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vendredi 11 mars 2011

What to do about Libya?

The question of how to respond to the situation in Libya is proving complicated and contentious.

What's interesting is that opinions do not always line up with the general ideological stances of various political actors and commentators.

In a unilateral move, France recognized the rebels centered around Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya. As of writing, no other government has followed the same course of action. As LeMonde reports, the rest of the EU is unsure of how to react. After all, part of the ideal of the EU is to have a common foreign policy, of which Catherine Ashton is the head. The New York Times paints a picture where only France and the UK are urging a no-fly zone, ranging them against other EU members, particularly the German heavy weight.

Various international organizations are also far from unanimous in their approach. The Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on deliberations in the UN Security Council, states " China, Russia and other nations had initially resisted that move but were swayed by Arab and African calls for action against Gaddafi." NATO is also seeking regional cooperation, along with a legal justification and demonstrated necessity to intervene.

Aside from individual governments and international organizations, experts and pundits display a wide variety of opinions.

A key question is whether Western powers should intervene at all. They are further divided into those who maintain it is not in America's interests, like Micah Zenko, and others who consider any intervention to be arrogant, imperialist interfering. Al Jazeera describes possible intervention as "disingenuous desire to reassert US leadership in the world." Many commentators emphasize the fact that US and European support for autocratic Arab regimes and participation in campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have had a detrimental effect on their perception and prestige in the Arab world. As such, another intervention could only further harm international perception of Western powers.

Proponents of intervention are also motivated by a variety of factors. The death and destruction in Libya pose a genuine humanitarian problem. Within Libyan borders, there are many reports of deadly force against unarmed civilians, as well as harassment and targeting of black Africans, and there dangerous situations at the Tunisian border. The memory of failure to respond in Rwanda, and of massacres at other flash points, like Sbrenica, fuel a heartfelt concern for the lives and livelihoods of Libyan citizens. Others see intervention in Libya as a way to avoid being on the wrong side of history in the larger context of the Arab Spring.

These are all important factors to weigh, so it will be interesting to see how the decisions are played out in the days to come.

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