme cruelty from a number of Middle Eastern regimes, and yet no Western intervention Starting in Tunisia, and spreading to Egypt where they now try to sort through their Government, we have seen demonstrations in Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere.As I write this the government of Syria is responding violently to demonstrators.
The US has supported many of these leaders in the name of “stability “ for many years. They have held up these regimes because it has been in their interests to do so. While there are many fine words about supporting democracy, this has never been sufficient reason for the US and its allies to intervene….so it's hard to understand what the real rationale is here.
Is it the geographic location, adjacent to Egypt and providing a valuable foothold for the US and others in this crucial part of the world as volatility sweeps through the region?
Is it the politics of oil? Libya exports about 1.8 million barrels of oil a year so it is significant, but my bet is that it’s a mixture of self interest for the US and others, a strategic position in relation to oil and probably more. I fear this has nothing at all to do with the fact that Gadaffi is cruel and repressive and killing his own people.
Odds are that such attacks from these 6 powers will simply strengthen support for Gadaffi , and that this will be a long bitter war and the blood of civilians will again be lost.
The US and UK have shown us before that they start an invasion easily and well. But they are really bad at getting out.So it seems like their intervention here is selective and it is dubious that it has anything to do with the desires of the protesters. It seems that the lessons of Iraq, still so fresh with the death of a million people have not yet been learned .
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