Sunday, 6 March 2011

Civil War

So it seems that the civil war that many feared might occur in Libya has come to pass. Civil war is often the dirtiest kind of war, not that there is any clean kind, with both sides refusing to recognise even the right of the other to exist, and, especially at the start, both sides finding it difficult to distinguish friend from foe. It seems likely that tens of thousands of Libyans, many of them innocent civilians, will die in such a conflict, nor is it even certain that the side which was born out of a pro-democracy revolution will be the victor, since war is the theatre of the unpredictable.

A few things that should be said though. It would be unjust if the world were to inflict a false "temporary" division on Libya similar to that in the Ivory Coast. There is no equivalence between the two sides - the Gaddafi regime must go, and elections must be held to decide the future of the country.

There has been a lot of talk about establishing a no-fly zone, but since this requires a wave of airstrikes to be unleashed against Gaddafi before such a zone can be put into place, establishing such a zone is indistinguishable from intervention. If we must intervene, let it be by providing weapons and training to the one side that promises democratic rule in the country before Gaddafi, with his control of the airforce and much of the expertise of the army, overwhelms them.

In the short term Gaddafi has the advantage of control of the airforce, mercenaries, and greater organisation. However, if the opposition can hold on, and an effective blockade can be imposed on the Gaddafi regime, the advantage should switch to the opposition as foreign support increases the effectiveness of their forces.

Finally, the democratic countries of the world, particularly those in Europe, bear a responsibility towards the people of Libyan, firstly for our coddling of the Gaddafi regime, and secondly for the encouragement given to the various Arab uprisings. We must not cut and run from this duty.

[Picture: "Revolution and war are inseparable!" - An anarchist poster from the Spanish Civil War, via Wikicommons]

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