The Arab League Invited the Interventionist Genie Out of the Bottle

Amr Moussa was once a hero to the Arab masses for his straight talk, but now he is scrambling to find footing after the Arab League, which he heads, gave the West the green light it sought to intervene into Libya’s internal affairs. According to the Christian Science Monitor, his statement earlier today, “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone. What we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians” evoked this comment from a French Arab specialist: “The Arab states are worried about retaliation from Libya, and I think French citizens have to be worried about that as well.”

Moussa is expressing concern that assurances he had received from the West that the establishment of a no-fly zone would not go further into ground attacks,  or occupation, or even the deaths of civilians are not being respected. I find his naivite disconcerting.  The French have been quite upfront in their expectations of a prolonged intervention (Libya Action Could Last ‘A While,’ Official Says–abc News), admitting that “A cruise missile late Sunday blasted Gadhafi’s residential compound near his iconic tent, and fighter jets destroyed a line of tanks moving on the rebel capital.” Vladimir Putin, with only a touch of rhetorical exaggeration, says the UN resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” in effect “allows everything” and “resembles medieval calls for crusades” (Putin: Libya Intervention Is like ‘Crusades–Reuters / Huffington Post).

President Obama gave no such assurances in his public statement, but to the contrary insisted that establishing a no-fly zone would first require smashing Libya’s anti-aircraft defenses. Joint Chiefs of Staffs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has been frank in admitting that no one knows where this will end (With no-fly zone in Libya now, US-led coalition freer to attack–Christian Science Monitor). There has already been an attack on Gaddafi’s residential compound (even as the allied forces deny that he is a target), and the Western media’s skepticism over Gaddafi’s claims of civilian casualties are reminiscent of the Reagan administration’s callous response to the news that their air attack on Libya had resulted in the death of Gaddafi’s adopted daughter:  to challenge the legitimacy of the adoption, as if that could justify the killing of a 15-month old girl.

We have taken sides in a civil war and we don’t even know the people whose side we have taken. While the Qaddafi’s claims that they are al-Qaeda agents are absurd and may be dismissed out of hand; any assumption that they are pro-American democrats, like any assumption that they are pious Muslims, comes out of empty space. The evidence on the ground suggests they are local residents in places like Benghazi who are fed up with Gaddafi’s anarchistic system, but that tells us nothing about what they will do in power. One must wonder why, once they had freed themselves from Gaddafi’s rule, they were not content to secure their own local governance, but felt they had to march on Tripoli. The pretense that this intervention is to reduce civilian casualties rather than to take sides in battle for power is obvious (How French jets saved Libya’s rebels at the last minute–Christian Science Monitor) and Amr Moussa isn’t the only person who should be uncomfortable about the unfolding of events.

American collusion in this enterprise does not bode well for America. It is not just a matter of fears of retaliation against our country (although I would think we would want to put an end to provoking violent people to come here by engaging in violence abroad).  We are being driven bankrupt by the other two wars into which have been mired and cannot afford to delude ourselves into thinking that this adventure is a Grenada-type intervention that will be over in a few days (Libya Action Could Last ‘A While,’ Official Says–abcNews).

Most embarrassing is the hypocrisy of this intervention is shocking. The Arab world is plagued with dictators. Gaddafi may be distinguished by his instability, but he is also distinguished by the fact that unlike most of them he actually did do something of major benefit to his people, demonizing claims to the contrary notwithstanding: as result of his policy of promoting private home ownership 93% of Libyan homes are privately owned putting his country “at the top of the home-ownership league globally” (Housing in Libya). I am not saying that makes up for his brutality, I only want to know why the pundits are not demonizing the king of Bahrain in this manner as he shoots down demonstrators in his streets. He also invited the Saudis into his country, but the allegations that Gaddafi invited foreign mercenaries into Libya appear to have been exaggerated at best. In the end it is the Libyan rebels and the Arab League who have invited foreigners into Libya.

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies summed it up well (Don’t “No-Fly” Libya–IPS): “Libyan civilians are paying a huge price in challenging their dictator. But powerful U.S. interests are at stake, and few of them have anything to do with protecting Libyan civilians…. [I]t’s not only about oil. The Libyan uprising is one of many potentially revolutionary transformations across the Arab world and in parts of Africa, where long-standing U.S.-backed dictatorships are collapsing—what kind of credibility can the U.S. expect in post-Qaddafi Libya? Washington may be betting that it can win credibility with the opposition by jumping out in front with an aggressive anti-Qaddafi ‘military assistance’ campaign, … starting with a no-fly zone. But in fact Washington risks antagonizing those opposition supporters, apparently the vast majority, determined to protect the independence of their democratic revolution.”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute






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