Gwynne Dyer writes:
So why is this “coalition of the willing” (which has yet to find a proper name for itself) doing this? Don’t say “it’s all about oil”. That’s just lazy thinking: all the Western oil majors are already back in Libya.
I remember nutters insisting the Iraq war was about oil. The cost of the war has been many many times more expensive than any oil pumped from Iraq – and regardless the US is paying the same price as everyone else for Iraqi oil.
Maybe it’s just about local political advantage, then. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the driving force behind this intervention, and he faces a re-election battle next year. Is he seeking credit with French voters for this “humanitarian” intervention?
Implausible, since it’s the right-wing vote he must capture to win, and saving the lives of Arab foreigners does not rank high in the priorities of the French right.
True. Having said that Sarkozy’s opularity has increased due to his leadership on this issue. but I don’t think that was the motivation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was the other prime mover in the Libyan intervention. Unless the coalition Government he leads collapses (which is quite unlikely) he won’t even have to face the electorate again until 2014.
And this will be long forgotten, unless the conflict is still ongoing in which case it will be very unpopular.
As for United States President Barack Obama, he spent weeks trying to avoid a US military commitment in Libya and his Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, was outspoken in denouncing the idea. Yet there they all are, intervening: France, Britain, the US and half a dozen other Western countries, strikingly unaccompanied by Arab military forces, or indeed by anybody else’s.
There is no profit in this for the West, and there is a high probability (of which the interveners are well aware) that it will all end in tears.
So why are they doing it?
So why have the Western countries embarked on this quixotic venture? Indians feel no need to intervene, nor do Chinese or Japanese.
Russians and South Africans and Brazilians can watch the killing in Libya on their televisions and deplore Gaddafi’s behaviour without wanting to do something about it.
Even Egyptians, who are fellow Arabs, Libya’s next-door neighbours, and the beneficiaries of a similar but successful democratic revolution just last month, haven’t lifted a finger to help the Libyan revolutionaries.
They don’t lack the means – only a small fraction of their army could put an end to Gaddafi’s regime in days – but they lack the will.
Indeed, they lack any sense of responsibility for what happens to people beyond their own borders. That’s normal.
What is abnormal is a domestic politics in which the failure to intervene in Rwanda to stop the genocide is still remembered and debated 15 years later.
African countries don’t hold that debate; only Western countries do. Western countries also feel guilty about their slow and timorous response to the slaughter in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Nobody else does.
Sad, but largely true.
Why is it only Western countries which believe they have a duty to intervene militarily, even in places where they have no interests at stake, merely to save lives?
My guess is that it’s a heritage of the great wars they fought in the 20th century, and particularly of the war against Hitler, in which they told themselves (with some justification) that they were fighting pure evil – and eventually discovered that they were also fighting a terrible genocide.
Of course not all in the West have this view. Keith Locke said in Parliament:
Five important Security Council members—Germany, Brazil, India, China, and Russia—did not support the UN resolution. They were reluctant to support military intervention in Libya, and the Greens share their concerns. Although we fully identify with the democratic forces in Libya and do not wish to see them crushed, we see a lot of problems with the military intervention as it is evolving right now.
They identify with the democratic forces, but won’t vote to use force to protect them from being slaughtered by Gaddafi.
Generally military force is the last resort. But it is a resort. With the Greens, they seem unable to support military action, no matter how noble the cause.