As NATO & EU meet, will the UN show its weakness over Libya, as over Iraq?

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    Or –

    10th March 2011,

    BREAKING NEWS: NATO says “maritime presence” to be increased in Mediterranean; increased sanctions; strengthened embargoes; NOTHING on no-fly zone – “further planning required”!


    If the idea of NATO intervention in Libya rings bells with you it may be that you recall the words of Saif Gaddafi a few weeks ago. He said that Tony Blair had warned his father that NATO might act against him. (I wrote about this here)

    Nothing much was said about the “NATO” reference, true or not, in our press at the time, though Tony Blair did follow up with an interview in Jerusalem on February 28th with The Times’s Philip Webster regarding his telephone calls to Colonel Gaddafi.  He was not asked about the question of NATO.

    Today it is reported that NATO is considering a no-fly zone without a UN resolution. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. A no-fly zone is an act of war, and without a UN resolution it simply will not happen. The world does not have the stomach  to face down dictators after Iraq. Even if the world agreed on what constitutes a “dictator”. And we know by reading British and other western papers, commenters and bloggers that it doesn’t.

    The question as to a re-alignment of the world’s power bases is still worth investigating. Today EU Foreign ministers meet in Brussels. Tomorrow EU leaders will convene.  Alongside NATO representatives will discuss alternatives. Clearly the US wants NATO to take the lead over Libya.  Quite how this is meant to absolve Obama’s USA of being the leading force escapes me. The USA is also a member of NATO. With the state of the British armed forces, after the coalition government’s pre-emptive and now largely discredited strike against naval and air forces the USA would still input the main part of  capacity into any military action.


    The idea is to try to hammer out diplomatic initiatives which combined may rid Libya of its dictator and help to usher in peace (and democracy) in that land. In my opinion there is little chance, very little chance of a no-fly zone being agreed after the meetings of today and tomorrow.  Even though at least one rebel leader is calling for intervention by the west.

    Are NATO and the EU poised to take the burden of the World’s Policeman from the USA’s embattled and war-weary shoulders? There are 28 members of NATO, details here. I do hate to be a spoilsport, but there is at least one NATO member (clue – starts with “T”) that I wouldn’t trust under its current leadership as far as I could throw it.

    There are 192 members of the UN. As any of us who have ever sat in on committees knows, the fewer the more likely that big decisions can be made. Already today Russia (not a full member of NATO) has said it would be “unacceptable” to intervene militarily in Libya. Since Russia is a full UN member, that’s the end of that, then.

    What a pity the world was not up to accepting the Blair Doctrine of the International Community, 1999, Chicago (Number 10 website).  It might have stiffened the UN’s backbone to deal with tyrants. See also  Blair Doctrine of Humanitarian/Liberal Interventionism of 1999.

    Tony Blair, Times interview, 28th Feb:

    “There is now one major strategic objective and the rest is a question of tactical decisions. The strategic objective is that there is a change in leadership in Libya with the minimum further bloodshed. Far too many people have died; there has been far too much violence.
    “One of the reasons I have not been speaking about this is that I wanted to be acting rather than speaking and talking to a lot of people in this region.”

    I understand entirely why Hillary Clinton says any no-fly zone must not be US-led (video, Sky News) but must be supported by the international community. Her administration, and especially Obama himself, the “Not GW Bush man” (until he is forced to face reality such as over Guantanamo) do not want to be marked men and women charged with pursuing so-called western post-colonialism. They can also live without “war criminal” tags round their necks.

    And so the world is cowed into impotence, playing Good Mummy and not Tough Daddy.

    But how likely is the necessary support from the international community?

    For a start there are two countries which invariably kibosh multinational action (best argued in Tony Blair’s Doctrine of Humanitarian Interventionism). These nations kibosh not because they are more principled than the rest, fear deaths of Libyans on the streets, or are great mates of Gaddafi. There is one reason that they run scared of this sort of global action: they do not wish to set a precedent that may in future be used against them. These countries are RUSSIA and CHINA


    These two countries, allied with FRANCE in 2003 and for their own internal reasons a few of their allies, stopped the UN Security Council from gaining a second resolution to remove Saddam. The end result was that Bush, Blair and a few others fell back on an earlier resolution providing authority to invade. The sufficiency of that earlier resolution is what feeds the “illegal war” arguments still ongoing.

    Aside: We are led to believe from the anti-war side that if there had been a second resolution Bush and Blair would not be labelled “war criminals”. That is utter nonsense, and the accusers know it. The Hague would still be the preferred destination for Bush and Blair in such minds, regardless of a second, third or ninety-ninth resolution at the UN.

    As for Libya there can be little doubt that members of the so-called ‘international community’ are beavering away in efforts to work out a way which will not bring the curse of the world down on the heads of those with the desire to see an end to Gaddafi’s reign and the killing of his own people.

    But does such an international community actually exist?

    There have been numerous occasions when Russia and China, two countries with abominable human rights records, and yet two countries of high importance politically, strategically, and even economically to the rest of the world, have put the lid on intervention. Seldom do the anti-Iraq war, anti-west, anti-Blair yellers and screamers criticise Russia and China for their humanitarian efforts or rather lack of, so fixed are their narrow eyes on Blair’s “millions”.

    The US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz has recently been in Rome and Cairo for multiple meetings both with the Italian Government officials, Egyptian Government officials, but also with opposition figures within Libya to gain a greater understanding and perspective on what’s happening. On 4th March Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa also spoke with US Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman by telephone.

    Humanitarian aid, it seems is all set and ready to move into Libya.


    “A United Nations relief team is ready to enter Libya to assess the situation as fighting between rebels and government forces has resulted in large humanitarian needs, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.

    The team, with an unspecified number of members, is now waiting for Tripoli’s approval to enter the troubled country. Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa has already agreed on the UN relief assessment with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said Martin Nesirky at UN headquarters in New York.

    The UN undersecretary general for political affairs, B Lynn Pascoe, told reporters that the UN was ready to go into Libya ‘any time’ to assist people in need.

    ‘The humanitarian situation is a huge concern for all of us,’ said Pascoe, after briefing the Security Council in a closed-door session.

    He said council members discussed issues, including the possible use of a no-fly zone to deter the use of airstrikes against rebel- held areas and the humanitarian situation.

    Ban discussed the situation in Libya in a telephone call with Kusa on Sunday, demanding an immediate stop to the violence and indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the dispatching of a humanitarian fact-finding mission, Nesirky said.

    Nesirky said the newly appointed UN special envoy for Libya, former Jordanian foreign minister Abdelilah al-Khatib, is scheduled to meet with Ban in New York on Friday and not Wednesday as previously planned.”

    Quite why it can wait till Friday is anyone’s guess. But the international community moves slowly and with its own various agendas, you can be sure of that.

    The UN website could be any old hand-wringing domain. Just take a look at its main page. With the world watching Gaddafi’s attacks on his own people we might expect a front page news item on this. But no, it leads with a video on International Women’s Day. Now, believe you me, I have as much empathy with women’s position in the world  as any of us.  But surely we might have expected at least a link to Ban ki-moon’s thoughts on the ongoing situation in Libya? Instead what we get are these links –

    The mention of Libya is to do with violence against sub-Saharan migrants. Not concerning the shooting down of Libyan men women and children in Libya’s cities.

    Even on its Focus on the Middle East page, the UN website only has this news release on humanitarian issues in Libya.

    Until the UN alters its reactionary position to one of proaction the world can be forgiven for seeing it for what it clearly is – impotent and toothless.


    To intervene or not to intervene – “Anne Applebaum’s Libyan mirage”. I’m with Charles Krauthammer on this.

    But, until the UN sorts itself out, Middle East countries, the Arab League and African Union all stop fence-sitting, and China & Russia start thinking about people and not their own power, I suggest we leave the Libyans to sort themselves out.


    I want no more western leaders threatened with one of these round their necks by those who proclaim to care about people but in fact do precisely nothing to help those people.

    This is what happens to those who believe in humanitarian intervention. Be warned.

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