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Regime change via Western bombing : Libya on the brink

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        • ALGIERS, March 10, 2011 (Xinhua) -- Algeria has rejected the demand from the Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa to ask Algiers to lead an individual initiative at the United Nations Council of Security to help lift international sanctions on Libya. Algeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mourad Medelci said in an interview with El Khabar newspaper published on Thursday that " My Libyan counterpart (Musa Kusa) delivered a message to me... He asked Algeria to lead an initiative to the Security Council to retract some of its sanctions recently imposed" on the government of Muamar Gaddafi. "Our vision is that we prefer that the issue should be dealt by the Council of Security through an Arab initiative, rather than through a lone country (Algeria)," Medelci added. In this respect, the head of the Algerian diplomacy said: "the urgent meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers next Saturday in Cairo will permit us to draw up measures and steps that would be shaped in a sort of plan of action."

          Concerning whether Algeria would support any of the disputing parties in Libya, Medelci stressed that "our priority in Libya right now is to restore security and stability before talking about bilateral cooperation," pointing out that "politically speaking, Algeria holds relationships with the states rather than with regimes." He further specified that "We do respect the choice of people, and we don't intervene in that,"adding: "We would be ready to cooperate with governments chosen by Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans, once stability returns there." The United Nations and European Union have slapped sanctions on Libya, imposing an arms embargo, travel bans and asset freezes on Gaddafi and his family. It referred Libya's crackdown on anti-government demonstrators to the International Criminal Court, while reports said the U.N. Security Council had discussed a no-fly zone proposal pushed by European heavyweights Britain and France.

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              • William Pfaff:


                Paris, March 11, 2011 – To intervene in another country’s internal conflict has always posed a prudential judgement, weighing one’s own national interest, alliances, treaty obligations, the international balance and international law. The twentieth century has greatly complicated the matter by adding to this combination humanitarian convictions and considerations, mainly inspired by the modern experience of deliberate atrocity and ideologically motivated genocide in and since the second world war. Humanitarian military intervention in the affairs of another country, as a great many people wish to see happen in support of the Libyan popular rebellion against the grotesque and oppressive dictatorship of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, can be inspired by moral convictions (in this case, more a matter of simple moral outrage inspired by the character of Qaddafi’s rule), rooted ultimately in religion or in abstract conceptions of justice, or in established international law or agreement. It can also be a bloody blunder. Finally, it can disguise a policy of self-interest, greed, political ideology, or exploitation – or be interpreted as such – as was the case in the American and British-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 – although the Soviets were also the victims of American entrapment, as Zbigniew Brzezinski explained in a French magazine in 1998. (This did not prove in the long run to have been a very smart move by America, although as Mr. Brzezinski has explained, it did deal the fatal blow to a moribund Soviet Union. It is also why the U.S. is in Afghanistan today.)

                An Egypt ruled by a military elite suited the American interest and that of its Israeli ally until earlier this year not because of any American concern for Egyptian national interest or the Egyptians’ well-being, but because it suited Washington (and its European allies) to have Egypt – and Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and the other Muslim states in the region (Iran the self-elected exception) – politically passive and obedient to the prevailing international economic norms and practices of the western world. That is the way international interest works. When the Egyptian uprising broke out, following the one in Tunisia, Washington found itself in a dilemma. Its conservative Arab and Israeli allies – far more important to American economic and domestic political interests than Egypt – urged U.S. intervention in the non-humanitarian interest of defending the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship. So did many in Congress, the Pentagon, and American business. To judge from their public statements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her special emissary to President Mubarak, Frank Wisner, were supportive of the dictatorship, at least initially. But what was the United States supposed to do? Land the U.S. Marines to impose order in Alexandria and Cairo? That would have been madness. President Barack Obama eventually gave the Egyptian president excellent advice: to leave while he still could leave. The alternative would have been what we see now in Libya.

                Western opinion currently appears in favor of imposing a “no-fly” zone to support the uprising. This is understandable. The insurgents want to be free from Colonel Qadaffi’s loathsome, fantasy-laden and brutal rule. We wish them success. However overt military intervention would transform a civil conflict into a war between the existing Libyan government and the West – the U.S., NATO, Europe. The essence of the general Arab uprising is that it has been popular, authentic, spontaneous, democratic, and (with respect to established international political and economic interests) disinterested. This has been its marvel, and the source of its strength. It has been unique. An overt foreign military intervention threatens to discredit all that, undermining the essential quality of the Arab Revolution. In addition, although it may seem heartless to say this, the Arab uprising is not our affair, and we should stay away from it. It is theirs, and they must do with it what they wish if they are to maintain their self-respect, their newly-achieved power, and their ability to go forward from here to bring deep renewal to their cultural world.

                The civil struggle in Libya is not merely Qadaffi versus the people, but an affair of the tribal attachments of an Arab and Berber population, whose separate regions (in modern times Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan), were under Ottoman domination from the sixteenth century forward, and were not united until the twentieth century, and separatism undoubtedly persists even now. Western policy planners, military men, and even humanitarian enthusiasts, do well not to blunder into things they know nothing about. Readers may recall that George W. Bush, having eagerly invaded the Muslim world, had to be sat down and have explained to him the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims, and why this implied that he was handing Iraq over to predominantly Iranian influence. Moreover, military intervention is highly destructive. A “no-fly” zone sounds sensible and prudent, but the United States (as Robert Gates has warned Washington) does not intervene anywhere without first suppressing all possible defensive threats to American forces. Hence a NATO or U.S. no-fly zone would be preceded by days if not weeks of systematic bombardment of Libyan defensive sites, inevitably located near cities and oil installations, with much “collateral damage” and many civilian casualties. It is not a humanitarian policy.

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