Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Libyan Crisis: Italy Humiliates NATO (Part II)

June 22, 2011

Italy’s move suggests that the benefits of common sense, which have been lost on the war-mongers, may now be striking some. The earlier they intensify efforts to end the military campaign for less volatile options to be used to resolve the crisis, the better chances are that the political leaders of the countries orchestrating NATO’s mission in Libya will be halted in their stride before they cause any more trouble for the world.

As of now, the clouds are gathering and it won’t take long before public opinion turns against them. That public opinion will definitely question not only the killing of civilians but also the legitimacy of the huge expenditure on that campaign when indications are clear that the economic conditions in the countries contributing resources to sustain NATO’s military campaign are not improving.
In the US, for instance, there is concern that economic growth is sluggish and the Obama administration hasn’t given any firm proof that it is tackling the unemployment problem either. Thus, the drift of public concerns will negatively affect the military campaign, especially as it prolongs without any indication that NATO is achieving its objective.
To many, the primary objective is to enforce a “no-fly zone” over Libyan air space and solve humanitarian problems. So far, Gaddafi hasn’t violated the “no-fly zone” order to warrant any action against him on that score.
The fighting going on between his forces and the Benghazi-based rebels is being fuelled by NATO as it intensifies its airstrikes in a clear move to pave the way for the rebels to attack the pro-Gaddafi forces. But for NATO’s taking over the fight on behalf of the rebels, the momentum of the fighting would have lulled. But NATO won’t leave Gaddafi alone; hence, the persistent airstrikes in support of the rebels.
NATO knows that regime change is the hidden sub-text of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and will not relent until it achieves that objective. Therein lies the problem because Gaddafi has been able to read between the lines to foresee NATO’s intentions against him.
That’s why he has conditioned himself for the ultimate—to resist NATO and the rebels and ultimately die as a martyr. His being adamant has sent NATO into a tail-spin. The more NATO goes after him, the more it creates humanitarian problems of the kind that is now fetching a bad name for it and prompting this reaction from Italy.  
Italy’s bold stance should the wake-up call that must end the senseless show of futile military strength in Libya by NATO (and its political backers). It is only when common sense takes over that attention will be turned to the obvious and less expensive solution, which some of us have been drawing attention to all this while.
The political and diplomatic means that should solve the Libyan crisis has been on the lips of peace-lovers (Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Catholic Church, and some sane members of the African Union who did not join wayward Nigeria, South Africa, and Gabon to sell Gaddafi out to the war-mongers who manipulated the United Nations to achieve their objectives under the Security Council’s Resolution 1973 to invade Libya and destroy its infrastructure and citizens with this kind of unprecedented alacrity).
Now that the reality of NATO’s mission is clearly manifested as the cause of humanitarian problems in Libya, it is only prudent that those who see things beyond their noses should make their voices heard to halt the madness. It is fair, just, and proper that others providing facilities for NATO’s devastation of Libya should re-appraise their contributions and pull the plugs in the nick of time before the military campaign does more needless damage to a sovereign country and its peace-loving people.
I am gratified that Italy is taking this turn for the better because its participation in the military campaign is crucial; and if it kicks against the campaign—because it is not doing what it was originally designed to achieve—sanity should prevail for the appropriate measures to be taken to resolve the Libyan crisis.
The problem in Libya is a political one and no amount of military incursion and devastation by NATO will solve it. We’ve all seen the senseless destruction going on and the resolute determination with which the pro-Gaddafi forces are protecting their country. This willingness to die for their country cannot be broken by NATO’s bombardment or the rebels’ overzealousness.
From March 19 when this military campaign began, it was not difficult to predict that it was doomed to failure, not only because it cannot be the solution to the purely political problem that it is being used to solve but also because of its fundamental lapses. Right from the moment that the West inserted itself into the Libyan crisis with the first airstrike, the early signs were clear that it was attempting to solve a problem that it didn’t fully comprehend.
And it worsened matters for itself by immediately aligning with the Benghazi-based rebels, forgetting that those anti-Gaddafi elements were not more than those supporting him. By this one-sided approach to the problem, the West antagonized Gaddafi all the more and shunned the obvious solutions beckoning it for use. Preferring the military campaign to the political and diplomatic options has been the bane of NATO and will continue to derail its efforts until someone puts on his thinking cap to abandon this military campaign.
Regardless of claims by the British Prime Minister or his Defence Secretary that the UK has the military capability to continue the campaign for as long as it would take, evidence suggests that it will take more than logistics for NATO to cripple Gaddafi and his government. The fighting has reached a stalemate and that is why NATO has resorted to daytime bombings and other acts in desperation to break Gaddafi’s back. But all these additional military strategies have failed.
Instead, they have drawn attention to NATO as either exceeding the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 as it pursues its agenda of regime change or as senselessly destroying civilian areas and killing innocent Libyan citizens. The events of last Sunday have particularly cast NATO in a very negative light; hence, Italy’s call for a ceasefire or a clear response from NATO to the charges levelled against it for killing innocent civilians. That’s not how to solve humanitarian problems.
NATO may claim to have destroyed more than half of Gaddafi’s military capabilities but his loyal troops are standing their ground just because they know how to carry on with their resistance to the NATO-led fighting going on in several parts of the country. They are proving to the West that winning a war takes more than sophisticated weapons.
Another flaw in the organization and prosecution of the military campaign is the controversy surrounding the US President’s rash decision to involve that country in the Libyan crisis without first seeking approval from Congress. He may be indulging in sophistry to circumvent the 1973 War Powers Act but what is happening suggests that he is gearing himself up for a collision with Congress (the House of Representatives, especially), which will test how the overall prosecution of this military campaign goes on henceforth.
Whether the House of Representatives votes to defund the US’ participation in the NATO campaign or whether the bill introduced by John Kerry and John McCain to regularize Obama’s lapse will save the situation from deteriorating further will also have a dire impact on the NATO mission. If the controversy drags on, it will undercut NATO’s mission and make a mockery of this brash military action against Libya.
Unless anything drastic happens to give NATO and the rebels an edge in this fight, the stalemate will drag on to the dismay of the leaders of the US, Britain, Italy, and the Arab League whose love for military action instead of commonsense would have caused needless destruction of limb and property in a sovereign African country.
This military campaign against Libya is needless and will go down in history as a blot on the reputation of the United Nations and the powerful voices in it that have manipulated it to warrant the use of war as a tool for conflict resolution.
If the UN genuinely stands for peace, it must look for instruments of peace (political and diplomatic options) to resolve crisis in its member states, not allow those who finance it to bulldoze their way through to the disadvantage of its less powerful member countries.
I hope the re-election of UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, for another five-year term will give us better approaches to resolving world crisis through negotiated settlements and not the flexing of military muscles. We need peace, not war!

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