Just as Western hesitancy, dithering, and some bad judgment appeared to have destroyed what promised to be a historic alignment of the Arab Spring and of the Western democracies’ values and interests, the French and British resolution in the U.N. Security Council, with the support of America, has turned the crisis of despair into an opportunity of achievement.
The Security Council resolution not only authorized a “no-fly” zone over Libya, but it also authorized the use of force to protect civilian populations. The vote was 10 in favor and 5 abstentions, which included Germany, China, India, and Russia. It was a major diplomatic success for France, Britain and America which supported the key addition of action to protect populations. However, the resolution banned the use of troops on the ground, and did not specify authority for “regime change” as an objective. Secretary Hillary Clinton in Tunisia has been talking strong about Gaddafi going. What remains in question is if and how the combined forces of the Libyan rebels, Arab nations, and the Western nations participating will rid the world of Gaddafi and his regime from power.
Today I am in London and heard the live announcement of British actions by the U.K. government in the House of Commons by Prime Minister David Cameron. It was a stirring statement, and was supported by the Labor opposition. The government announced a European and Arab League Summit on the Libyan situation for Saturday, and a vote in the Commons on Monday.
Just after the Common’s meeting on the issue Britain announced with France the creation of a “no-fly zone almost immediately. Also, it was said the Arab League critically would help with the sanctions and no-fly resolutions, which they supported before the Security Council vote.
In Tripoli the government took two contradictory moves. Gaddafi and his son made a belligerent statement including threats against the rebels, while the Foreign Ministry called for a “cease fire” on all sides, which the Western powers are largely seeing as a divergency tactic.
As this is written, Britain and other powers are moving their forces into position to enforce the “no fly” zone.” There are reports of arms and supplies being sent to the rebels through Egypt and possibly other means.
This action may have turned the Arab street from enmity against the West for its inaction into commonality with Western nations. A historic moment between the West and Islamic world perhaps. But the question must be asked what next and what should be done to set in train a more peaceful, democratic, and stable region.
What is needed after violence stops in a new Libya and in the other nations of the Arab Spring such as Egypt and Tunisia is a international strategy to support the new hopefully democratic and popular governments. But unrest continues in other countries of the Arab world and beyond. One tool has to be an effort to create an economic condition for growth, employment of especially the young and creation of a civic society that will help stabilize the still fragile societies. The question is will the global community which is in a severe economic downturn, and with European nations by its cuts on spending, be able to carry out the kind of new “Marshall Plan” that is likely needed.