Can Libya Be a Test Case?


Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra – TRANSCEND Media Service

The ongoing violence in Libya since March has shown no sign of diminution, rather it has grown uglier with increasing civilian casualties with each passing day. The ongoing war which is predicted to continue for at least for six months necessitates a calibrated thinking as to what exactly can be achieved and lost in this period of six months or more as the violence with every passing day appear further protracted. Aiming at a regime change in Libya may be a wishful thinking or dethroning a dictator may be a practicability on that part of the world, but the larger question that looms is whether any substantial change in positive direction in this part of the Arab world can be achieved by means of concerted efforts of responsible international players from all hemispheres of the globe, or is it necessary or an imperative that this task must be undertaken only by few players in international politics.

As one columnist argues that there may be discrepancies in the actions of the US led NATO forces which aid the rebels, but that does not deprecate the value of taking action ‘to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none.’ It may be a laudable thinking. But, then, the question arises whether this grandiose task can be undertaken in consultation with other players, or with the consultation of international bodies like the United Nations. Even within NATO differences have emerged towards putting a joint face to aid the rebels fight the forces of Gaddafi. One can look at the Libyan situation from a different parameter as well. First of all steps must be taken to minimize civilian casualties to the extent possible, which in fact is a difficult enterprise as in this war there are no clear cut rules and in the fast changing events at times the lines between rebels and pro-Gaddafi supporters are blurred. All the BRICS countries and also many other members of the United Nations have expressed strong reservations about the operations. Powers like India, Russia and China have called for ceasefire in the North African country. Russian Defence Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov told his US counterpart Robert Gates in March ‘to do everything to end the violence.’ Similarly, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu expressed concerns at ‘civilian casualties from the multinational military action against Libya.’ The Indian permanent representative at the United Nations Hardeep Puri said that India ‘deplores’ violence and instead of violent conflict India looks for ‘ways and means of resolving the issue politically.’ A report published on 22 March 2011 estimated that ‘at least 64 Libyans had been killed and 150 others wounded by the missiles and bombs fired by the foreign forces over the weekend.’ This estimation of casualties must have increased significantly as the violent conflict grows horrific with passing days.

In fact the ongoing violence, without any immediate signs of recession, too provides opportunities for international players for active diplomacy to craft a united agenda for the resolution of the conflict. A delegation of the African Union (AU) led by the South African President Jacob Zuma visited Tripoli on 10 April 2011 and met both Gaddafi and rebel leaders to craft out a middle path to end violence. The African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramadan Lamamra told the press in Tripoli that Gaddafi has accepted AU’s roadmap for peace. In this context, the meeting of BRICS leaders in who met in China this also urged for end of violence in Libya.

What is more important in the present juncture is to craft peace in this oil reach and strategic country in North Africa. With each passing day increasing number of civilians lose their lives. As both the rebels aided by NATO and pro-Gaddafi forces change their strategies, for instance using civilians as shields as a strategy used more by pro-Gaddafi forces, the costs of the fight have been further heightened with loss of innocent lives. It is not whether Gaddafi can be dethroned or democracy can usher in Libya, the bigger question is: if this war continues, and which every passing day grows violent with increasing use of modern weapons, the fear of Libya descending to the position of other devastated regions like Rwanda or Darfur in coming days cannot be ruled out.

As the situation demands active diplomacy on parts of responsible powers of the globe, it also provides an opportunity to restore the august international body the United Nations its rightful position. Here lies the crucial barometer for the proponents as well as opponents of military intervention as to whether they can act together. While leading members of NATO advocate militaristic solution of the Libyan conundrum, the BRICS members advocate for a political solution based on dialogue and other peaceful means such as ceasefire. In this larger context, the political position of Gaddafi may be a matter of secondary focus. The more important is the prospect whether the proponents and opponents of military intervention can come together under the umbrella of the United Nations to craft a unified agenda to end the Libyan crisis. If that is possible, one can only hope, then that will be a great victory towards imparting values of democracy and equality in resolving crises around the world. If that fails, all the nemesis of past will guide or rather worsen the working of the international politics. In that sense, Libya provides the test case whether the international players despite diverse aspirations will give peace and lives of innocent people priority by coming together, or will apply the embittered designs of the past.


Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is part of the research faculty at the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai, India.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Apr 2011.

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One Response to “Can Libya Be a Test Case?”

  1. Margarete Aulehla says:

    With modern weapons this conflict can easily escalate. Libya is near Europe and so the place is more likely to explode as Rwanda or Darfur. This is a very dangerous situation now.