Madness in Libya

Libya’s steady descent into civil war confirms that the Nato-led military intervention is fuelling the fighting there.  Nato’s aerial bombardment of cities and military installations that is supposedly to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya did deal Libyan government forces a blow initially. It did seem that president Muammar Gadhafi’s troops had been pushed on the defensive. But that was short-lived. They have now begun to re-take towns. The rebels’ westward advance has been arrested by Libyan troops. The pendulum is now swinging in the latter’s favour. If Nato forces believed that their aerial bombardment of Libya would contribute to ousting Gadhafi in a matter of days, they have been proved wrong. The Libyan strongman has indicated that he is no pushover. Clearly, he does enjoy some support among the people, a point that Nato leaders failed to factor in when they charted out their grand strategy to oust him. According to media reports coming from Libya, residents in towns like Nawfaliyah are fighting alongside government forces. This is an ominous sign of an upcoming civil war. The mounting civilian casualties from Nato’s aerial bombing seem to have increased public support for Gadhafi.

A conference of 40 countries has given Gadhafi an ultimatum to step down and go into exile or be prepared to face more bombardment. Why would Gadhafi go when he is regaining ground in his country? The Nato intervention has gone in his favour. The US, which appears to be playing a secondary role to Britain and France in the military operations, has said that Nato is providing only food, medicines and communication equipment to the rebels. However, president Barack Obama has not ruled out the supply of arms to them. Instead of correcting a flawed strategy, the US and its Nato allies seem determined to escalate their military involvement in Libya.

Nato commanders insist that their mission in Libya is purely to protect civilians. But thousands of civilians have perished in the bombing to save them. It is hard not to be reminded of a quote from the Vietnam War era — “We had to burn the village to save it” — that American commanders glibly offered to justify their savage destruction of Vietnamese society. Libya’s descent to civil war must be halted. An immediate ceasefire is needed.

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