To this end, and with a mind that it is absolutely a choice between the lesser among many moral reservations, it is apparent that the only way to bring an immediate and decisive end to the massive human suffering abounding in Libya is to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power. The extraordinarily delicate parameters of this proposal require that the international community must guarantee that the following three conditions are met if this course of action is to be taken. Firstly, the operation to physically remove Gadhafi must be an extraordinarily precise and targeted one upon his command and control compound in Tripoli, and the use of lethal force against him must be explicitly forbidden. Secondly, because the TNC has agreed to a peaceful resolution and to allow Gadhafi and his family to leave if they do so entirely, this must become the avenue for dealing with him in the immediate follow-up to his seizure. Any action to be taken against Gadhafi should be under the auspices of the International Criminal Court, being reminded that Resolution 1973 specifically makes mention of the potential for charges of crimes against humanity to be levied against him . Thirdly, following Gadhafi's removal from power, international militaries must immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Libya and, if it be the will if the Libyan people, the United Nations must recognize the official governmental status of the Transitional National Council. Keeping in mind the essential humanitarian purpose of the intervention, let us briefly consider alternative strategies which have been suggested so that we may see why a definitive move against Moammar Gadhafi is the optimal, if uncomfortable, course of action.
A withdrawal of international military support for the rebels is both politically and ethically unthinkable, as the rebels would almost certainly be overrun within a matter of days by vengeful Gadhafi loyalists. What would unfold if such an action were taken would almost certainly be an utter purging of opposition fighters and sympathetic civilians, through which death tolls could easily reach into the tens, even hundreds, of thousands. The "anguished debate" described by Roland Paris would indeed follow and devastate the international psyche, in the order of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 . A withdrawal, this late in the conflict, is not an option.
And what of the 'armament option' proposed by some analysts, which envisions a withdrawal of coalition military forces supplanted by the massive supplying of arms to the rebels in order to tip the balance? While this would seem a sound strategy, a kind of compromise between anti-imperialists and interventionists, there are two great flaws to it. Firstly, as Gilbert Achcar points out, such a strategy would not have been swift enough to prevent the takeover of Benghazi by loyalist forces . The armament option is sound as a sustained tactic within a larger operation, but not as a decisive factor in achieving the peace. This leads to the second flaw of the armament option, which is that it would necessarily result in the greater potential for the perpetration of immediate and future violence in the region. Not only would it lead to more intensified, and therefore more lethal, confrontations between the opposed sides in the current Libyan civil war, but these arms would be more than likely to make their way through the regional black market upon the war's conclusion. The historical precedents of supplying arms to various civil factions in the North African-Middle Eastern region decidedly warns against such an approach. The arming of Afghanistan's mujahedin by the United States during the Cold War serves as an especially poignant example of the armament option's potential for geopolitical and humanitarian blowback. But on a very basic level, is it really in anybody's interest, especially the humanitarian's, to actively increase the number of arms flowing through a region experiencing such brutal conflicts as those in the Sudan, Somalia and Gaza strip? As a strategy for ceasing the violence against civilians in Libya, and in the broader interest of reducing violence in the region, the armament option is unacceptable.
Let us not elaborate any further upon the diplomatic option for reconciliation. Gadhafi's terms are irreconcilable with the protection of civilians as mandated by Resolution 1973, attested to by his actions of March 19th, persistent desire to retain absolute power and unwavering assault on civilian populations in Libya's coastal cities. As this is being written, shells are falling upon Misrata, just as they did throughout the entire ceasefire negotiation process with the African Union. At this point, unless Gadhafi commits to a total and immediate ceasefire, agrees to cedes power peacefully to actors outside of his immediate family and leave the country, the matter is settled.
As Mahmood Mamdani succinctly and accurately observes of the unfolding situation,
"For the people of Libya, there can be no quick fix ... a post-invasion Libyan government will need to accommodate a highly fractured society through patient coalition-building, if Libyan society is not to disintegrate into an Afghan-style civil war ... That necessary work will have to be political, not military. For that work to begin, the first prerequisite is an end to the NATO invasion and a ceasefire."
About Author / Additional Info:
I am a 4th year student at York University in Toronto, Ontario in the Global Political Studies program. I invite all serious feedback and, of course, any proposal to the contrary!