Monday, February 21, 2011

The Libyan Atrocities

Libya's unbalanced dictator Moammar Qadhafi is hoping to avoid the fate of Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak by lashing out forcefully. Reports today show an escalating massacre of anti-government protestors, a massacre carried out by aerial bombardment and heavy artillery, killing hundreds. There have been defections, not only among the diplomatic corps, but in the military, but unconfirmed reports from inside Libya allege soldiers who refuse orders are being burned alive inside their barracks.

By these actions, Qadhafi and his entire family have secured a place alongside Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad as the great monsters of the late 20th century Middle East. Not since the former's response to the 1991 Shi'ite uprising and chemical weapons assault on Halabja has the Arab world witnessed such brutality, and there is little doubt that Qadhafi would create another Hama if the situation called for it.

In addition to the humanitarian implications, the rest of the Arab world has a stake in what happens, for if Qadhafi is successful, he will have crafted a path to regime survival for those facing their own protests, while if he fails, they will be more likely to give in with less struggle. For this reason, I wholeheartedly agree with Marc Lynch that the international community must intervene:
"By acting, I mean a response sufficiently forceful and direct to deter or prevent the Libyan regime from using its military resources to butcher its opponents. I have already seen reports that NATO has sternly warned Libya against further violence against its people. Making that credible could mean the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors. It could also mean a clear declaration that members of the regime and military will be held individually responsible for any future deaths. The U.S. should call for an urgent, immediate Security Council meeting and push for a strong resolution condeming Libya's use of violence and authorizing targeted sanctions against the regime. Such steps could stand a chance of reversing the course of a rapidly deteriorating situation. An effective international response could not only save many Libyan lives, it might also send a powerful warning to other Arab leaders who might contemplate following suit against their own protest movements."

A no-fly zone has already been called for diplomatically by none other than Libya's own deputy UN ambassador, one of those diplomats who, along with his colleagues in New York, has sided with the people against his government. Qadhafi's lack of friends in the Arab world has also led to a call for Arab League action by Qatar, which echoed the call for action by the UN Security Council.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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