On March 17, 2011 the United Nations Security Council voted 10-0 in support of Resolution 1973 to administer the long-discussed “no fly zone” over Libya, coupled with the right to use “all necessary measures” to “protect civilians and civilian populated areas . . . .” In response to this vote, Libya announced an immediate cease-fire and promised to halt all military actions, thus “complying” with the resolution’s mandates. However, two questions beg to be answered: “Is news of Western intervention too late?” and; “How far will the United States take ‘all necessary measures’?”
Responding to the first question, it is hard not to be cynical at first glance. Since the beginning of the rebellion, the West has discussed appropriate strategies and continued to sharpen the rhetoric against Gadhafi. From the rebels’ perspective, each day of rhetorical flourish during the almost five week old conflict led only to more deaths and a more brutal approach by the Gadhafi regime. Indeed, a day prior to the vote in the Security Council, the rebels’ situation in Libya looked grim, with Gadhafi’s son proclaiming, “In 48 hours everything will be over.” This statement was only mirrored further by the actions of the rebels, as their once optimistic rebellion was mired in pessimism. Yet, the rebels cheered the news of the UN vote and felt their rebellion may have regained some traction. As of the writing of this, a cease-fire has been announced by the foreign minister of Libya with Gadhafi’s government seeking talks with the rebel forces. However, reconciliation between the two sides seems, at best, a hopeless venture as the rebels refuse to accept any discussions unless the condition of Gadhafi’s resignation is met. One thing is for certain; the status quo will not be maintained.
As to the second question, one could expect coordinated airstrikes on military targets. If the cause to take “all necessary measures” does arise, Senator Lindsey Graham, commenting on a classified briefing of the senate, stated a first wave of attacks would be to “ground [Gadhafi’s] aircraft” and blow up “some tanks . . . .” The Senator further added that these strikes would come within “days, not weeks,” although he hopefully speculated they could also come within
“hours.” However, some Americans are already beginning to discuss fears and concerns on the opening of a third front in an Islamic country. Echoing some of their arguments, Sen. Richard Lugar stated attacks on Libya would require a declaration of War by congress and that our fiscal concerns outweighed the humanitarian issues of Libya. Furthermore, like the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were key holdouts on the international level regarding intervention in Libya, most importantly, Germany. Such holdout once again highlights the disunity in the approach to Libya, a pending issue which could prove problematic if the situation were to drag itself out.
From the rebel perspective, the UN resolution provides a much-needed respite and a chance to hope again for a Gadhafi-free Libya. However, much needs to be answered if the West is to calm the fears of those who look at Libya and see only another Afghanistan.