FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 05/11
Caustic Political Speech
STOP THE DAM
8 Years of Occupation
Hezbollah in Lebanon
The Master's Plan
Kristen L. Buras
30th Years of FNB
War, Prisons, Torture
Angola 3 News
What Happened in Wisconsin
A Serious Fight
The Libya Intervention Debate
Stop Bombing Libya
On Libya & Crises
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
A Q&A on Libya
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
Civil Wars U.S. Labor
Guide to Green Politics
Toward Climate Justice
Zaps - 05/11
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Libyan Intervention Threatens the Arab Spring
One of the reasons many people supported the call for a no-fly zone was the fear that if Gaddafi managed to crush the Libyan people's uprising and remain in power, it would send a devastating message to other Arab dictators: use enough military force and you will keep your job. Instead, it turns out that just the opposite may be the result. It was after the UN passed its no-fly zone and use-of-force resolution, and just as U.S., British, French, and other warplanes and warships launched their attacks against Libya, that other Arab regimes escalated their crack-down on their own democratic movements.
In Yemen, 52 unarmed protesters were killed and more than 200 wounded on March 18 by forces of the U.S.-backed and U.S.-armed government of Ali Abdullah Saleh. It was the bloodiest day of the month-long Yemeni uprising. President Obama "strongly condemned" the attacks and called on Saleh to "allow demonstrations to take place peacefully."
But while a number of Saleh's government officials resigned in protest, there was no talk from Saleh's U.S. backers of real accountability, of a travel ban or asset freeze, not even of slowing the financial and military aid flowing into Yemen in the name of fighting terrorism. Similarly in U.S.-allied Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, at least 13 civilians were killed by government forces. Since the March 15 arrival of 1,500 foreign troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, brought in to protect the absolute power of the king of Bahrain, 63 people have been reported missing.
Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, said: "We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. Violence is not the answer, a political process is." But she never demanded that foreign troops leave Bahrain, let alone threatened a no-fly zone or targeted air strikes to stop their attacks.
Legality vs. Legitimacy
Despite its official UN-granted legality, the credibility and legitimacy of Western military action is dwindling rapidly, even in key diplomatic circles. For the Western alliance, and most especially for the Obama administration, support from the Arab League was a critical prerequisite to approving the military intervention in Libya.
The League's actual resolution, passed just a couple of days before the UN Security Council vote, approved a far narrower military option—essentially only a no-fly zone, with a number of stated cautions against any direct foreign intervention. Of course, a no-fly zone is foreign intervention, whether one wants to acknowledge it or not, but it is not surprising that the Arab League's approval was hesitant—it is, after all, composed of the exact same leaders who are facing inchoate or massive challenges to their ruling power at home. Supporting the attack on a fellow dictator—oops, sorry, a fellow Arab ruler—was never going to be easy.
And as soon as the air strikes began in Libya, Arab League chief Amr Moussa immediately criticized the Western military assault. Some commentators noted the likelihood that Arab governments were pressuring Moussa out of fear of Libyan terror attacks in their country; I believe it is more likely that Arab leaders fear popular opposition, already challenging their rule, will escalate as Libyan deaths rise.
Overlooking the African Union
Early on, the U.S. had also identified support from the African Union (AU) as a critical component. But as it became clear that the AU would not sign on to the kind of attack on Libya contemplated in the UN resolution, the need for that support (indeed the AU itself) disappeared from Western discourse on the issue.
Shortly after the bombing began, the five-member AU committee on the Libya crisis called for an "immediate stop" to all the attacks and "restraint" from the international community. It went further, calling for the protection of foreign workers with a particular reference to African expatriates in Libya (responding to reports of attacks on African workers by opposition forces), as well as "necessary political reforms to eliminate the cause of the present crisis."
So within 48 hours of the bombing campaign's opening salvos, the U.S. and its allies had lost the support of the Arab and African institutions the Obama administration had identified as crucial for going ahead. Other countries turned against the attacks as well. The Indian government, which had abstained on the Security Council vote, toughened its stance, saying that it "regrets the air strikes that are taking place" and that implementation of the UN resolution "should mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya."
The question remains, what is the end game? The UN resolution says force may only be used to protect Libyan civilians, but top U.S., British, and French officials have stated repeatedly that "Gaddafi must go" and that he has "lost legitimacy to rule." They clearly want regime change. The military commanders insist that regime change is not on their military agenda, that Gaddafi is not "on a target list," but there is a wink-and-a-nod at "what if'" questions about a possible bombing "if he is inspecting a surface-to-air missile site, and we do not have any idea if he is there or not."
There is no question Libya's opposition, like most of the democratic movements shaping this year's Arab Spring, wants an end to the dictatorial regime in their country. Unlike the democratic movements in neighboring countries, the Libyan movement is fighting an armed military battle, something approaching a civil war, against the regime's forces.
That movement, facing a ruthless military assault, has paid a far higher price in lost and broken lives than the non-violent activists in the other democratic uprisings, and even with components of the military joining them, they were out-gunned and desperate. So it is not surprising that they pleaded for international support from the powerful countries and institutions most able to provide immediate military aid, even if that aid ultimately threatened their own independence.
But, what they got was probably way more than even the Libyan opposition itself anticipated. And despite the exultation over the first downed tanks, questions loom.
What if some kind of stalemate leaves Libya divided and military attacks continuing? What if the opposition realizes that negotiations (perhaps under the auspices of newly democratizing Egypt and Tunisia) are urgently needed, but cannot be convened because the U.S. and French presidents have announced that the Libyan leader has no legitimacy and cannot be trusted?
And what if, as earlier U.S.-imposed no-fly zones (both unilateral and UN-endorsed) have experienced, the attack leads to rising numbers of civilian casualties, killed by Western coalition bombs, and an escalating rather than diminishing civil war? What then?
The UN resolution clearly is looking ahead to just such an eventuality. It calls on the secretary-general to inform the UN Security Council of all military actions, instructing him to "report to the Council within seven days and every month thereafter." The UN, at least, seems to be preparing for another long war—one that could last far longer than this year's Arab spring.
Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her books include Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.