Libya: Will escalation lead to freedom, or just more bloodshed?

Come the Italians, come further airstrikes. Silvio Berlusconi has authorised the use of Italian jets in “targeted military action” against Muammar Gaddafi. Meanwhile, Gaddafi has withdrawn his forces from Misurata in a move rebels suspect precedes an attempt to obliterate the town in a hail of artillery fire. More than two months after February 17th, military action appears no closer to meeting the objective of protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s fury.

According to the BBC, The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, even suggests that intervention from NATO could create “an expectation among rebel groups in the Middle East that foreign governments would help them to overthrow their governments”. While we feel that this perspective belittles the struggle of the Libyan people and risks casting those fighting for freedom in the Middle East as opportunists, the risk of military action begetting military action seems genuine to us.

It’s true that at least two missiles fired by NATO planes are reported to have struck Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli yesterday. Once again, though, our concern is that even the successful removal of Gaddafi will polarise an embittered nation. He still has troops who are loyal to his regime, even if it’s unclear how many stay with him out of genuine feeling and how many do so out of fear. If he is unseated, how will they respond? How will the thousands (millions?) of Libyans who are relying on NATO action respond if they discover that coalition plans extend only as far as toppling their autocratic leader, not supporting them in achieving self-determination?

What have we learned from the tragedies of Iraq, a nation which admittedly suffered under the yoke of Saddam Hussein but which has fallen apart in the wake of his removal (and in the face of sickening profiteering on the part of a handful of Western corporations)? How about Afghanistan, where we’re still engaged in a war that has lasted for over a decade, and where signs of peace and stability are few and far between? Quite the opposite, in fact; many thousands of Afghans have been displaced and/or killed.

We would love to believe in military action in Libya. With such dire precedents, however, we find it hard to foresee anything other than a protracted, expensive, and futile struggle, or regime change followed by societal collapse. We sincerely hope we’re mistaken.



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