The world leaders are meeting in Paris today to determine how to counter Gaddafi’s otherwise impending victory in the civil war in Libya. Prime Minister Harper is there. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is there. Then on the newsclip I see–Human Resources and Skills development Minister Diane Finlay. Wondering why she is there.
Seems typical of United Nations actions. Lots of meetings, resolutions and more meetings. I don’t appreciate the effectiveness of the organization, I guess. Another variation of the curse of elevated expectations.
Libya seems different from the other recent changes of government in that part of the world. In other countries where change has been effected and an existing non-democratic regime has existed, the military was either neutral or siding with those favouring change–and what one assumes is democratic change. In Libya, the army now seems to have largely sided with the government. When one side has warplanes and the other doesn’t, the outcome seems to be highly predictable.
My understanding is that Gaddafi was, for the last ten years, intent on redeeming himself in Western eyes, by being a key opponent of Islamic terrorism. His security people provided much important information to the West in relation to the 9/11 attacks, and other terrorist activities. Over the last decade, many leaders of industrialized countries responded to Gaddafi’s overtures. During this period, I don’t recall many significant criticisms of him in Canada, by any government, until the recent revolution.
Another difference with Libya, compared to the recent changes in government in other countries, is that the voices for change were armed. This did not seem to be a peaceful protest by the majority of the population, but rather an armed uprising. So it is more of a civil war, it would seem.
The danger in not opposing a totalitarian regime at one point, but rather working with such a regime, is that it is difficult to justify an immediate about-face in relation to that regime. We now know that the international about-face in relation to Saddam Hussein was based on falsehoods concerning the existence of weapons of mass destruction. He was a friend of the West for many years, as long as he was fighting Iran.
Seems to me that Gadhafi has great cause for renewed resentments towards those industrialized nations who purported to befriend him over the past decade. Once the revolution was started, the international community’s primary action was to ban him from leaving Libya and also freezing his international assets. His only possible exit seemed to be via Venezuela. So what is he to do? Quite apart from tribalistic dimensions that still are part of the Arab social fabric, he would seem to have had little choice other than to fight to the death. His supporters are in a similar position.
Of particular interest is why the majority of the military seemed to side with Gaddafi. Originally, his forces were described as being significantly represented by mercenaries. In addition, others said that his military was weak and had been kept deliberately weak by Gaddafi, in order to prevent a military coup. At the beginning of the revolution, there were defections of military units to the revolutionaries.
Now, as Gaddafi is winning, the international community unites to throw its collective military might against Gaddafi, based on a notion of protecting civilians. Yet it is civilians who are armed in opposition to Gaddafi. What is he to do?
When a government’s opposition to totalitarianism is not consistent, and where a government’s support for revolutionary democratic movements is largely unexpressed, there seems to be a particular hypocrisy in suddenly bringing in a military option, once it appears that a democratic revolution will fail. Democratic countries were neutral during the democratic Spanish revolution that consolidated the totalitarian power of Franco. Those same international governments then dealt with Franco for decades afterwards. I don’t recall trade embargos of any sort, post World War II.
These days, international governments are particularly friendly towards the totalitarian government of China. In terms of the fractured history of China, particularly in relation to its eight year war with Japan, followed by the Communist revolution of 1949, it may well be that a forcibly united and non-democratic China has, on balance, improved the lives of the general population. Perhaps it is the same with Viet Nam. If international governments are opposed to non-democratic states, that oppostion has to be consistent. Would international governments be as quick to intervene militarily to prevent the defeat of a democratic revolution in part of China, as they seem to be willing to do in relation to Libya?
Seems to me that the more honourable course of action here would be to provide an exit option for defeated democratic revolutionaries in Libya. The foreign ships and planes go there to take them to safety, to rebuild lives elsewhere, or to fight another day.
Maybe that is why Diane Finlay is in Paris.
Or maybe I’m just missing something, or much.
Postscript, March 20, 2011: Got caught by a crosswired Canadian Broadcasting Corporation newsclip. Clip seems to be of Harper and Finlay in Quebec, immediately prior to his departure for Paris, but used in the initial stories on the Paris trip. Probably doesn’t matter, now that the pounding has started. Reminds me of that group in high school: the duplicitous cowards, ganging up, with collective opinions based on which way the wind was blowing. Doesn’t seem to be much principle here, then or now; maybe there never is.