Sunday, March 20, 2011

Failing to resist

So the die is now cast. The UNSC has voted, and it has voted for war against Gaddafi - that is, after all, what this is. This isn't a "no-fly" zone - as the resolution itself says, it's an authorization to use military force to protect civilians; and if a few civilians get killed along the way, so be it. Allied forces are claiming that there have been no civilian casualties from all the missile strikes and bombings. I don't believe them.

Some intelligent arguments have been made over the last 2 days by people who are less than thrilled about this. They argue that the motivations of those involved in the airstrikes (the usual suspects) are less than pure, and that very similar action against Saddam Hussein in 1991 led to a 12-year stalemate in which millions of civilians were killed, and the relative strength of the regime against its opponents on the ground provided one of the myriad excuses for the 2003 invasion and occupation of the country.

These are not baseless arguments. The Americans, British, French, Italians, and yes, Canadians too, likely do not have purely humanitarian concerns at heart. The question is, exactly who does? The argument that Western governments will be condemned no matter what they do isn't entirely hollow - if America had sat by and let Benghazi fall, I know lots of people who would have said it was because they privileged Libya's oil supplies over its people.

The missing question in all this debate is "Where are the Arabs?" For sure, most of their leaders actually have no interest in seeing the rebellion against Gaddafi succeed - as current events in Bahrain demontrate (another place where you won't see the Americans leaping to the defence of civilians, despite having a base on the island). It was heartening for sure to see the Arab league demanding action to reign in one of their own colleagues. It was equally disheartening to see them doing absolutely nothing about him themselves.

The ever-plaintiff Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, was among the first to complain when the bombs and missiles started hitting Libya, as if he had expected something different. Moussa, an Egyptian, is himself now a favourite to win Egyptian presidential elections, and a former Egyptian foreign minister.

And where has Egypt been all these days, exactly? One might imagine that post-Mubarak Egypt migh have a bit more interest in helping to - at the very least - stabilise the situation in neighbouring Libya. It certainly has the wherewithal: Egypts armed forces are, after the IDF, the most well-armed in the Middle East, receiving $1.3 billion in military aid from Washington each year, and with an army and air force that are more technologically advanced than anything Libya has to put on the field.

Yet Egypt sits on its hands, it's leaders pining away (at least, publicly) for London, Paris, and Washington to come and save the Arabs from one another.

And so the Arabs continue to receive the treatment reserved for those who cannot take care of themselves - to be continually taken advantage of by those with the means to forward their own interests. This situation will not change until the Arabs choose to change it. That process started in January with the people of Tunisia. Time will tell whether they succeed. Western intervention in Libya is, however, another example of the Arab failure to resist.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: