NATO’s dilemma: if you break it, you own it

Anne Penketh

119328059 300x272 NATOs dilemma: if you break it, you own itBefore the Iraq invasion of 2003, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, famously warned President George Bush that “if you break it, you own it.”

In the case of Libya, the NATO intervention proved decisive in turning the tide in favour of the rebels seeking to end Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year grip on power. The question now is: will NATO leaders be able to walk away once the tyrant is gone?

The Egyptians and Tunisians rose up and overthrew their dictators themselves without outside help. In Libya, despite the declarations of David Cameron and Barack Obama since Monday with their references to a “Libyan-owned process”, the international community has a big stake in the post-Gadhafi era which now looks inevitable.

The Transitional National Council will come under scrutiny. Not only France and Britain, which took the lead in the NATO military campaign when the US took a back seat, but also the United Nations and the Arab League, will want a voice. The Libyan revolutionary leaders will find that their success has many fathers. The international factor could complicate further an already complex situation in an oil-producing Mediterranean country split along tribal lines. As time goes by, the presence of foreign powers in Libya, albeit without “boots on the ground”, could reinforce factionalism and stoke resentment.

NATO intervened in Libya six months ago under the terms of a now controversial UN resolution which authorised “all necessary measures” to establish no fly zones to protect Libyan civilians. The resolution was adopted at the urging of the Arab League in response to demands from the Libyan rebels. Once Gaddafi is gone, it is to be hoped that the new Libyan leadership will ask NATO to fly away.  As Cameron said: “this has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part.”

It remains to be seen whether we will find a reason to stay.

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  • bishbashbong

    Is this drivel supposed to mean something?

  • bogwart

    The ‘Pottery Barn’ defence. The Americans insisted on it in Iraq and we all know how that turned out. If you break it and continue to break it then the tube of superglue should be taken from you, and someone competent given the task of fixing it.

  • MacTurk

    Libya will take a shape which will be decided by the Libyans themselves.  NATO does not have any troops on the ground, so no focus for local resentment. You cannot “stay” in a country where you have no presence.

    Fuiture involvement should be restricted to technical help restarting the Libyan oil industry – because cash flow is a must – institutional help re new government and developing Libya’s tourism potential.

    At the request of the Libyans, not imposed.

    Do please remember that the Libyans, led by Omar Muqtar, resisted the Italian colonialists for nearly twenty years. This was between 1912 and 1931.

    They have not got their country back to hand it over to anyone else.  Mind you, I do not see any country wanting to act in that role anyway.

  • mulberrybush

    Don’t worry about NATO…it’s a goner anyway.
      Either Obama finally realizes there’s no need to keep paying for European security or the next president will. The US has got to save money somehow, and NATO is one of the most obvious candidates considering how much money they put into it and how little they get in return. Of course, Obama is much more popular in Europe than he is at home, so we may have to wait…he loves to be loved.
      If the next president is a Republican, we might also see the UN being asked to find a new location…I would love to see them try to survive without the 35% of their budget that comes from US taxpayers.

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