Sunday, April 3, 2011

The military goal in Libya is not to topple Gaddafi

The discussion on the goals of the military intervention in Libya have been a bit confusing. The Obama administration, along with its allies on this conflict, have usually mentioned that they want Gaddafi out of power.
However, the Obama administration has also stressed again and again that the goal of the military intervention was not to topple Gaddafi but to protect civilians. One of the most important part of last week's speech was,

while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator but to its people.

 The speed of the UN resolution and of the first French fighters' strikes was driven by the potential massacre of civilians in Benghazi. Interestingly, NATO and the Obama admin were probably making the point clear before the week-end

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official.
 There has been a lot of talk on the fact that the military intervention meant taking a position in a civil war in Libya, and that that would lead to a long indefinite war there. Though the latter might be true, I think that the premise is wrong: the military intervention is not directly taking side in a civil war. The fact is, the libyan  rebels are not able, and have not threatened, to launch a massacre on the scale Gaddafi promised before throwing his troops at Benghazi, a city of 700000 people. This is also probably a reason for which there are no talk of intervening in other countries of the Arabian peninsula such as Bahrein or Yemen(of course, not the only reason), or in Cote d'Ivoire. Though the events there seem to be quite dramatic, the scale of the crackdowns/civilian deaths, as unfortunate it is to say this, have probably  not outweigh the uncertainty and danger of running a military operation in those countries. If the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire does not come to an end quickly, the recent massacre in Duékoué will probably start changing minds.

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