Back when the issue of the no-fly zone was being debated, many on the left took a principled stand that war was not the solution and that NATO’s pending involvement would have served as an opening for imperialism. Although I’m usually left-of-center when it comes to most issues, I advocated for the no-fly zone. In principle, I was sympathetic to the above arguments, but I knew that the urgency of the reality on the ground left little room for such ideals. The fact of the matter is that when protests first broke out in mid-February, the Qaddafi regime responded to them with brute force that prompted an armed uprising that secured nearly 90% of Libya from the Qaddafi regime. After 2 weeks, Qaddafi consolidated what was left of his command and launched a cruel counter-offensive, capturing city after city and committing massacre after massacre until his forces reached the gates of Benghazi, the heart of the rebellion and Libya’s second largest city. He declared that no mercy would be granted to the “traitors.” To take a principled stand against foreign intervention would not only have meant that the rebellion would have collapsed, but it would have also effectively meant that a large-scale massacre was highly likely. In the wider context of the Arab Spring, Qaddafi was spearheading a counter-revolution (other branches of the counter-revolution can be found in Riyadh and later in Damascus).
Many who supported the NATO-imposed no-fly zone (me included) were not naive to think that NATO was getting involved out of the kindness of its members. The 3 main NATO members, Britain, France, and the US, have a horrible track record when it comes to foreign intervention and they have the least credibility in my book in relation to helping out other countries achieve democracy or freedom, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (they’ve more often than not worked against democracy or sustained dictatorships). But I took the NATO-rebel alliance as either a marriage of convenience or an aggregation of interests. Both had a vested interest in the removal of the Qaddafi clan.
The jubilation on the streets of Libya broadcast the world over vindicate that strategy. Once the rebels consolidate their revolution, the first phase of the revolution will be nearing its end and the process of post-revolutionary state-building, a process both complex and long, will begin and there’s no telling what Libya will look like in the future but that’s not for me, you, or the “west” to decide. For now, let them have their moment, they’ve certainly earned it (estimates have it that nearly 30,000 people have died in the 6-month long conflict). They’ll think about tomorrow tomorrow.
Libyans are just as smart as me and you and they used NATO to achieve what they couldn’t on their own, the removal of a 42-year ruthless dictatorship. And NATO used them for the same end goal. But I am confident that they didn’t trade the rule of the local dictator for that of imperialism. In other words, the struggle in Libya is only beginning but I remain hopeful and I consider myself blessed to have the awareness to fully appreciate the history unfolding before my eyes and I am awed by the commitment and the persistence of those people who are making that history.
p.s. the picture above reminds me of the final days of the Iranian Revolution when an armed uprising dealt the regime its coup de grace.