The people in Libya are undoubtedly going through an extreme test – with murderous agents of Gaddafi seeking to strike back at the Ummah’s uprising; tribal rivalries breaking out; looting in areas where there is no formal legal authority; and dire conditions in the airport at Tripoli, where literally thousands of people who are resident workers in Libya wish to go back to their homes in different regions.
However, within the past 24 hours the British media – in particular the state run BBC – has started raising the question of whether or not foreign intervention is necessary – whether by the UN, NATO – or anyone – to can avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
Some eyewitnesses who have just left Libya have talked on BBC news about the disastrous conditions for evacuees at the airport. Other Libyan residents have spoken fearfully and anonymously by phone about the regime striking back at the people; and have been asked whether or not they fear a chemical weapons attack. Only 24 hours earlier former British diplomats did not believe Gaddafi even possessed chemical weapons to carry out any such attack.
The net result has been a concluding question, sometimes answered by a desperate voice from Libya, or from seasoned British politicians – that some form of intervention was necessary by the ‘international community’.
But what type of intervention? Western ‘humanitarian’ and liberal interventions are rarely constructive and hardly ever altruistic. They have managed to avoid intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo where, since 1998, an estimated 5 million people have been killed due to war, and its secondary consequences.
Britain managed to botch its own attempts to evacuate its citizens from Libya (despite unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain over the past 2 months, which would ordinarily give a few warnings that there might be a need for some forward planning in this crucial regard). The idea Britain could save a country from a disintegrating tyrant is unrealistic. Similarly, if the United States is up to its neck following its brutal interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which managed to make a bad situation a thousand times worse, it is hard to see how it could make things better for Libyans.
Could it simply be in order to establish a no-fly zone, which would protect BP and other petroleum companies? After all, Libya, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, exports over 80% of its oil to Europe. Any threat to this would have ramifications for oil prices, and consequently inflation, in the west.
Similarly, a humanitarian catastrophe in Libya could create an unprecedented refugee crisis for Europe. Something Jack Straw cited as a reason for intervention in Kosovo when he was in government. Or is it just media talk, trying to fill the 24 hour media cycle?
The truth remains to be seen. But given their track record, this talk is something that should be monitored carefully, lest it is acted upon by the policy makers.