On reflection after some two months into the start of the Middle East upheavals and the global response, especially in Libya to stop the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi and elsewhere, the question must be asked of what shape the future will hold for the region and what lessons we have learned, and also what these lessons mean for future policy and actions. First, I want to acknowledge that it is still too early for any definitive answers to these questions but not too early to ask the questions and think about possible answers.
Now let’s look at some possible “lessons learned” on “how to do it better” or “worse”:
LESSON ONE: It is better to do such an action multilaterally—with the sanction of the United Nations, with help from NATO and with as broad a consensus as possible. Yes, it was and will be messy, but the end will be more acceptable and if it is a success, the better for the oppressed people’s hope and the worse for other tyrants.
LESSON TWO: Better to as quickly as possible than to wait for mass killing of populations. As what was being undertaken by Gaddafi, Libyan intervention was done “just in the nick of time.” Earlier effective intervention arguably would have prevented more killings and more destruction. It would have been better to have instituted some kind of peacekeeping/diplomatic intervention in most cases – but with Gaddafi we were dealing with a mad man. And yes, we will likely have some more acts of mass killing (some are going on now) by despots and call for international intervention. Perhaps we need to think more deeply about the meaning of the U.N. resolution of the “duty to protect” and how that can be made into a strategy of prevention before military action is necessary?
LESSON THREE: We need to plan better for such international interventions with a full “tool kit.” That means putting in place in the United Nations and NATO a “pre-packaged” capability with resources for earlier, cheaper and more humane instruments to truly act in an effective preventive way and early.
A key question for later discussion is when should international intervention be applied? Even the global community probably can’t intervene in all societal conflicts, but too often in the past we did nothing with horrendous consequences.
More in later posts on “lessons learned” and on new approaches to societal self-destruction and global response and on need for “rethinking national security” in what is clearly a new landscape.
Your comments are welcomed!