Libya and the Two Faces of the West

Over the last few days western countries have started to enforce a UN mandated no-fly zone over the skies of Libya. French jets fired on Libyan tanks, while over a hundred cruise missiles were launched from British and American warships in the Mediterranean.

The offensive was started almost immediately after an emergency summit in France was attended by 22 nations and organizations including: France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, Spain and of course the US. In order to have support from the Arab community Morocco, Qatar, Jordan, Iraq and the UAE were invited as well. Of course all five Arab nations are major US allies.

The loosely termed “no-fly zone” resolution that was passed by the United Nations Security Council effectively gives permission for international forces to do anything it chooses in Libya short of occupying the country. That slack wording of the resolution was evident right from the first salvo, when bombs started dropping on rolling tanks.

Gaddafi is not the only tyrant that deserves attention

Whenever a population rises up to topple an oppressive regime, the western democracies can’t help but show their support for the people, myself included. However, when the protests turn into an internal armed conflict or civil war, it gets a little more complicated. If an armed uprising started up in the United States or Canada for any reason you can bet it would not be tolerated and it would be put down quickly, democracy be damned.

The American government claims the military action in Libya is not intended to bring about regime change, but is a humanitarian mission to protect rebels and civilians from Gaddafi forces. I find it ironic that many of the rebels in eastern Libya that the coalition is trying to protect are anti-American extremists that have fought Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Arab League did take part in the French summit and supported a no-fly zone in Libya as well, but it has already cried foul about the extent of the operation in only the first couple of days (they later retracted these statements). Western powers say they have the backing of the Arab world, but with only their traditional allies behind them the prospect that anti-American and anti-western sentiment will rise is a real concern.

There are too many questions that still remain unanswered. What is the end goal of the military action? With Gaddafi unable to use aircrafts (and tanks apparently) the war on the ground between the Libyan military and rebel forces will most certainly result in a stalemate. Also what gives President Obama or Prime Minister Harper the right to enter into a military conflict without first going through Congress or the House of Commons? Is that democracy?

7 CF-18's will take part in operation "Odyssey Dawn"

Most importantly, if we are there to protect the citizens trying to overthrow an autocratic regime, why aren’t we doing the same to protect the citizens of Bahrain, Yemen or the Ivory Coast? Last Friday 52 protesters were gunned down and hundreds were injured in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa by pro-government forces. At least six people were reported dead and hundreds injured after security forces in Bahrain drove pro-democracy protesters out of the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama using tanks and helicopters. So what makes Tripoli so special, 2% of the world’s oil?

I’m tired of western powers pretending to express concern over human rights and civilian lives, but only when it suits them. We continually bomb who we choose at the drop of a hat, such as Libya and Kosovo, and condemn without action the behavior of others like Yemen but say nothing when thousands of policemen from Saudi Arabia go into Bahrain to help quash the same type of uprising. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy?

One comment

  • “I’m tired of western powers pretending to express concern over human rights and civilian lives, but only when it suits them. We continually bomb who we choose…”

    The “we” in that, and in many statements like it by many others, is problematic. What ‘we’?

    Progressives – bearing in mind that there are real and fake progressives – know the score. They know what imperial powers have done and will do – until God stops them. ‘If’ the author knows that, I’m gladdened. But there’s more ground to cover. Seriously.

    The subject isn’t one I’m uninterested in nor one I don’t wish folks to stop talking about. But it needs to be covered… better. Sometimes.

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