(This article can also be found on Nepalnews.com)
After almost a week and a half of the start of U.S.-led air campaign against Libya to enforce UN-authorized no-fly zone, president Obama has outlined American goals and strategy. Though belated his address to the nation on Libya has clarified the objective of humanitarian intervention. This has been launched with allied cooperation. While dealing with crises around the world, Obama has emphasized that progress will be uneven and change will come differently in different countries.
Though being persuasive to convince that the U.S. has to be selective in military action in tune with national interests, Obama has sounded hypocritical in paying scant attention to crises in Libya’s neighborhood. If prevention of atrocities justifies international intervention it is surprising to learn why Obama turns his back to Yemen and Bahrain where people clamoring for political freedom are being killed by their autocratic leaders.
Here in lies the dilemma of American foreign policy which relies on universal values but various administrations including Obama’s have sacrificed them for the sake of narrow self interest. Moral principles have often collided with country’ interests and worryingly the latter have prevailed over the former. In this regard it may be relevant to quote former president George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who in her 2005 Cairo speech said, “For sixty years my country, the U.S., pursued stability at the expense of democracy…here in the Middle East”. Probably America still does it so far as the situation of Yemen and Bahrain is concerned.
Obama’s articulation that U.S. is opposed to violence directed against its own citizens, its support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders and support for goals that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people, hardly becomes credible in light of American approach to ongoing crises in the Middle East.
Drawing lessons from Iraq war, president has decided to limit the role of the U.S. in Libya. Its military is shifting the leadership of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians to NATO shortly. He has made it obvious that regime change in Libya is not the goal of the allied intervention though at times his administration has vacillated on this front. In televised address Obama said ”We went down that road in Iraq, regime change there took 8 years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives and nearly a trillion dollars. This is not something we can afford to repeat.”
One can clearly see president Obama’s attempt to revisit Iraq syndrome in providing explanation why the U.S. is not willing to assume as broader a role as possible in Libya. This syndrome is skepticism the American public have developed about intervening in foreign conflicts like in Iraq as succinctly elaborated by Prof. John Mueller through his Foreign Affairs article. Mueller sees this syndrome influencing Obama’s hesitant approach to the Libyan imbroglio.
Even with limited roles there will be costs to the U.S. and it will be ironic and even tragic as opined by Richard N. Hass, president of Council on Foreign Relations if the suffering of the Libyan people rises rather than diminishing. If human losses pile up with prolonged war in the country it will be a mockery of intervention launched on humanitarianism.
It is difficult to predict about the outcomes of the Libyan intervention albeit a new doctrine seems to be in offing which is premised on president Obama’s articulation of U.S. position on managing global threats. In his address on March 28, 2011 Obama has said, “If we can, if there is a moral case, if we have allies, and if we can transition out and not get stuck, we will move to help”. These conditions may be the essence of Obama Doctrine in the opinion of Aaron David Miller, a State Department Middle East negotiator during Clinton presidency. It seems that there would be merging of multilateralism and unilateralism while confronted with the issue of humanitarian disaster like in Libya.
The London Conference participated in by as many as forty governments and international institutions on March 29 on the future of Libya is a prelude to the post-Qaddafi era when huge rebuilding efforts will be taken following the political restructuring of the country. As allied forces look coordinated and determined to continue marginalizing the war machines of the Qaddafi regime with consistent air campaign to bolster the rebels’ position, the beleaguered leader may not survive long. The crippling economic sanctions and arms embargo imposed on Libya by UN Security Council Resolution 1970 adopted on February 26, 2011 have started to build pressure on Qaddafi, whose frozen foreign assets will further shrink his capability to prolong fighting.
The international community’s unanimity in agreeing that the Libyan people should be encouraged to craft the future of their country and determine the political destiny will help stabilize the situation once Qaddafi is defeated or forced to relinquish power. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s observation that the UN will be prepared to lead the coordination of humanitarian assistance and planning for longer-term stabilization support is reassuring. As one of the participating coalition members contributing to the Libyan intervention, Qatar’s offer of hosting next meeting of the Contact Group does indicate the willingness of partners to plan for post-conflict Libya’s reconstruction. This was made public by Qatar in London.
Once the conflict is over there will be opportunities for peacekeeping to rebuild war-torn Libya. Unlike to old-fashioned UN peacekeeping when blue-helmeted soldiers from troop contributing countries were asked to oversee peace agreements only, current multi-dimensional operations are deployed to undertake a number of nation-building activities like taking charge of transitional administration in Cambodia and Kosovo, among others. As one of the oldest troop contributors, ranking fifth among contributors and presently sending about 4000 peacekeepers to various missions including Africa, Nepal sees immense possibilities of participating in peacekeeping when the international community will be looking for participation in such activities.