Quagmire ahead

Quagmire ahead

This is indeed a strange way to protect civilians. French jets have pounded Libya to enforce a ‘no fly zone’ that was authorised by United Nations Security Council Resolution No 1973 to ostensibly protect Libyan civilians from aerial bombing by President Muammar Gadhafi. The purpose of a ‘no-fly zone’ is to halt bombing of civilians and to reduce the intensity of a war.

However, 1973 does not do that. Besides providing for a ‘no-fly zone’ it authorises ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians. Although it does not clarify what these measures are — perhaps to ensure its passage in the UNSC — it is well known that in diplomatic parlance ‘all necessary measures’ is code for military action. It was to get a green signal for military intervention in Libya that the western powers led by Britain and France pushed for a resolution that allowed them to use ‘all necessary measures’. This has been amply borne out by the fact that within hours of the passage of the resolution, French jets began bombing Libya alleging that Gadhafi was not honouring the ceasefire.

In the weeks ahead, NATO forces are likely to be sucked into a larger war. The aerial attacks will in all probability be followed by induction of ground troops. Even if NATO is successful in ousting Gadhafi, it will find, as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq, that local sentiment against the invasion will mount once civilian casualties rise. Already scores have been killed in the first wave of aerial bombings. It is possible that the military intervention will enhance support for Gadhafi as he will seem a hero fighting western neo-imperialism. Clearly the West has learnt no lessons from its past blunders.

India did well to refrain from endorsing the UNSC resolution. There was some concern that Delhi would go along with the US in voting in the UNSC. Along with Russia, China, Brazil and Germany, India abstained in the vote. Among the concerns India raised in the run-up to the vote was the undue haste with which the resolution was pushed through.

After all, the report by the UN Secretary General’s envoy on the ground situation is still awaited. A diplomatic solution to persuade Gadhafi to stop the attacks on his people should have been pursued first. The reluctance to do so will cost the West dearly.