Should the world intervene in Libya’s war?

‘There is a risk of escalation’


There is a war on between the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the Libyan people. In calling on Gadhafi to leave, many foreign governments — including Canada’s — have picked sides. The inevitable question that follows is: what are they prepared to do about it?

The answer, so far, has been sanctions, an asset freeze, travel bans, and a request that the International Criminal Court investigate members of the regime for possible crimes against humanity. Canada has also banned financial transactions with the Libyan government and its institutions, including the Libyan central bank. France and the United States are sending humanitarian aid directly to opposition-held areas of the country.

This is all well and good. While none of these measures are likely to persuade Gadhafi to give up, they intensify pressure to defect on those close to him, and assert that we are not neutral in a conflict with a profound moral dimension.

But what if they are not enough? What if Gadhafi and his thuggish friends and relations manage to hold on to Tripoli and fight back, driving the death toll ever higher? Ghadhafi has already shown a willingness to do whatever is necessary, including mass murder, to stay in power. If this continues, we in the outside world who have endorsed his ouster will face much more difficult questions. There’s no point ducking them now.

Among proponents of preparing for military intervention is Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brooking Institution’s Doha Center.

“Fortunately, it seems like the Libyans are doing a good job on their own. One side is winning and the other side is losing. As long as that appears to be the case, we don’t need to get ahead of ourselves and talk about more drastic military action,” he said in an interview with Maclean’s.

“If push comes to shove, and we’re talking about tens of thousands killed a week or two from now, if there’s no quick conclusion to this, then I think we have to consider a different set of policy options and take more decisive military action. And that’s when we can start to talk about some sort of military intervention.”

A starting point might be imposing a no-fly zone on Libya, meaning that attempts by Gadhafi’s regime to use planes and helicopters against the opposition will be met with force, and that planes carrying mercenaries into Libya will similarly be engaged. Hamid admits it’s a potentially hazardous policy. “There is a risk of escalation. Once you start moving in that direction, you don’t know where you’re going to end up.”

Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, is not opposed to a no-fly zone, but he isn’t sure how effective it might be, given that most of the war so far has been fought on the ground. But he too says the outside world should be prepared to intervene more forcibly to influence the course of the Libyan war.

“I don’t think there’s any taste in Western Europe or the United States for putting people on the ground,” he says. But there are other options.

“Let’s be candid about this. What about arming the rebels? If the opposition is losing for lack of arms, give them arms. If Gadhafi’s much better armed forces begin to win this war, are we prepared to stand by and see him win it, and then wreak vengeance on the opposition?”

Abrams, who was deputy national security advisor for the Middle East during the George W. Bush administration, says arming Gadhafi’s foes might be most effectively done through Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and need not be publicized.

“There are planeloads going in with humanitarian goods,” he says. “One of them could carry some other stuff too.”

Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, is wary about any sort of outside military intervention.

“This is a revolution about justice and dignity and liberation and freedom from a dictatorship,” he says. “It would not receive the support of the Libyan people to replace a dictatorship through military intervention. It’s against the whole idea of a revolution. It’s about the Libyan people deciding for themselves.”

Hamid agrees that outside help, especially American, might give fuel to Gadhafi’s propaganda about resisting foreign aggression. And he says many in the Middle East don’t trust the United States because of its long support of friendly dictators in the region. But he says the United States now has an opportunity to change this and build goodwill among people who may soon be free.

“We have a lot to account for in terms of failing to support the popular aspirations of Arab people. It’s precisely because we’ve failed so much in the past that it’s incumbent to get it right this time,” he says.

“I think it would embolden pro-democracy forces all across Libya if they saw that the outside world was standing by them, and was willing to fight with them, and willing to protect them. Do we want to be remembered as doing nothing as the Libyans fought for their freedom, and died for their freedom, and we let them down? That would be a terrible legacy, and one that would stick to the United States and the international community for quite some time.”

For now, Western military doesn’t appear to be necessary. The opposition in Libya has taken over much of the country and vows to move on Tripoli. In areas under its control, committees are springing tackle the mundane but vital tasks of civic administration.

“Not only Libyans, but Arabs across the region, have shown they have a knack for democracy,” says Hamid. “They get this stuff. They care about it and are willing to fight for it. And once they have the opportunity, they seem to do a pretty good job of running their own affairs.”


Should the world intervene in Libya’s war?

  1. Absolutely not.

    Libyans have requested we stay out of it.

    • What I don’t understand is, why has America only realised now that Gadaffi is an unjust dictator? Was he not unjust 5 or 10 years ago? Has he become unjust over night or over the course of a period of 2 weeks?

      It’s strange how America and it’s allies, consider Gadaffi’s government as a government when it suits their needs.. Now that America have the support of the 100 thousand or so Libyans most of whom are emigrants, the Gadaffi government has now become a regime?

      It reminds us very much of the Iraq war, when America stood silent with Saddam, n when it suited them along came the excuses of weapons of mass destruction n Saddams government became this so called regime?!

      With the Egyptian border with Palestine now exposed to a new leader whom America have no control over, becomes under threat it’s no wonder that leaders have become unjust over night, governments have become regimes.

      America simply wants to secure the occupied state of Israel by moving it’s forces in and setting up a base for it’s military. Little aware, the Libyans who are actually looking for s change in government are actually going to lose their country to the west along with all it’s natural resources.

      Wake up Libya!

    • Emily noted:
      "Libyans have requested we stay out of it."

      Stop talking to Muammar, Emily….he's biased.

      • "Rebels in eastern Libya said on Sunday they had formed a national council, pledging to help free areas of the country still under Muammar Gaddafi's rule and describing the council as the face of the revolution.

        Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the new National Libyan Council that was launched in the eastern city of Benghazi, said the council was not an interim government, was not contacting foreign governments and did not want them to intervene.

        Ghoga said: "We are completely against foreign intervention. The rest of Libya will be liberated by the people … and Gaddafi's security forces will be eliminated by the people of Libya."….

  2. I dunno – what if we back a Libyan coup and the winner someday attends a lunch hosted by an arab agency who has made unfortunate comments about Israel?

    • lol.

  3. Prime Directive time. The French interfered in a little revolution to the south of us and look what happened.

    • Of course, lack of intervention doesn't always look great either… see: Genocide, Rwanda.

    • Also, not to be pedantic, but to quote Wikipedia: "The Prime Directive is a Starfleet regulation, and thus only applies to Starfleet officers. Civilian citizens of the Federation are not bound by it. In fact, if a Federation citizen has chosen to personally interfere with another civilization, Starfleet is powerless to remove that individual, under penalty of court-martial".

      So, unless you're actually in Starfleet (which, while it was never established definitively when it will be established, won't exits as an organization until at least sometime after 2067) you should feel free to interfere in the affairs of any group on Earth. Whether or not it is wise to do so is another matter entirely, but you've got at least 50 years until you have to start worrying about the Prime Directive, and even then you only have to worry about it if you enlist!

      • Any group on EARTH?

        • Presumably you can mess with people beyond Earth too, but you'll have to find them and figure out how to get to them first.

          • "AliEns."

            Awesome. Can't wait for Bush twins' Duogarchy's Inaugural Address: "And we say to all aliens and enemies of Earth: Bring it on."

            That'll end well.

          • I thought you were going for the 'nuklar' joke

      • Lol, LKO. Fair enough. Sometimes, though, we either go all in or look the other way. One seems as bad as the other. Iraq isn't working out so well. Ditto Afghanistan. Does the world community have the finesse to let things happen so that the "right" people end up in charge with a minimum of bloodshed and resist the temptation to put in place a Shah, a Saddam, a Pinochet, a Noriega, ad nauseum?

        • Until and unless we're asked for help….we have no business intervening.

          • Asked by whom?

          • "Rebels in eastern Libya said on Sunday they had formed a national council, pledging to help free areas of the country still under Muammar Gaddafi's rule and describing the council as the face of the revolution.

            Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the new National Libyan Council that was launched in the eastern city of Benghazi, said the council was not an interim government, was not contacting foreign governments and did not want them to intervene.

            Ghoga said: "We are completely against foreign intervention. The rest of Libya will be liberated by the people … and Gaddafi's security forces will be eliminated by the people of Libya."

          • I think that's generally the wisest course. My only caveat would be that if a serious air assault begins, or appears to be about to begin (and I don't actually suspect that's going to happen, but if it did…) I'd support establishing a no-fly zone rather quickly, in an effort to stave off a genocide from the air. I agree that we should remain reluctant to intervene without a formal request for assistance from the opposition (and perhaps even then), but if a serious bombing campaign should begin I'm not too concerned about waiting for the call for help to actually be received before we start trying to stop it.

          • That's next up apparently, but not necessary yet.

  4. The idea that an uprising against a Middle-East tyrant is a rally for democracy is utterly naive. It is much closer to a tribal war. Don't expect gratitude for a military intervention by the West, they will fight us tooth and nail. We should have learned from earlier interventions. Forgot Iraq and Afghanistan? Get out of the bubble and get real.

    • Regardless as to whether or not intervention is a good idea in this case, there really is no basis for comparing this to the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq.

      My understanding of the situation in Libya is that it's not a tribal war at all, even though Libya has tribes.

    • When dealing with the Arabs, there's only one consideration: oil. A prolonged civil war in Libya could push the price of crude beyond $100 a barrel and up to $200.

      In case anybody has forgotten, Canada nearly got rolled over in the Great Recession of 2008. At least that was the way it looked in Windsor, Ontario. We don't need to get slammed by another economic downturn in the US because of the inflation that would be felt at the gas pump.

      I cannot believe that I am the only Evil Genius who thinks that NATO should bomb Libya's air defences and set up a No Fly Zone. Trust me, folks: it's in the works.

  5. I think the prevailing wisdom seems to be that we should avoid intervening as much as possible, and likely avoid intervening at all, especially if Libyan opposition forces don't ask for our help, and I think I agree that this is a wise stand. Also, things would seem to be going reasonably well for the opposition so far, all things considered, so we may be spared from having to make too many really difficult decisions.

    That said, one area where I can be quickly and easily convinced that it would be appropriate to intervene, even without a direct request from those in Libya, would be establishing a no-fly zone. So far attacks from pro-Gaddafi air forces haven't been horrific (though at least two pilots flew their planes to Malta and defected rather than bomb targets in Libya) but that said, Libyan Air Force pilots have clearly been ordered to bomb Libyan protesters, and have in fact bombed opposition-controlled bases, and that sort of thing can get out of hand quickly with a reasonably large air force.

    A mad man can kill an awful lot of innocent people with modern air power, so I don't want us waiting too long to decide to take that option away from Gaddafi because we're waiting for a formal request from the opposition. Arming the opposition or assisting in other ways makes me more nervous, but keeping them all from being bombed back to the stone age is unlikely to be an act that we would end up regretting, imho.

    • I though I heard there is a no fly request is in the works. I think it requires another SC vote.

  6. My name kandoji and i vthink ttath this good articul tooo reed becoz it is intereshting



  7. This… is too intaristang OHH Maomaar Gadhfi why do this whyy at a time lak thiis now to sing my song:


  8. Aloo Patap Singh stop osting dee badd comeenntshs cuz it is the veryyy bad and anyfays Kandojii i remebair u i sink i know u , u sound like batmaaan

  9. At the last paragraph you will see they spelled fight wrong they wrote fiht just check IN THE SENTENCE IN THE LAST PARAGRAPGH "THhey are will to fiht for it"

    • no one cares

  10. no! hi

  11. Only if requested. I do think we will provide air support for the opposition, but probably no ground troops unless the opposition is taking a beating. The world hasn't done a very good job with helping people who need it. We cannot let Gaddafi govern the whole country again.

    This is not Iraq. This is a country that wants freedom and democracy, and we should help them if they ask us to.

    • It's payback time, Alex. Moammar Gaddafi has used up all his chits and he has nothing that anybody wants except his ouster. Everybody thinks that Gaddafi is as deranged as Saddam Hussein, so it's a cinch that he will bomb Libya's oil fields rather than let his enemies– who are legion– get access to them.

      Remember Kuwait? Saddam and his Revolutionary Guards left a spume of black smoke from all the oil wells that they set fire as they retreated from Kuwait. I hate to talk like an oil man, but nobody wants that for Libya because it would be an ecological disaster for the Mediterranean like nothing the Gulf of Mexico has ever seen.

      Gaddafi has spent most of his adult life sowing the wind, and now it's time to reap the whirlwind. Hark, I think I hear a scirocco!

  12. R2P resposibility to protect is largely a Canadian contribution to the UN. So when will we push for it's implimentation in Libya? Perhaps Lloyd Axworthy or Alan Rock will speak to this.

  13. I don't think of it as Libya's war. I think of it as everybody over there waking up to the realization that they have been taken for suckers. I think of it is as them not being impressed.
    I think a no-fly zone in the area would be nice. We could break out the JSF's, I'm sure they're dieing to get one out of the box.
    Shame on any one who does business with the regimen .
    And remember, people in Chad eat dirt.

    • There's no such thing as "our" war anymore, Michael. If Canada imploded like that scene in the Steven Spielberg movie because of separatism in Quebec, for example, our neighbours both near and far would be effected. One reason why Chadeans eat dirt is because there's a shortage of peace, order and good government in that country. The civil war in Libya won't make the dirt taste any better.

  14. This is basically a clash between tribes instigated by vested interest… Tomorrow , the tribes at war will forget about the fight, hug each other and carry on life as usual. This has been happening from time immemorial and will continue until 100% people start using their brain independently. Gaddafi unified the loose tribes and created a nation called Libya. It is nobody's business to intervene in this conflict and break Libya into several tribal homelands

    • As long as only Libya is effected, Maya, there's no reason for the world to intervene. However, the world must get involved when it's dragged into the conflict. When dealing with the Arab World, there's only one consideration: oil. I don't want to pay $10 per litre at the gas pump because some madman across the water from Malta wants to pass on the family business to his sons. If bombing Libya's air defence system would make gas cheaper, or keep the price of gas the same as it is now, I say let's set up a no-fly zone immediately.

  15. To pick a side here is to choose which tyrannical regime to support. These people have no idea of justice. They know only rule by despotism. Stay the hell out of their battles.

  16. Irony:

    Please note, Bob Rae and Iggy are demanding a no-fly zone, stating the obvious that it is required to protect civilians.

    Does anyone think it necessary to remind Iggy and Rae that new, state of the art planes would do the job far more effectively? After all, Rae and Iggy….and the NDP are all against the F-35…because there are no requirements for those advanced aircraft in Canada.

    • If Canada doesn't build the F-35, James, it will only be built in the States and called something else once it rolls off the assembly line. Most Canadians are too young to remember the Avro Arrow, since the House of Commons killed it in 1949, but that plane could have changed the outcome of the Korean War. My father might not have had to make a stand at "Little Gibraltar" if the Van Doos had had adequate air support.

  17. Someone ask if they'd be handy in Libya…..if we had them already. Failing that…..they may be handy in the future.

    just sayin.

  18. This is an internal matter. Citizens of Libya has to resolve it themselves so no one can turn around and cry outside interference. Freedom and democracy is sweeter, more treasured, and well guarded when citizens went to hell and back to gain it. It is sad to say that, but freedom comes with a price and responsibilities. What people outside of Libya can do is morally support their struggle and make sure that Ghadaffi's international hidden and otherwise wealth is not accessible for his family, to prevent them from using this to finance armaments that may be used to quell people's dissent. Sanctions should have been done and enforced right the moment they started firing and killing protesters.

  19. US Navy or UN Forces shall intervene in the Political Unrest Situation in TRIPOLI in order to bring PEACE to the People of LIBYA & other nationalities stuck troubled over there. In Every Nation, It is of utmost importance to protect the PEOPLE considering the Human Rights & DEMOCRACY is the Perfect System to ensure the same. Therefore, The World Community should support the counter measures by the Armed FORCES to put an end to the Dictatorship by Col. GADHAFI & guide the Nation to DEMOCRACY, since A Government is The PEOPLE, For the People & shall be formed By The People!

  20. Start of a rather lengthy post at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Insititute's "3Ds Blog"

    "Gunboat Diplomacy

    From the Docks of Nova Scotia
    To the Shores of Tripoli…

    HMCS Charlottetown is setting sail for the Mediterranean…"


  21. The Un Resolutions banned regime change,taking sides, assassinating Gaddaffi & his family as legitimate govt leader, forbid bombing civilians, civilian homes,hospitals,schools,stores,businesses, cars, all of which Nato did so Nato should be forced to stop bombing, forced to leave and shut down out of business. Ntc should be forced disbanded it is not legal. People of Libya deserve their choice of leader by a free and fair election and if Gaddaffi runs and people choose him he shoulb be allowed. The Nato org has ruined every country it bombed,it attempted to overthrow, most overthrows at some point fail and the country declines. Oil output is always less. The only gail is the number dead and the number wounded. The UN is greatly at fault for  doing nothing to penalize the Nato org the first week it started bombing it should have stopped it and shut it down for good.Nato coalition also deserves punishment for all additional violations including arming,supporting,training,funding rebels and adding Nato ground troops, both UN violations rebels are on the US State dept for terrorism. so Hillary Clinton could be jailed or executed for violating a law on her own homepage! Obama violated War Powers Act and Alll US COngress and Obama and Biden are impeachable. Also note that Israel violated its right to UN membership. Israel is required to live in peace with its neighbor to have UN membership. It never has especially 2008 war against Gaza so everyone email demand Israel be expelled from UN membership.Complain here – or Email –