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Conflict in Libya

March 31, 2011

I’ve decided to bring some more discourse to the conflict in Libya, the leadership of Muammar Qaddafi, and the opposing rebel forces.  However before going into any discourse I believe that it is essential to discuss Libya in the context of history.

Libya had formerly been an Italian colony, known as Italian North Africa, until its independence in 1951, when King Idris declared himself monarch of the Libyan people.  Following the discovery of petroleum reserves, Libya became extremely wealthy however much of this wealth was concentrated in the hands of Idris and his homeland.  This lead to the coup in 1969 wherein Muammar Qaddafi became the new ruler of Libya.

So what has Qaddafi done in Libya since?

Relatively speaking, Libya has done quite well.

Within Libya, citizens enjoy the benefits of universal health care that is considered the best in Africa, free education in Libya and extensive government scholarships for Libyans studying abroad, the unemployed within the country receive monthly support payments in the range of $400-800/month.  There is no doubt that the welfare state in Libya is greater than any in Africa, and is comparable to many even in the Western world.

So where did this opposition movement come from?  I think it is necessary to note that Libya is not Egypt, nor is Tunisia.  This is not a movement by the people, through silent protest, this is a civil war with armed factions.  However like all things political, the conflict in Libya can be viewed on many levels.

In Egypt and Tunisia, for the most part, protests were nonviolent and the protesters were unarmed.  However alternatively, perhaps due to the eye of the international community, the governments of Egypt and Tunisia did not resort to the same level of violence that Qaddafi had in quelling the resistance.

The conflict first sparked on February 17th, as two protesters were killed in the city of Benghazi.  In response to this, with the support of the online community, a call went out to the citizens of Libya to step out into the streets to fight this injustice.  In response, supporters of Qaddafi in the capital of Tripoli went out to support the Qaddafi regime.

Personally, I have several suggestions, beliefs, and questions about the conflict in Libya.

The City of Tripoli

  • I hold the belief that Qaddafi should be removed from power, however I do not believe that it should be done through military force, but rather through diplomacy.
  • The democratic spirit that has swept the Middle East as of late is the catalyst of this uprising, and solely based on democracy rather than the lack of support of the people by the government as seen in Tunisia and Egypt.
  • Is it possible for the West to support Libyan democratic movements without violence?
  • Who are the rebels we are supporting, and what are their aims?
  • As Libya lacks a constitution and has been ruled since its independence by authoritarian leaders, who is going to replace Qaddafi in a country that lacks any opposition parties.

I question however the implications that military intervention has had on the region on several grounds:

  • There is no such thing as a neutral intervention.  The air raids and bombings of NATO forces on the Libyan military apparatus weakens the state’s military, therefore giving a competitive edge to the rebels.
  • This is a civil war.  The rebels in Libya are armed to the teeth with automatic rifles, explosive weapons, and even armored vehicles and tanks.  We are not supporting the people of Libya, we are supporting a militant group.  In Afghanistan in the 1990s, we supported a group of rebels that wanted to overthrow the government, they were the Taliban.  If we support these rebels before any discourse on who they are and what their goals are, how do we know that this will not just perpetuate conflicts between the Middle East and the West?
  • By intervening in the region through military force, are we not simply adding more violence to an already conflict-prone region that is stockpiled with an overabundance of arms?

On an end note, I’d like to put an emphasis on something Tariq Ali of The Guardian brought up:

The despot in Yemen, loathed by a majority of his people continues to kill them every day.  Not even an arms embargo, let alone a “no-fly zone” has been imposed on him.  Libya is yet another case of selective vigilantism by the US and its attack dogs in the west.

This is not a humanitarian intervention.  This is entirely political.

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From → World Events

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