Libya: Why the West finally got it right
The firm stand of Britain's David Cameron and France's Nicolas Sarkozy is a major reason for the success of yesterday's Security Council resolution on Libya – a resolution that puts the West on the right side of history and morality.
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Although it may take a short while for the no-fly zone to be enforced, airstrikes can take place straightaway. They must start now, immediately and not later. Time is still of the essence: Qaddafi may now think twice about going into Benghazi will full force, since he risks having his planes and tanks destroyed, but not if there is even the slightest indication that it could be a number of days or weeks before the Security Council measures are implemented. How and when Qaddafi responds to yesterday’s measures will determine their effectiveness and the success of the uprising; It is, therefore, important that he is not given much choice.Skip to next paragraph
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Those who refused to back the UN resolution and oppose Western intervention in general are already being proven wrong: At the time of writing, Qaddafi’s regime had announced an immediate cease-fire, a markedly different stance to his previously defiant promise a week ago to take up arms against Western forces in the event of intervention. Nevertheless, the cease-fire announcement changes nothing. Reports suggest that Qaddafi’s forces continue to bombard rebel sites today and continue to inflict further casualties. As Western officials have rightly said, they’ll judge Qaddafi by his actions, not his words.
Devil in the details
The devil will, as always, be in the details. When the West does enforce the measures, the onus will turn on the Benghazi council and the rebels to organize themselves, operate around and take full advantage of the no-fly zone and Western airstrikes.
If Qaddafi decides to put his military march toward Benghazi on hold and instead tries to drain the rebels of their resources through a siege, then the West may have to consider providing them arms. Additionally, like many nascent opposition movements, the Benghazi council lacks depth, experience, and may suffer from internal disputes. At some point, they may require military advisers, who can impart lessons from the operational mistakes and successes of other rebel opposition groups elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the momentum has returned in their favor. Yesterday may be the day that won the conflict for the opposition; yesterday was also an example of diplomacy at its best and the international community uniting together to put humanity at the centre of attention. Prime Minister Cameron has ensured Britain and the West will, this time round, be on the right side of morality.
Ranj Alaaldin is a senior analyst at the Next Century Foundation. He is completing a doctorate on the Shiites of Iraq at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is also co-editor of a forthcoming book about the Iran-Iraq war.