I don’t have any special expertise about international diplomacy, the culture and history of the Maghreb, or revolutions in general, but something has to be said about what’s happening in Libya.
News is scarce but it now seems reasonably certain that the government has unleashed widespread death by air attack, and by invited foreign forces (the mercenaries), on its own people. Sort of like Spain in the 30s, actually. The aircraft are French, Russian, and American, and Libyan special forces were trained by the British Special Air Service. Europe and the US are in this up to our elbows, especially as Europe has happily been heavily addicted to Libyan oil, which of course nourishes Ghaddafi’s exchequer.The response of European governments, and ours, has been a truly awesome and concerted explosion of Regretting and Deploring; even Berlusconi has finally figured out that events in Libya are Very Bad Things and Should Stop. Some have even used the words condemn, urgent and oppose! The latest from the White House is that Ghaddafi Jr.’s speech is Being Analyzed. Ban Ki-Moon is quoted as saying “the violence has to stop and stop now,” but obviously he was mistaken. How Ghaddafi can stand up against this barrage of frowning, and the heartfelt desire of his customers that he desist forthwith, is hard to understand, but resist he does and the carnage continues. This is not a few thugs with whips on camels and horses, it’s a high-tech bloodbath. Admittedly, the Brits have cancelled several export licenses for weapons, so the massacre of 2013 will be somewhat inhibited for want of hardware.
I don’t know whether this sort of thing bothers Putin or entertains him, but I cannot understand that we and the French need more than about an hour to inform Ghaddafi that all military air operations will stop at once, either by orders from him or by force from the Sixth Fleet: that we did not sell him these toys to kill his people with. We have bombed Ghaddafi’s headquarters in the past, and it would not be out of order to light it up again if the killing doesn’t stop.
Of course, things like a no-fly zone over a sovereign state needs to be set up very carefully, with lots of bargaining and debate over who would actually enforce it, under what rules of engagement, with what ample warning. Otherwise it wouldn’t be legitimate. Days of diplomats doing their thing, I expect. Perhaps the foreign ministries are thinking about preserving their influence with the regime in the future, as though it had one; that seems to be a reflex in that community.
Maybe it’s time to revisit the rule that oil belongs to whoever happen, through no effort of their own, to live on top of it, and make possession and disposition of natural resources conditional on compliance with basic principles of humanity and decency.