West overzealous on Libya - Al Jazeera's senior political analyst discusses the risks and opportunities inherent in UNSC Resolut

West overzealous on Libya
Al Jazeera's senior political analyst discusses the risks and opportunities inherent in UNSC Resolution 1973.
Marwan Bishara Last Modified: 18 Mar 2011 14:02

Five countries abstained from voting in favour of the UNSC resolution calling for a no-fly zone in Libya [AFP]

Now that the United Nations Security Council resolution for a no-fly zone has been passed, how will it be implemented?

The UNSC Resolution 1973 has made it legal for the international community to protect the Libyan people from Muammar Gaddafi's lethal and excessive force - by, among other things, imposing a no-fly zone and carrying out military strikes and other military action short of occupation.

However, the overzealousness of certain Western powers like Britain, France and, as of late, the US, to interpret the resolution as an open-ended use of force, is worrisome. With their long history of interference and hegemony in the region, their political and strategic motivation remains dubious at best. Likewise, their rush to use air force individually or collectively could prove morally reprehensible - even if legally justified - if they further complicate the situation on the ground.

This sounds like 'damned if they do, damned if they don't'?

Well, the onus is on these Western powers to prove that their next move and actions are based on a strictly humanitarian basis and are not meant as a down payment for longer-term interference in Libyan and regional affairs.

They need to demonstrate how their 'change of heart' from supporting the Gaddafi dictatorship over several years to condemning him as a war criminal and acting to topple him, is not motivated by more of the same narrow national and Western strategic interest.

Unfortunately, the Libyan dictator's statements and actions (and his recent cynical and contradictory threats and appeals) have played into Western hands, making it impossible for Libyans, like Tunisians and Egyptians before them, to take matters into their own hands.

Those who abstained at the UN Security Council, including Germany, India and Brazil, wanted to co-operate in charting a brighter future for Libya, but are also suspicious of the overzealous French and British eagerness to jump into a Libyan quagmire with firepower.

What then should Libyans, Arabs and other interested global powers do to help Libya avoid a terrible escalation to violence or a major humanitarian disaster?

Now that the international community has given the Libyan revolutionaries a protective umbrella that includes a full range of military and humanitarian actions, it is incumbent upon the Libyan opposition to mobilise for mass action in every city and town both in the east and west and challenge the regime's militias.

As the Libyan regime loses its civilian, tribal and international legitimacy, so will his security base be shaken over the next few days and weeks.

In fact, if the Libyan revolutionaries avoid complacency and exploit their newly gained legitimacy and protection in order to work more closely with their Arab neighbours and to demonstrate their political and popular weight in the country, the regime could very well implode from within.

The most effective and constructive way to use the newly mandated use of force by the UN Security Council is to use as little of it, as accurately, as selectively as possible, and ideally not use it at all. It is still possible for the threat of the use of international force, coupled with domestic popular pressure, to bring down the weakened regime.

An escalation to an all out war is in no one's interest, especially Libya's.