NATO’s dilemma: if you break it, you own it
Before 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.Tagged in: cameron, gaddafi, Libya, NATO, obama
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