Libya continues to confuse
By Surujlall Motilall
Though the United States intervention in Pakistan to obliterate Osama bin Laden dominated news of the continuing UN cum NATO other intervention in Egypt and Libya, the situations in those countries, have maintained their prominence. The NATO allies have now slipped from an effort to pressure Colonel Gaddafi into stopping domination of his opponents by military force, to a further effort to remove Gaddafi from leadership of the country by force. NATO’s present conclusion is that any suggestion by Gaddafi of some form of compromise solution is nothing more than a ruse, a delaying tactic to allow him to regain supremacy in areas which he has been forced to surrender. And it would appear that the allies have been reinforced in their own view by the de-facto French intervention in the Ivory Coast which led to the overthrow of Gbagbo and an end to the rising civil war in that country.
In the forefront of this emerging position have been the British and French governments who have recognized President Obama’s reluctance to get entrenched in a long-term struggle in Libya, given President Obama’s preoccupation with gradually slipping out of Afghanistan as soon as this is thought feasible. On the other hand, the European governments of NATO claim a longer familiarity with Libya as a consequence of their colonial presence in the Middle East and North Africa, and their continuing concern for a central place in the investment in Libyan oil resources.
Their conclusion that the only route to resolution of the Libyan civil war is the removal of Gaddafi has this time been reaffirmed by the Chief of the Defense Staff of Britain, General Sir David Richards. He declared that the quick removal of the Colonel must be a central objective, lest the “conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power.” Presumably, President Obama’s surgical intervention in Pakistan will have given Richards the inclination, through these words, to suggest to the President that what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. And the General will feel that this time of issuing three arrest warrants for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court provides a legal basis for going the ultimate route against Gaddafi, though by that route he would be likely to be brought in dead rather than alive.
President Obama himself would appear to be rigidly trying to calibrate what determines the priorities of intervention in the wider Middle East-North African sphere where civil turmoil is the order of the day. He seems to have decided, for example, that the situation in Yemen, is a prime sphere for al Qaeda presence and wider-range manipulation, which is not worth a direct intervention by the United States. Here the persistent liquidation of his nationals by the Yemeni President is not given a prominence that would suggest direct intervention, not even an intervention defined as “humanitarian”.
”Interestingly, between the two positions of direct intervention to liquidate Gaddafi if necessary and the more restrained public posture of the United States, has come a suggestion from the International Crisis Group, (ICG) a non-governmental organization credited with lobbying for, and achieving in 2005, a basis for humanitarian intervention supportable by the United Nations, under the rubric of an international “responsibility to protect” (R2P). This is largely what the UN General Assembly Resolution 1973 legitimizing the present NATO intervention in Egypt and Libya are based on.
The ICG has now suggested that there is still a case for seeking to persevere in finding a basis for a ceasefire between the warring parties in Libya, as a prelude to some form of intermediate solution to the civil war. In a proposal published earlier this year, the ICG suggests that the present approach remains far from achieving the objectives of Resolution 1973, in particular that of stopping, or minimizing the slaughter of civilians, and that the possibility exists of a long-term stalemate. It also suggests that given the structure of the present Libyan state, it is unlikely that even if the NATO-supported rebel forces were to prevail, the possibility of consolidating a viable state structure is remote. The ICG makes the point that the Libyan Jamahirya does not have the character of a conventional state. It is not based on orthodox institutions of representation, given Gaddafi’s long held proclamation that “representation is fraud.” It therefore has no institutional structure on which a proper governance system could be constructed in the short term.
The implication is that what is likely to result is a ‘peacetime’ reflection of the civil war, that is, a split country based on regimes reflecting tribal loyalties and bargains. A further implication (not adverted to in the ICG paper) is that this kind of stalemate is hardly what those European countries long interested in Libya’s oil resources would favor. Over the years, the British, French and Italians have gone out of their way to appease Gaddafi, most notably in the British approach to resolution of the Lockerbie incident.
And it is hardly an implication which the United States, now trying to work out the institutional and diplomatic consequences of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, would favor. The ICG suggests a further effort of mediation directed, in the first instance, at an end to the civil war, even if this means that Gaddafi is a party to that result.
As the organization puts it, “to insist that Gaddafi must go as a prerequisite for negotiation” is not a feasible approach. As the civil conflict and the intervention have proceeded, the countries which did not support UN Resolution 1973, including China, Russia and Turkey, have not been particularly vocal. There seems to be a wait and see attitude on their part, well aware, as they are, of the difficulties that can arise from what is traditionally called the “nationalities question” in multinational states, when ethnic conflict is fired up by religious or other contentions. The continuing stalemate now gives the impression of diplomatic confusion among the major UN states.
*Rev. Surujlall Motilall lives in Roosendaal, the Netherlands. His email: S.Motilall@telfort.nl