The war against Libya By I.A Rehman - Thursday 7th April 2011

THE way the big powers are rewriting international law in their bid to liquidate Qadhafi and his regime in Libya contains grim warnings for many states, especially those in thrall to authoritarian rulers and nominally constitutional orders.
These countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, may have to regret their complicity in the affair, even their silence over it. When the wave of Arab awakening to the people`s right to democracy, and more clearly against corrupt dictatorships, reached Libya, the people of goodwill across the globe expressed their solidarity with the Libyan people and wished them success in carrying out a democratic revolution. The situation became complicated when the Qadhafi regime fought back, and quite viciously, and threw the outcome in doubt.
There was much to be said against a policy of letting the Libyan dissidents to be cut down by the regime`s armed forces. The issue of the threat to the lives of innocent civilians could not be ignored and the UN Security Council did its duty by warning the Qadhafi regime against attacks on the civilian population, especially from air.
However, it is not clear that the relevant Security Council resolution authorised the big powers to carry out a heavy and extensive bombing of Libya, supply arms to insurgents and throw their mercenary reserves and experienced spies into the battle against Qadhafi. This amounts to invasion of Libya, short of the use of big powers` properly uniformed soldiers. And this is an extension of the pernicious Bush doctrine of the mighty powers` right to change and overthrow regimes they do not like.
It would be reckless on anybody`s part to argue that this doctrine can stand scrutiny under pre-Bush international law. Questions of legitimacy and legality apart, the efficacy of the theory of policing the world through the wanton use of brute force is far from established. History is yet to pronounce on the effectiveness or otherwise of the wars for regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan and nobody can say the verdict will be in favour of the big powers. Further, in the case of Libya the intervening states have invited censure for their whimsical and selective love of people`s rights. The Bahrain regime is free to use its forces against the people and also to invite Saudi troops and recruit mercenaries here and there but Qadhafi cannot do so.
In plain language, such conduct endorses the Third World`s indictment of the big knights` bid to bend international law to protect the dictators who obey them and to punish the others. Even the danger of offering the Taliban material to demonise the West seems to have been ignored.
Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion has been caused by the puerile concept that the ends justify the means, and its arbitrary application. It has been argued that Saddam Hussein was bad, therefore the invasion of Iraq was right; the Taliban regime was bad, therefore the invasion of Afghanistan was right: Qadhafi is evil, therefore Libya can be invaded. The trouble is that two wrongs do not make a right. Besides, regime change can never be a noble act in itself. No one knows this better than Pakistanis who have repeatedly been victims of regime change and made the mistake of welcoming military dictators because the politicians toppled by them were bad and ignored their falling out of the frying pan into the fire.
The only end worth upholding in Libya, as indeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be the establishment of a legitimately democratic rule and empowerment of the people. That is a goal every rational human being must uphold. But the big powers have an extremely poor record as midwives in such situations. In most cases, they have been found to be part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Since the case for big powers` armed intervention in Libya is not established beyond doubt, it is bound to undermine the respect for the UN in the Third World, which has not forgotten the excuses these powers had advanced while resisting its calls for sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa. The UN may not suffer as serious a blow as was dealt to the League of Nations by Italy`s invasion of Libya or the Nazi forces` support to Franco`s war against the Spanish republic, but it will make a majority of the people of the world unhappy even if they cannot speak out because of their bondage to today`s economic and military czars.
Further, dangerous precedents are being set. Will the argument invoked against Qadhafi not be used against other regimes on the big powers` hit list for one reason or another? Yemen and Syria are perhaps already in the line. One should like to know whether the intervention in Libya has strengthened the professional warmongers` ambition to teach Iran a lesson. And are countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia exempt forever from the operation of the new doctrine? What will happen to the most allied of the allies once they are no longer useful to their fickle-minded patrons?
The real issue is exactly the question that has not been addressed: was any alternative course to deal with Qadhafi and his cohorts available? That Qadhafi had himself completed the case for his ouster is not in debate. But the way Libya and its people have been abandoned by states that often benefited from Qadhafi`s arbitrary decisions and his largess will for long reflect poorly on the states` conduct.
There is no doubt the people of Libya have been let down by the Arab League. The organisation may have been justified in not supporting Qadhafi but it failed the Libyan people by endorsing big powers` military intervention. The same can be said about the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). The way its members have behaved has betrayed their lack not only of physical strength but also moral fibre. The poor foreign secretary of Pakistan could do no more than whisper something about reservations on aerial attacks on Libya into some parliamentarians` ears, what the government did not have the courage to say openly. The Libyan people have also received a rough deal from the Organisation of African Unity. Finally, what happened to the rump of non-aligned nations?
All these organisations had a duty to check Qadhafi when he was engaged in all kinds of objectionable activities. If nothing else they could have distinguished themselves from the honourable big powers by not blinking at the doings of a favourite dictator.
Even now the Third World states and organisations must realise their common interest in dealing with problems of their communities themselves. Otherwise, they will have no defence against the big powers` drive to push the world back into the pre-UN era of imperial domination.

Source :

No comments:

Post a Comment