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Risks of the UN Resolution

The UN resolution on Libya appears to generate more questions than answers:

“The goal is to protect civilians first of all, and not to invade or occupy,” [WIlliam Hague, UK Foreign Secretary] said. “The resolution is clear on that point … we don’t want any side to go too far, including Libya, by attacking the civilian population.”

It’s plain that whichever way the stated aims of the intervention are defined, achieving them will be highly problematic. The least of them – a genuine ceasefire – would effectively freeze the current confrontation in place, with rival camps entrenched in the east and west. The conflict could degenerate into a prolonged stalemate, as in the Korean peninsula or Georgia. Meaningful negotiation would be impossible while Gaddafi remained in power.

Interventionists cannot achieve Gaddafi’s removal, another key aim, by force of arms, bar a ground invasion or a lucky shot. (The same goes for democratic governance.) The west is relying instead on more mass defections, an army mutiny or a palace coup – what analyst Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute has called “regime breakdown”.

The countries who supported the resolution already look uneasy and squeamish about military action to begin with (with the exception of the French, who suddenly have taken the mantle of world’s cowboy from the United States for the time being).  They waited until the last possible moment, when Gaddafi had come roaring back against the rebels, and appeared on the verge of retaking Benghazi.  All while the rebels had been begging for assistance from the West.  This is standard fare coming from the United Nations.

But what’s the endgame?  The military action would have to pound Gaddafi’s defenses to the point where they will no longer be a threat, but that would risk casualties, as the world watches.

And a cease-fire would mean what exactly? The resolution-supporting nations have condemned Gaddafi for the violence against the rebels and civilians.  Does a cease-fire absolve him of all that?




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