Friday, March 04, 2011

Libyan No-Fly Zone: Making the Decision not easy, so we need to balance up all the factors.

The negative side is a longish list:
  1. It requires first an attack on radar and Surface-to-Air missile stations. Some installations will probably  be in civilian areas, so it is likely that civilian women and children will be killed, either from stray/misdirected missiles, or because they live too close.
  2. It requires attacks on pro-Gaddafi air force bases. More deaths.
  3. It requires enforcement, which means a lot of flying over a very extensive border and land area.
  4. There could be combat with Libyan jets, if any air bases were able to fly
  5. There is no absolute certainty that Gaddafi would leave in a short time, although it is pretty certain that a NFZ would speed his departure.
  6. It requires UNSC authority. Russia and China are not enthusiastic about a NFZ.
  7. Interestingly, the Arab League does seem at present to be in favour of the NFZ.
  8. If it is not made clear that the single exception to a NFZ would be a plane carrying Gaddafi into exile, it could make him even more likely to stay.
  9. Here's STRATFOR identifying more difficulties.

Against this there are arguments in favour of a NFZ.

  1. From reports in both mainstream and social media, it is pretty clear that while the Libyan revolutionaries are absolutely against an Iraq-style US invasion, reports do suggest that at least some of the rebels want a NFZ. This dates right back to the beginning of the rebellion, because Gaddafi was flying in mercenaries. In fact one airport at least was blocked by parking lorries on the runway (amazing how easy it is to disable an airstrip).
  2. A NFZ would stop Gaddafi being able to bomb and strafe Libyan sites and forces. So far he has used his air force to attack demonstrators, and recently to attempt to bomb arms dumps held by rebels, although there is a tendency for his pilots to miss their targets accidentally on purpose.
  3. A NFZ is also necessary for food aid to be brought in through a Turkish/Egyptian enforced NFZ.
  4. In coming days, we could see the airforce used to attack rebel forces, and it is not impossible for Gaddafi to order bombing of whole towns. In that event, the pressure for a NFZ on humanitarian grounds would become intense.
  5. There is a big strategic question. Dictators all over the world are watching developments closely. They have seen Bin Ali and Mubarak fall, and now we have a self-deluded dictator in Gaddafi who has chosen to stay and fight his own people. If Gaddafi succeeds, he will set a precedent for other dictators to use his strategy, which will mean immense suffering and protracted revolutions.
  6. Using the criterion that we must weigh up the number of deaths caused by imposition of a NFZ against the number of deaths caused by not applying a NFZ, it is pretty clear that the NFZ would have an outcome of save a significant number of lives, arguably in Libya, but overwhelmingly in the long run as other dictators learn that Gaddafi's strategy fails.

Therefore, even though I am a Green and a Quaker, and would very much prefer not to "start from here", it seems to me that the Green Parties, and all other progressives and humanitarians of the world should back the NFZ under these following conditions:
  1. Absolutely no US land invasion
  2. NFZ to be requested by the provisional/transitional Libyan Government in Benghazi.
  3. This request to be endorsed by a vote from the rebels themselves 
  4. Arab League or other non-US/UK states to lead the NFZ (though it may be necessary to call on Western logistic and intelligence resources).
  5. UNSC to authorise the action
This will of course take time, and it is of course infinitely preferable that while waiting, the Libyan people will be able to do the job by themselves without outside intervention. Which they might be able to do, especially if it is known in Tripoli that a NFZ is in the pipeline.

As ever, the international community is lagging behind events, responding  to them as they occur. The remedy for this is for the UN to develop a protocol that makes clear to all rulers exactly what UN action will follow from which actions.

The UN also needs a similar algorithm to  prevent the slide into dictatorship.

And it needs a Global Index of Human Rights to provide a continuous downwards pressure on human Rights abuses. So that eventually, we do not have to keep meeting situations that demand ugly decisions involving the use of force.

[updated 8th March]



Who do you think you are (in the nicest possible way) to even suggest a no fly zone over Libya?

What you are essentially saying is: Mr Gaddafi - you have our (the righteous, morally perfect West) permission to have a civil war in your country however we think it unfair for you to defend yourself with aircraft.

Imposing a NFZ is essentially a declaration of war - so you (the Green Party) should stand by your convictions and vote for war (not a very 'Green' thing to do).

We have no right to impose anything on Libya.

DocRichard said...

It depends on what you mean by Libya.

If you mean the Libyan state, then l'etat, c'est Gaddafi.

For us, Libya is the people, and they clearly want change, with the exception of a few who se their interests as tied up with Gaddafi.

You will note that the solution above side-steps the moral hypocrisy of the West by invoking the Arab League.

Responsibility to Protect has been accepted by the UN, rightly. A legitimate Government is there to serve the pople. When it starts attacking its own people, it is no longer legitimate.



Libya is obviously more important than some backward Africans devoid of oil killing each other in the eyes of the West. We stood back from Rwanda when we should have reacted - now we should do the same.

It's up to the people of Libya to make their own fate unless the UN decides to go to war - half measures such as NFZs are simply - well, half measures.

DocRichard said...

Sorry Gideon, I do not hold with absolute state sovereignty, because of the interconnectedness of the world we live in.

We were wrong to turn a blind eye to Rwanda, and we would be wrong to allow Gaddafi to bomb the daylights out of Libya.

Sure, it is up to the Libyans to sort out, but it is the provisional government and the people who are asking for a NFZ - not foreign troops, just a NFZ.

Half measure? If you mean that the full measure is an invasion, nobody is asking for that. It would be totally counter productive, poison the whole ArabSpring process.

NFZ is a balancing measure, removing the tyrant's air superiority, giving a level playing field on which the Libyans can sort their destiny.

I hope that the Libyans will finish the job before the NFZ comes together. But if Gaddafi really starts bombing indiscriminately - there will come a point when everyone will be screaming for a NFZ.

Or maybe not. The laissez faire approach to foreign policy - "I think the Green Party should have no foreign policy" as one influential member expressed it - is pretty popular. To me, it makes no sense that the manifest failure in Iraq should make us all withdraw and suck our thumbs.

The UN was set up during/after WW2 with the express intention of preventing a rerun of that catastrophe. It is a mixture of idealism and realpolitik, but if there were no UN, we would have to invent one.

Please note that the Index of Human Rights is designed to prevent and avoid the kind of situation that we are facing today.

Note the precedent: If Gaddafi wins, all the other dictatorships
waiting in the wings for their turn on stage will say - OK, violence works. We take the Gaddafi route.


Please don't get me wrong - I do not want to see any invasion of Libya.

Of course the anti government forces are asking for a NFZ - my point is that by imposing one we are stating our desire to see Gaddafi fall but in a way where we don't get our hands dirty or god forbid become responsible for anything.

This is just like Iraq - either get in there and sort it out or stay out and do nothing.

DocRichard said...

I do not see it as a choice between out and out invasion - which nobody wants, especially the rebels - and letting a dictator massacre his citizens.