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.