March 10, 2011
There are those, such as Stephen Kinzer, who regard this as “a highly obscure conflict” — as though we really don’t know enough to judge what’s going on.
And for those of us simple-minded observers who see what is happening in Libya as just one current in the rising tide of the Arab democratic revolution and who see this trend as historic and inspiring, in spite of the fact that we do not know what it will lead to, it’s not hard to support the Libyan revolution — even though Libya after Gaddafi seems likely to involve a measure of chaos.
The alternative — that Gaddafi might succeed in crushing this popular uprising — would not only be bad for Libya, but bad for countless people across the Arab world who currently dream of the possibility of liberating themselves from the suffocating grip of autocratic power.
Anti-interventionists argue that Libyans can and must win this fight on their own. Self-appointed saviors from the West would indeed be unwelcome. But is that really what’s on the horizon? Is President Obama or anyone else currently recruiting support for a coalition of the willing, eager to liberate Libya and cast out the tyrant?
To intervene is “to interfere, usually through force or threat of force, in the affairs of another nation.”
Libya’s revolutionaries have made it clear that they don’t want a direct military intervention on Libyan soil. But that’s not a rejection of all outside support. Indeed, the Interim Transitional National Council in its founding statement said: “we request from the international community to fulfil its obligations to protect the Libyan people from any further genocide and crimes against humanity…”
How can that request be fulfilled? Would a no-fly zone help? If that is what is explicitly requested, then it does not constitute a form of interference. Assistance in response to an appeal for help is not an imposition.
Instead of pro- and anti-interventionists indulging in an ideological debate, what is called for right now is dialogue — not between these two camps but between representatives of the Libyan revolutionary movement and those national and international bodies which are ready to offer assistance.
Still, there are those who want to draw a sharp divide between military and non-military aid. Food for the hungry but no guns for the fighters. And what about medical assistance for those injured on the battlefield? Or intelligence information? Or jamming communications?
There are all sorts of ways of supporting the fight without dropping bombs, but first you have to take sides. If you’re not willing to take sides, the question about intervention is moot, but if you support the revolution, the only question is: how can Gaddafi be defeated?
Update: CNN now reports:
The head of the interim government in eastern Libya pleaded Wednesday for the international community to move quickly to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, declaring that any delay would result in more casualties.
“It has to be immediate action,” Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told CNN in an exclusive interview in this eastern opposition stronghold. “The longer the situation carries on, the more blood is shed. That’s the message that we want to send to the international community. They have to live up to their responsibility with regards to this.”
Anti-interventionists might prefer to turn a deaf ear to this appeal, or perhaps question Abdul-Jalil’s authority to speak for the revolution, but I’d say it’s time to set aside this outworn debate. It’s time to support the Libyan revolution.
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