It started out as a Day of Rage in Libya; a symbolic protest in solidarity with protests in Egypt and in the north of Africa. People rose up in opposition to leader Muammar Gadhafi, who they claimed to be an oppressive tyrant who paid them poorly and stifled all media. Gadhafi forces at that time staged a counter-revolution in Tripoli. Pro-government demonstrators were seen waving flags, and fireworks were exploded. It was reported then that Gadhafi, in response to the criticism, doubled the salaries of some state employees, and released 110 Islamic militants. Then the crowds of insurgents, local citizens determined to change their intolerable situation, increased in number beyond all expectation. Gadhafi was accused of firing upon the demonstrators, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands, shooting into crowds of protesters. “We will not surrender”, Gadhafi said. He blamed al Qaeda, “We will fight until the last man, the last woman, for Libya, from north, south, east and west.” Speaking in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli, in Green Square late February, Gadhafi told a throng of loyalists that he would continue to arm his supporters to fight opposition forces, and that “all the weapon stores will be opened.”
A few short days later, Gadhafi revised his claims. “Terrorists,” he said, “backed by al Qaeda, have released prisoners from jails; released them, and added them to their terrorist forces.” Gadhafi called those whom al Qaeda released, “Criminals, not political prisoners”. Gadhafi added that “We had to destroy the weapons stores to prevent them from falling into the hands of the terrorists.”
Before that week had ended Gadhafi appeared to reverse several stands. He had been accused of encouraging pro-government forces to shoot into crowds of protesters. “There were no protests! No protests”, he said,” in Benghazi, or Derna, or in the town of al-Baida”. Then today, March 9, speaking to French television, Gadhafi said, “I’d have to be mad to shoot at peaceful demonstrators. I’d never have done that. I’d never have allowed anyone to be shot!”
Now the West and NATO are discussing and soon may be installing a “no-fly zone.” This would be a major step for NATO, which is traditionally slow to intervene, preferring discussion and humanitarian efforts. For NATO to act to protect demonstrators against the long-standing Libyan government of Muammar Gadhafi would be a significant intervention.
We find a sovereign nation faced with an uprising, a citizens revolt, those citizens threatening to unseat the ruling regime, utilizing force to do so. The controlling government takes action to quell the revolt, and world forces, with considerable but not absolute support, may opt to aid the dissidents to overthrow the administration. This is judgmental. It presupposes a clearly defined right and wrong, and precludes the possibility that some decades down the road, history will find that the Gadhafi administration was justified. The United States and NATO cannot act on impulse, thought must precede radical action.
President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke by telephone. They agreed to “press forward with NATO, with planning, on the full spectrum of possible responses, including surveillance, humanitarian assistance, enforcement of the arms embargo, and a no-fly zone.” In considering a no-fly zone over Libya the United States, speaking through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, makes it clear that the decision to impose such a zone to prevent airplanes and more importantly helicopters from bombarding protesters from the air will be a matter for the United Nations to determine. It will not be by a United States lead initiative.
Gadhafi was quick to reply to the matter. “The Libyan people,” he says, “will take up arms if western powers seek to enforce a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace.” Gadhafi admonishes that if the decision is made to enforce this proposed no-fly zone the Libyan people will see the truth; that what the west wants is to take control of Libya, and to steal their oil. Gadhafi says that the United Nations Security Council is “bypassing its own processes.” He accuses al Qaeda of the popular uprising in Libya. He says the international community should be aware of the consequences of any hasty actions. In Gadhafi’s words, “The world will change its attitude toward Libya because Libyan stability means the security of the Mediterranean Sea. It will be a huge disaster if al Qaeda takes over Libya. Al Qaeda would flood Europe with immigrants. We are the ones who prevent al Qaeda from taking over control. They would drag the whole region into chaos. Al Qaeda would take over North Africa.”
In a recent statement Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates supports protection of the rebels in Libya, but he calls the imposition of a no-fly zone an “act of war”. He said such actions would be a part of a policy of attacking Libya to destroy Libyan air defenses. He goes on to say that our Constitution gives only Congress, not the president, the authority to declare war. Gates also points out that Gadhafi’s acts to defend his administration do not constitute a threat to the United States.Powered by Sidelines