The developments unfolding in and around Libya prompt strange thoughts: not all of them kind and some outright reactionary. The strangest of all is that nothing would have happened, or something would have happened very fast and hence painlessly, had there been more “adults” around.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine that, had Britain’s Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher still been at the helm, the “Libyan revolution” would have dissipated back into the desert sands whence it sprang, in spite of those bombing raids first by the West and subsequently by NATO. Moreover, I’m not sure a revolution, let alone the bombing raids, would have happened in the first place if France were still ruled by General de Gaulle, or that either could have come to pass had Ronald Reagan, Mao Zedong, Nikita Khrushchev, Gamal Abdel Nasser been in office.
Strangely, but it seems the global pack of cards sometimes lacks aces, kings and trump cards while the rest are all the wrong color or suit. Judge for yourself.
This week NATO and the “Libya coalition” have been racking their brains over the most pressing questions of the moment: what should be done with Colonel Gaddafi? How can the alliance be revived and a real Libyan opposition be created, trained, armed and financed? It seems that it simply did not occur to them to consider any of this before launching the operation. Another question is how to encourage the United States to return to its place at the helm of the humanitarian operation, or at least to act as the instructor.
The “humanitarian” operation in Libya began on March 19. A month later, no one in the West knows what to do next, whereas Gaddafi has not budged an inch and is growing stronger with every passing day. Unless he makes a gross mistake, for example bombing a city killing hundreds, which is unlikely, his position in Tripoli seems safe. But the feeble air raids against him may well continue.
The alliance has been holding conferences, consultations and meetings since April 13.
First the new Libya contact group, established in London in March, met in Qatar. Its importance can be judged by the fact that Washington did not send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but one of her deputies along to the meeting. Furthermore, he left without even bothering to talk to the press.
On April 14, the Arab League, the African Union and “EU foreign minister” Catherine Ashton met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Cairo. However, Libyan rebels had already rejected the “African crisis resolution plan” because it does not stipulate regime change removing Gaddafi. So, the conference was a complete waste of time.
On April 13, before the NATO Council’s meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin, British Prime Minister David Cameron went to Paris for consultations with President Nicolas Sarkozy.
On April 14 and 15, NATO at its meeting in Berlin will discuss its plans for Libya, Gaddafi and the rebels, who are rushing from one city to another without doing much good. Should they be armed, financed and trained? Or would that run counter to the UN Security Council resolution?
Of course it would. Although it is worth keeping in mind not everyone sees it that way. France, Britain and Qatar are particularly adamant that weapons and money be sent to the rebels, that Libyan oil be sold (Qatar is overseeing this), and that Gadaffi’s frozen assets should be used to finance action against him.
Even Germany and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen doubt that UN Security Council Resolution 1972 can be interpreted so loosely.
But Sarkozy and Cameron insist on doing exactly that, although the British prime minister is adopting a slightly more circuitous route than Sarkozy. London thinks that weapons should be supplied, but only to “protect civilians” and indirectly: through Arab allies in Qatar. It is not for nothing that Britain was the world’s dominant colonial power for so long.
Paris and London deem the limited action taken to date ineffectual, and will use the NATO meeting to convince their allies to step up their bombing raids. They also hope to encourage Washington to play first fiddle again, although the United States has dropped several broad hints that it will not do so. America, remember, has not fully withdrawn from the military operation.
The Pentagon admitted on April 13 that U.S. drones have carried out several bombing raids over Libya. Before NATO took command of the Libyan operation earlier this month, U.S. planes were responsible for 70% of the bombing raids. However, President Barack Obama has invested too much military and political capital in Afghanistan and Iraq to do the same in Libya, and he is unlikely to change his mind.
Sarkozy and Cameron must be feeling deeply offended, like kids who had been warned not to concern themselves with matters they know nothing about. But they did, and now regret it because their peers (NATO) have abandoned them, even though Sarkozy was the most ardent advocate for bombing Gaddafi.
The trouble is not that Britain and France lack planes, missiles, warships and other military equipment, pilots, military experience and the like. But when the United States decides to take a back seat, it takes the wind out of any coalition’s sails and renders it ineffective.
It’s like letting kids drive on a dangerous road. Would any adult in his right mind remain in the car?
BRICS on Libya
The developments in Libya look particularly bad against the backdrop of international events taking place elsewhere in the world.
The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa seem to have formalized their relations during a summit meeting in Sanya, a Chinese resort town. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev categorically stated that the Libyan problem must be resolved using exclusively political and diplomatic means.
All BRICS countries are members of the UN Security Council, with Russia and China having the right to veto as permanent members. The five countries adopted a declaration advocating a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council.
Russia and China reiterated in Sanya that they highly value the international prestige of India, Brazil and South Africa, and that they fully understand and support their desire to play a bigger role in the UN.
India, Brazil and South Africa are expected to be elected permanent members of the Security Council, there has long been talk that the number of permanent members would increase to 10 or 15. With these countries as allies on the UN Security Council, Russia is unlikely to allow a second Libya to transpire.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.